The values of U.S. commercial real estate properties in coastal areas may suffer -- and affect commercial mortgage-backed securities -- as insurance companies reduce loss exposure to hurricane-prone areas, according to Fitch Ratings.Joseph Kelly, a Fitch senior director, said CMBS servicers have noticed a "sharp increase" ranging from 25% to 400% in windstorm and flood insurance premiums since the beginning of hurricane season. "This may present a problem for commercial real estate properties where premium increases cannot be passed through to tenants," he said, "and in fact the resulting value decline may be severe enough so a property can no longer support its full debt service, increasing the likelihood of payment default." Besides premium hikes, insurance companies may raise deductibles, reduce coverage amounts, or drop coverage altogether, Fitch noted. "Fitch's chief concern is that windstorm insurance along coastal areas may become commercially unavailable, possibly echoing in severity the terrorism insurance issues of late 2001/early 2002," said Patty Bach, a Fitch senior director. Fitch can be found online at http://www.fitchratings.com.

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