Consumers believe climate change and more severe weather are driving up their homeowners insurance premiums and making policies harder to obtain, according to a new survey.

Key Takeaways

  • More than a quarter of consumers in a new National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) survey said they had trouble getting homeowners insurance or renewing their policies due to natural disasters in their area. 
  • Over 25% of homeowners said their insurance premiums had risen for the same reason.
  • The NAIC also published a list of 20 actions homeowners can take to protect their property from extreme weather.

Weather Is Homeowners' No. 1 Worry

More than one in four homeowners say they have had or are having trouble buying insurance for their residence because of natural disasters, according to a new survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

The survey found that 27% of homeowners had difficulty either obtaining or renewing policies due to natural disasters in their area. And 26% said their premiums had increased for the same reason.

Fully 73% of homeowners said weather-related events represent the biggest threats to their homes. That included everything from water and wind damage to earthquakes and wildfires. 

Science Suggests There Is Worse to Come

Government agencies and independent scientists have repeatedly pointed to the occurrence of more extreme weather in recent decades correlating with rising average temperatures worldwide.

"Tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico has increased during the past 20 years. Storm intensity, a measure of strength, duration, and frequency, is closely related to variations in sea surface temperature in the tropical Atlantic and has risen noticeably during that time," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states on its website. "Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change," the agency adds.

A Worldwide Problem in Search of Solutions

It isn't just individual consumers who are making the connection between extreme weather and higher insurance premiums. "Insurance is getting harder for some U.S. homeowners to obtain as a result of the impacts of climate change," the Yale Environment 360 blog noted last fall. "Many insurance companies are choosing not to renew homeowner policies in areas with increased risks of wildfires, sea level rise, or other natural disasters, or are significantly raising premiums."

In May, the Sustainable Insurance Forum, a global organization, observed that, "To reduce its exposure to climate-related risks, an insurer may take a number of actions, including to: stop offering insurance to a certain group of policyholders; significantly increase premiums; lower policy limits; or exclude cover for specific perils and/or promote risk reduction measures by policyholders."

And earlier this month, the United States Treasury Department's Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance recommended that the Federal Insurance Office begin a study of "the availability and affordability of residential property insurance." 

Weather isn't the only factor driving insurance costs, of course. "It is fair to say natural disasters, especially if they occur over a period of years, impact the cost of homeowners insurance in certain states," Michael Barry, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, noted in an email. 

However, Barry said, the cost of insurance in any given state is based on the actual and anticipated insured losses in that state. There are other factors at play, including litigation costs in states like Florida, which can be a major driver of rising homeowners insurance premiums.

Some Ways to Protect Property and Reduce Risk

About half of homeowners have made changes to their property to protect against weather threats, according to the NAIC's survey. The organization offers a list of 20 steps homeowners can take to make their homes more resilient—from well-known but sometimes unheeded recommendations, such as cleaning out gutters and trimming trees, to less familiar ones like installing heat-resistant curtains, spraying the home with fire retardant, and bolting the house to its foundation.