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Forum addresses rocketing home insurance rates in Hawaii

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – At the Oahu Country Club on Monday, insurance industry leaders tried to reassure Hawaii condo and homeowners, telling them the insurance rates they’re currently seeing will go down in a few years.

However, some owners we talked to said they can’t afford to wait that long.

“Just riding out the wave, that might work in the medium, long term, but right now people are hurting,” said Waikiki condo owner Jacob Wiencek, who said rate increases have forced changes in his lifestyle.

“I’ve had to cut down my personal spending. I’ve had to economize. I’ve had to pick up more shifts at my job and work more overtime.”

Lesa Kimble is president of a homeowners’ association in Ewa and said that in the last year, their insurance rate tripled, and the number of residents not paying their fees increased by 25%.

“People can’t afford it,” said Kimble. “People are on fixed incomes and stuff, and they just can’t afford it.”

The Hawaii Council explained the reason for the rate increases at this forum on Monday.

It’s simple: insurance companies nationwide are paying for damage from expensive natural disasters, such as the Lahaina wildfires.

Now, they need to re-coop their costs.

HNN sat down with three insurance industry leaders who all believe the rates will decrease in a few years.

They advise condo boards not to save money by deferring maintenance because insurers might discontinue their policies.

“Someday we are going to get past this tight market and they are going to be again concerned with, did you follow your reserve study and did you do what you had to do to maintain your complex?” said Sue Savio with Insurance Associates.

Hawaii insurance commissioner Gordon Ito says the state cannot regulate insurers outside Hawaii.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a magic wand,” said Ito, but added, “Night and day, we are looking at possible options.”

But even the best option needs time.

Leaders have discussed starting a state fund to help offset the costs, but that’s only in the discussion phase.

In the near term, condo boards can take advantage of new government financing and solar energy programs that were just signed into law last month.

Anna Harden

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