Portland business owners report insurance woes following months of looting, destruction

In at least one case the insurance premium went up four times

Some Portland-based businesses have reportedly been left with no choice but to find new insurance companies or pay significantly higher premiums following months of civil unrest, looting, and vandalism in parts of the Oregon city.

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Insurance companies serving the Portland region have begun charging significantly higher premiums – and in at least one case asking to cough up four-times the amount that was previously being paid – after store-runners and owners were forced to file one claim, if not more, in connection with incidents of looting and destruction over the past several months, according to The Oregonian-Oregon Live.

And in some cases, insurance companies have opted not to offer policies at all to new customers in certain parts of Portland, nor to approve expanded coverage for its current holders, the newspaper reported.

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Brown & Brown Northwest Insurance president Jessica Getman told The Oregonian that issuing such temporary restrictions is not unusual during times of greater potential for risk.

“The civil unrest and riots that have occurred have put Portland on the map,” Getman told the outlet. “We’re talking about insurance carriers that not only have a footprint here in Oregon, but nationally, and many are based outside of Oregon. So, they are seeing all of this heightened awareness of crime and damaged buildings over the news. That has made carriers more sensitive.”

Barb Schimmel, who was identified by The Oregonian as a senior sales executive at WSC Insurance, told the outlet that one insurance company announced it would be unwilling to take on new business policyholders or extend its insurance coverage for any businesses located “within 5 miles of active riots/looting,” according to the report.

“When there is a company that is considering offering a brand new policy to a new business, there’s more scrutiny,” Schimmel reportedly said. “They will certainly look at the news and the headlines. These are typical underwriting parameters. They’ll look at what’s the level of risk and do we want to share that risk?”

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In one instance, Schimmel’s client had nearly no choice but to sign up for an insurance policy that spiked his premium by four times what he was previously paying, after his former carrier announced in November it would not be renewing his policy, according to the report. The business owner’s shop was reportedly ransacked during a May 30 riot, prompting the owner to file a claim for the estimated $1 million in damage.

The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers’ Commercial Property/Casualty Market Index report shows that premiums for commercial accounts of all sizes surged by an estimated average of 10.8% during the second quarter of 2020.

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Portland saw more than 100 days of protests and, at times, riots following the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Tensions furthered around the beginning of July when the government deployed federal agents to stop attacks on a courthouse and other U.S. property.

Thousands of demonstrators turned out nightly, with some hurling fireworks, rocks, ball bearings and bottles at the agents. They responded with huge plumes of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades.

Those clashes ended July 31, when state police took over from U.S. agents under a deal brokered by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. But smaller protests continued for weeks, with groups of 100 to 200 people marching nightly.

Masked protesters by an occupied home speak with a neighborhood resident opposed to their encampment and demonstration in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

The protesters wanted city officials to slash the police budget and reallocate that money to Black residents and businesses. Some demonstrators were also demanding the resignation of Mayor Ted Wheeler, a White man and the scion of a timber company fortune.

During the clashes, some broke windows, set small fires, punctured police car tires with spikes, shined lasers in officers’ eyes, and pelted them with rocks and frozen water bottles. With the onslaught of destruction also came instances of violence that, at times, grew fatal.

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In recent days, protesters descended on "Red House," a Portland home that was owned by a Black and Indigenous family before it was allegedly taken through predatory lending practices.

Using fencing, lumber, and other material, activists erected barricades around the house, located in an area of homes, coffee shops, and restaurants in what was historically a Black neighborhood but has become gentrified. Protesters also have placed homemade spike strips, piles of rocks, and thick bands of plastic wrap stretched at neck-height across the road to keep law enforcement officers out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.