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Posted: August 29, 2011 2:30 p.m.

Homeowners insurance costs to rise

ATLANTA (AP) - A year after most Georgia insurers increased homeowners premiums by 9 to 23 percent, a new wave of increase requests is pending.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (http://bit.ly/pufLIH) that State Farm, Georgia's largest writer of homeowners policies, is seeking a 7 percent increase for next year. That would be on top of increases of 20 percent since the start of 2010, state officials said.

Travelers Group, the state's third-largest homeowners insurer, has filed plans for an increase of about 18 percent for most of the companies in its groups after enacting a 10 percent increase at the end of 2010. Auto Owners Group wants a 22 percent jump.

Steve Manders, director of insurance product review at the Georgia Department of Insurance, said a series of storms in 2008 and 2009 resulted in companies paying out a large number of claims.

"Most of it is weather-driven," he said.

Insurers must inform the state Department of Insurance when they plan to raise rates and supply detailed statistical information showing why. Georgia law does not give the commissioner the authority to set the rate, but the department negotiates based on what it believes is reasonable.

"In 2010 we paid out more than we took in, which has been the trend now for several years," said Justin Tomczak, a State Farm spokesman. Manders said most Georgia insurers are in the same position.

Allstate spokesman John Heid said Allstate's prices simply reflect the costs of providing the coverage. "Allstate is making responsible business decisions to remain strong and positioned to deliver on its promise to customers," Heid said in an email.

He said Allstate recommends that customers work with their agents to make sure they are getting every discount they are eligible to receive.

Manders said consumers should consider options if they get a steep increase - including raising their deductible. But he said those who have been with the same company for years should be cautious because longtime customers are less likely to have a policy canceled if they file claims.

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