Insurance crisis bogging down agents and leaving homeowners helpless

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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Nearly 100,000 people across the state are stuck scrambling, looking for home insurance in the heart of hurricane season after several insurance companies folded.

Other companies renewing policies have also jacked up their rates.

It’s overwhelming brokers, the system and homeowners’ wallets.

“We can’t afford the assurance and no one in Lafitte can afford $41,241 a year, $3,500 dollars a month insurance,” Janine Guidry said.

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That’s the quote lifetime Lafitte resident Janine Guidry was given by LA Citizens, the State’s insurer of last resort, more than seven times what she was paying with Lighthouse Excalibur, one of the failed companies.

“We’re thinking maybe we should take our 401k and pay the house off, because right now I have a mortgage and I have to have the insurance and $41,000 a year, maybe I just pay it off and take a chance,” Guidry said.

The Guidry’s are still living in a camper, nearly a year after the storm, unable to get the rest of the money they’re owed, on top of running their salon.

“My husband and I have been on the phone talking to different agencies,” Guidry said. “It’s hard to get in touch with an insurance agent. Some of them aren’t responding.”

Lafitte is one of the areas hit the hardest by this insurance tailspin but it’s happening everywhere, even for those who haven’t had their policy canceled.

“The premium is going up to $15,000 for next year, which is three times what it was last year,” Lauren Anderson said.

Anderson has lived in the Irish Channel for 30 years and only ever made one claim after Katrina.

“I don’t know what to do,” Anderson said. “I’m retired, living on a fixed income, caring for my mother and i can’t afford $15,000.”

Two agencies gave her quotes but they were higher.

“After 30 years of loving New Orleans, I can’t afford to live here anymore and I’ve begun to explore that option too,” Anderson said.

Anderson only has two weeks to figure it out, but is also having trouble contacting agents.

“I got folders everywhere,” Ross Fayard, owner of Amstate Insurance said. “All these people are looking for insurance and we can’t get to them quick enough. That’s a scary sight.”

Fayard said he went to bed at 3:30 in the morning, woke up and was back at it by 6:30 a.m.

“We have just almost 1,900 customers that were trying to move that are insured with us but then I was getting a 100 texts a day. It completely froze my phone up and the quotes are taking anywhere from three to five days to get back,” Fayard said. “This is the worst I’ve seen insurance in a very long time.”

He doesn’t think even half of the canceled policies across the state have been replaced and the clock is ticking on the deadline extensions. Companies won’t write policies when there is a named storm in the Gulf and he says there’s been major issues with accessing the Citizens’ site

“They’re not equipped for this. I talked to a lady today with Citizens, one of the nicest ladies in the world. I could just hear she wanted to cry,” Fayard said. “I just don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel right now.”

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has said they are working on the technical issues with Citizens, but we have not gotten an update.

He also has said other companies are writing policies, but talking with agents all over the area it seems for many, Citizens may be the only option.

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