11 Mar 2019

No new contents insurance in Wellington protects companies - broker

8:53 pm on 11 March 2019

An insurance broker says insurance companies not offering new contents insurance in Wellington are protecting themselves.

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Homeowners in Wellington have been left struggling to insure their homes. Photo: 123rf.com

IAG, the parent company of insurance brands AMI and State, has changed its policy and will no longer take on any new customers in the Wellington area.

Experts say recent earthquakes in Canterbury and Kaikoura have lead companies to assess their exposure in certain regions.

It comes after a woman living in an apartment in Wellington was unable to secure contents insurance, even after trying the company that insured the previous tenant.

IAG said while it was committed to providing cover in Wellington and across New Zealand, the capital posed a high risk, and its companies would take a conservative approach.

Since the earthquakes, insurance companies had been looking closely at what Insurance Broker's Association chief executive Gary Young referred to as exposures.

Wellington was clearly one of the areas in New Zealand that had exposure to earthquakes, as was Hawke's Bay.

He said insurance companies were making sure they weren't over-exposed in any particular area for risk, and it was a natural disaster risk that was driving.

Insurance companies had to be careful they didn't take on risks they can't handle - or have too many clients who could have a major claim - out of any one event.

The issue was getting more attention now because it had moved into the domestic market, he said.

"It's always been quite common in the commercial area, if you've got a fireworks factory then you're always going to struggle to get insurance, it's quite common in commercial insurance to have different rates for different risks, it's just that in domestic we haven't looked at it like that in the past."

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton could not talk about any decisions made by IAG.

But he said since 2017 New Zealand insurers have had to have enough capital or re-insurance cover to meet the cost of a one-in-1000 year event.

This placed New Zealand higher than anywhere else in the world in terms of the solvency requirement for catastrophe, with the closest other country being Canada, which had a one-in-500 year requirement.