Persistent, significant losses are still driving up expenses and constraining capacity within the casualty market for habitational business. As insurers reduce coverage limits, increase deductibles, and impose stricter underwriting criteria, it becomes crucial to strategically promote comprehensive submissions in order to secure optimal coverage.
The habitational insurance market is facing a multitude of hurdles when it comes to casualty placements. Casualty markets in the habitational space have been adjusting prices due to increased loss activity and the continued impact of social inflation. Within this landscape, property owners, insurance companies, and brokers are confronted with a new reality. There are few markets offering General Liability (GL) coverage. It’s also difficult to find markets willing to participate in the lead $5M of excess coverage, making the marketplace even more challenging. To succeed in this demanding market, one must strike a careful balance between innovation, robust risk assessment, and adaptability.
HABITATIONAL KEY POINTS
- Rates & Capacity Similar to 2022 Marketplace
- Individual Risk Characteristics Such as Crime Scores Important
- Subsidized Schedules & Accounts with Losses Have Fewer Markets
- Florida & Georgia Risks Among Most Difficult to Place
In addition to the market complications presented by large, and/or frequent claims, new capacity isn’t entering on the primary. Those insurers that have entered the marketplace in recent years have higher than expected loss ratios making GL placements difficult. For GL, there are very few carriers that will offer quotes without Assault and Battery (A&B), Abuse and Molestation (SML), or Habitability sub-limits and/or exclusions regardless of premium in some regions. Retentions, with some carriers, are also rising with insureds commonly seeing $50K - $100K deductibles/Self-Insured Retentions (SIRs) on some schedules. In an effort to keep premiums down, some insureds are purchasing reduced coverage options on the GL and/or taking much higher SIRs as well as buying lower limits.
For excess, there are limited options within the first $5M, especially in the lead position. When structuring excess towers, the market is trending toward very short limits in the lead. In many instances, two carriers are required to build the lead $5M excess layer.
Prior to the current hard market, layers above the lead $5M typically saw premium costs equal to 35% - 40% of the previous layer. The ability to cut price relativity going up the tower depends on the individual characteristics of each account. On primary GL business with a relatively stable schedule, lower crime scores, and good loss history, clients can expect accounts to see rate increases of 5%-10%. Accounts that are heavier on subsidized housing or those that have experienced a shock loss will likely see heftier rate increases depending on overall loss history.
Criminal activity, such as A&B, sexual abuse, and molestation, as well as shootings, continue to be primary loss drivers for habitational accounts. In addition, the expenses and settlements associated with typical slip-and-fall claims are still elevated. A&B or SML exclusions or limitations continue to be a growing trend for carriers trying to limit their loss exposure. Accounts with a poor crime score and/or a history of gun violence may also see firearm exclusions in addition to the A&B limitations mentioned above. Accounts in certain regions may find markets are adding habitability exclusions as well as A&B and SML limitations or exclusions to their policies. In 2023, inspections are not allowing for leniency and there are often firm recommendations for habitability improvements.
In conjunction with crime scores, the age of a building can make the underwriting process more challenging as carriers want to ensure that properties are well-maintained and safe. Insurers are also often underwriting individual locations rather than the account as a whole. Large schedules continue to be challenging as accounts with 5,000+ units find very few markets willing to entertain them.
TOUGH VENUES & SECTORS
While all habitational business is harder to place these days, certain classes such as subsidized housing, including Section 42, Section 8, student housing, and senior housing are typically the most difficult from a casualty perspective.
There are also certain regions throughout the country that generally have a greater likelihood of increased claim frequency and more severe losses due to massive jury verdicts. This is occurring in some locations more than others, and examples of tough venues include Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, and California. Typically, in urban, more litigious areas such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City, prices remain high.
HOW AGENTS CAN HELP
Every habitational account necessitates a robust renewal strategy. The most crucial contribution that retail agents and brokers can make is a comprehensive submission package including ACORD applications, a Statement of Values (SOV) incorporating life safety information, complete property addresses, and a section clearly denoting any locations designated as student housing, senior housing, or subsidized housing, along with the respective year of acquisition.
Additionally, insurers will require historical unit counts, preferably spanning a minimum of 5 years. Although the industry standard for loss history has traditionally been 5 years, many insurers are now requesting 8-10 years of currently valued loss data. An ongoing challenge in underwriting habitational properties stems from the fluid nature of property ownership, with properties frequently changing hands within portfolios. Consequently, retail agents often need to collaborate with clients to obtain loss documentation from the previous owner, which can prove to be a daunting task. Nonetheless, it remains imperative for agents and brokers to rise to the challenge, as underwriters commonly refuse to provide quotes for newly acquired properties when historical loss data is unavailable.
Given the prevailing market conditions and the intricate layering involved, it is prudent to ensure that submissions are complete 90-120 days prior to renewal. This becomes especially critical considering the scarcity of available markets and the protracted underwriting process. The habitational insurance market is inundated with submissions, which further extends the typical turnaround time. Moreover, it is essential to ensure that clients are taking all necessary steps to minimize losses and have a clear understanding of the pricing dynamics within the current habitational market. Consequently, providing any pertinent information regarding property upgrades or enhanced property management can also significantly enhance the chances of your client standing out during the underwriting process.
In the current landscape, innovation and strategic planning take center stage as some carriers decrease coverage limits or implement exclusions. It is imperative for clients and their insurance providers to collaborate effectively and communicate the specific risks associated with each account. Underwriters consistently seek more comprehensive and precise data to assess and price habitational risks accurately. Robust risk management strategies that highlight the strengths of habitational policyholders can enhance underwriters' confidence in a risk and expand the scope of available coverage.
To successfully navigate the current challenges of the hard market, proactive marketing of risks through effective brokering and follow-up is crucial. CRC Group harnesses the power of institutional-level proprietary data, exclusive products, and market relationships to ensure clients consistently benefit from the best possible insurance solutions. Reach out to your local CRC Group producer today to explore how we can assist your habitational clients in weathering the ongoing challenges of the hard market with unique insurance offerings.
- Jeff Coles and Mike McCall are Team Leaders with CRC Group’s Los Angeles, CA office and members of the Casualty Practice Advisory Committee.
- Jeff English is President of CRC Group’s Irvine, CA Binding Office.
- Ron Levitt has more than 25 years of experience in placing Habitational business, Hospitality, Products, and Construction. He is also President of CRC Group’s Chicago office.
- Zach Mather is a Broker with CRC Group’s Birmingham, AL office where he specializes in Real Estate, Construction, and Transportation risks.
- Vladimir Peraza is a Vice President and Team Leader with CRC Group’s New York City office.
- Habitational Market Ripe for Digital Transformation, Insurance Journal, August 16, 2021. https://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/magfeatures/ 2021/08/16/627099.htm
- How Many Multifamily Units Are in the U.S? IOTAS, https://www.iotashome.com/how-many-multifamily-units-are-in-the-us/