Hurricane season is here. Can you feel it? The slight breeze strengthens just a bit, extra humidity fills the air, and then you feel that cool downburst of air just before the front moves in. You hear the distant thunder rolling, and you know it is time to head inside and close the hurricane shutters, if you have them, and then… everyone now… together…you check to make sure your insurance policy is in force, active, and all premiums paid (maybe not).
If you can get windstorm coverage in the private market, do so. Florida has Citizens, a state-funded and state-backed insurance for those who cannot get windstorm insurance in the private market. Other states along the U.S. East Coast have a similar option.But seriously folks, the time to make sure you are fully insured in case the big one hits is not when you start to feel the downburst of cool air. Do it today. Pull out the file, check everything, and, if you have any doubts, call your agent. Windstorm coverage can be the greatest fear and anxiety, whether you have it or not, how high your deductible is, what it covers, what it does not, and how much it costs. Chances are you have it, if you have a mortgage, because your lender requires it. If you don’t have it, they will purchase it for you, and bill you at a cost much higher than if you get it on your own. If you don’t pay them, they will deduct the cost from your escrow and bill you for the balance. Don’t let it come to that. Be proactive.
Investing in a wind mitigation inspection
Whatever market you choose, there is one thing you can do to lower your cost: Get a wind mitigation inspection and report to submit to your insurance company. The cost for the inspection is minimal for a residence — between $50-$125. For a community association building (including apartments, condominium, and homeowner associations), the cost can range from $200-$500 per building. If you have a multi-building community or condominium association, each building will have its own form. The credits you can receive off the cost of your premium can be substantial, ranging from zero to 35% off your premiums.
In a community association, even if the association does not receive any credits from the inspection results, each homeowner within that building and community could receive credits. The community association should inform the owners that an inspection was performed and that the inspection report is available. A great way to do that is to post the report on the community association website for downloading. Each homeowner should submit the community association inspection report to their individual insurance company and/or agent, and see if windstorm credits can be realized on their individual policies. You may be delightfully surprised. It can’t hurt, and it doesn’t happen very often where you would see an increase in your policy premium as a result of submitting the report. The only time that would happen is if a previous report was filed with incorrect information. Most of the time when a first report is filed, a credit is realized.
Sections of the wind mitigation inspection form
The form used is called “Uniform Mitigation Verification Inspection.” The sections of the form include:
Building Code: Was the building constructed according to the standard building codes?
Roof Covering: What type of roof covering do you have: shingle, concrete, tile, etc.?
Roof Deck Attachment: What is the weakest form of roof deck attachment? For example one form could be: Plywood/OSB roof sheathing with a minimum thickness of 7/16” attached to the roof truss/rafter (spaced a maximum of 24” o.c.) by 8d common nails spaced a maximum of 6” in the field.
Roof to Wall Attachment: For example, one set of conditions could be: Secured to truss/rafter with a minimum of three (3) nails, and attached to the wall top plate of the wall framing, or embedded in the bond beam, with less than a 6″ gap from the blocking or truss/rafter and blocked no more than 1.5” of the truss/rafter, and free of visible severe corrosion, with clips as follows: metal connectors that do not wrap over the top of the truss/rafter.
Roof Geometry: Explains the shape of the roof, hip, flat, or other. If a roof has a hip or is flat, it has less wind resistance, and you will receive a greater credit.
Secondary Water Resistance (SWR): Standard underlayments or hot-mopped felts do not qualify as an SWR, and a roof with self-adhering polymer modified-bitumen roofing underlayment applied directly to the sheathing receives the greatest credit.
Opening Protection: This identifies the weakest form of wind-borne debris protection installed on the structure. These can include everything from no protection, hurricane shutters (many different types) replacement windows with impact resistant glass, impact film, and so on.
The year your building was built offers clues to what the inspector will find. He/she will check your county records before they arrive, and bring with them the information recorded on your building. Both the inspector and your windstorm insurance company know the typical types and quality of construction of each year for your area. The inspection results should follow what they expect to see, and if they don’t, be prepared to explain. After your inspector files the report to you, you sign it and submit it to your agent and/or insurance company. The company may send their own inspector out to verify the inspection form information.
Finding qualified home inspectors and building code inspectors
So who can you call to do this form for you in Florida, for example?
- Look for home inspectors licensed under Section 468.8314 of the Florida Statutes who have completed the statutory number of hours of hurricane mitigation training approved by the Construction Industry Licensing Board and completion of a proficiency exam.
- Seek out a building code inspector certified under Section 468.607 of the Florida Statutes.
- Use general, building, or residential contractors licensed under Section 489.111 of the Florida Statutes.
- Find a professional engineer licensed under Section 471.015 of the Florida Statutes.
- Use only professional architects licensed under Section 481.213 of the Florida Statutes.
Failing that, seek out any other individual or entity recognized by the insurer as possessing the necessary qualifications to properly complete a uniform mitigation verification form pursuant to Section 627.711(2) of the Florida Statutes. You will have to contact your state office or your insurance agent to get the list for your state.
Locating your building’s weakest point
The key thing to remember is your building is judged by its weakest point. When the wind blows, it will find the weakest point, and enter the building through it. So even though you may have hurricane shutters on some of your windows and doors, if you have one that does not, you will receive a credit (or not) judged on the opening that has the weakest form of protection.
An inspection is also a good thing because it tells you where you could make improvements to make your home or condominium building safer during a storm. For a condominium building, for example, after the inspection, those homeowners who do not have opening protections, or who have not upgraded their windows with impact resistant glass, should be notified of that fact.
In Florida, there are laws that give the board of directors powers to insist or demand that hurricane protection be installed. Only until ALL OF THE OWNERS HAVE UPGRADED (windows and doors or add hurricane protection) can the community association lower their windstorm premiums in that regard, and that could be a substantial savings, especially in high-wind areas like the beaches.
At the very least, your community should have a conversation about what is best for your community regarding insurance and wind protection repairs and improvements for your building(s). The bottom line is that windstorm insurance is expensive, and wind mitigation inspections and reports can save you and your association a bunch of cash.Read more on Maintenance & Improvements