Florida Homes Safe With State Inspection Program

May 20, 2008

The Tampa Tribune--May 20, 2008

By TAMI TORRES Special to the Tribune

The Tampa Tribune

The My Safe Florida Home program complaint rate, after serving hundreds of thousands of Floridians, is less than 1 percent.

The My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program is a free and voluntary inspection program that helps Floridians identify ways to strengthen their homes against hurricanes. Under the program, some homeowners receive grant assistance to help strengthen their homes. And many of the homeowners who use the program are able to get discounts on their wind insurance premiums.

The MSFH program appreciates diligent, consumer-focused reporting, and appreciates the advocacy role the Tribune has engaged in on behalf of homeowners. The citizens highlighted in the Tribune deserve prompt and attentive answers, and the MSFH program will continue to provide guidance with professionalism and understanding.

What seems lost in the articles are the facts repeatedly supplied to the Tribune by program officials that based on surveys of thousands of participants, the overwhelming majority of participants report being pleased with MSFH.

More than four out of five participants would recommend the free program to friends and family. Homeowners find the free inspection reports useful and easy to apply for, and thousands of Floridians have already received discounts on their wind-insurance premiums without making a single improvement to their homes.

A cursory glance at the articles would suggest that somehow the MSFH program dropped the ball by not regulating contractors and "approving" contractors who are guaranteed to satisfy customers.

However, that’s not what the law says, and that is not how we do business.

The My Safe Florida Home program doesn’t approve contractors. The law simply directs the program to create a list of participating contractors available to homeowners.

Given all the growth that has occurred in Florida in recent decades, it is not surprising that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the regulating agency for contractors, deals with thousands of complaints and investigations a year. Consumers need to be careful when hiring contractors, whether or not the reason for hiring the contractor is to do work under the My Safe Florida Home program or for some other purpose. Every MSFH contract spells this out for homeowners, because despite our best efforts, we can’t guarantee any contractor’s work.

Fortunately for Floridians interested in learning how to protect their homes against storm damage, these types of cases are limited. When they do occur, MSFH officials walk consumers through the process of filing a complaint with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The Tribune selectively interviewed 40 program participants because they had experienced problems with the program. The reporter used these interviews as the basis for a recent series of stories about problems with the program.

The My Safe Florida Home program has been in existence for less than two years, and everyone recognizes that there are still problems to be fixed and improvements that need to be made. We will not be satisfied until every program participant can be confident of a positive experience.

The program disagrees with reporter John W. Allman’s interpretation of the My Safe Florida Home program based on these select interviews and encourages Floridians to instead heed the advice of the overwhelming majority of participants who recommend the program.

Sign up for a free wind inspection at www.MySafeFloridaHome.com or toll-free at (866) 513-MSFH (6734).

Tami Torres is program administrator over the My Safe Florida Home program.