Local home inspectors quizzed on ways to save money on insurance premiums and protect homes against hurricanes

Jul 23, 2011

The following article was published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on July 23, 2011:

Five ways to save money on insurance premiums and protect your home against hurricanes

Floridians trying to save money on their home insurance premiums can guard against hurricanes at the same time.

What are the home improvements that can score consumers the most bang for their buck and are most likely to qualify for insurance discounts?

We put the question to local inspectors and insurance agents. They offered the following advice:

To qualify for insurance discounts, it’s critical that improvements meet the most recent state and county building codes and requirements specified on the Office of Insurance Regulation’s inspection form to verify discounts.

Some consumers have reported not qualifying for discounts because the inspection form is unclear, and regulators are working to revise it. Homeowners with questions should provide detailed information in writing about the proposed upgrade to their agent and insurance company and request a written response about whether it qualifies.

Consumers with questions also can call the Department of Financial Services’ insurance consumer helpline at 877-693-5236.

With those caveats, most local inspectors and insurance agents listed these five upgrades:

Protect your windows. Protections such as shutters or hurricane-impact glass can cost a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000 and prevent your home from being destroyed by hurricane-force winds.

Dulce Suarez-Resnick, an insurance agent in Miramar, said shutters installed before 1996 are getting little or no discounts.”The biggest misconception is that you need to get accordion or impact glass windows to get the best discount and that is not the case. You can…install brand new panel shutters, as long as they are the current code,” she wrote in an email.

Cover all openings in the home, not just the windows. Doors, garage doors and skylights should also be protected with hurricane-resistant panels and materials. “There is a much bigger discount for all openings,” said Gerard Barra, of RCI Home and Mold Inspections Inc. in Boca Raton.

Replace the roof if it’s very old. Getting a new roof can be an expensive proposition, costing $5,000 to $50,000 depending on the size of a home and the roofing materials used. Still, it could pay off big-time in discounts and protection from hurricanes, especially if you’re replacing a shingle roof close to 25 years old or a tile roof close to 50 years old, said Suarez-Resnick.

Peggy Waite, a State Farm agent in Hollywood, added: “The absolute biggest discount above all others is a new roof.”

Get other protective features for the roof if you’re replacing it, such as single- or double-wrap roof-to-wall connections, said Ted Nelson, president of SkyeTec, a Jacksonville-based building inspections and consulting firm.

The connections add 10 percent to 30 percent to the cost of a new roof, said Steven Bates, project manager of Paul Bange Roofing in Davie. Whether hurricane discounts cover the cost depends on how long the homeowner stays in the house, he said.

Just before the roof is replaced – while the roof deck is exposed – the contractor can check for other features that might qualify for discounts, such as the nailing pattern.

Brand new homes should be built with hip roofs and reinforced masonry construction – which should help score additional discounts, added Nelson, of SkyeTec.

Install another layer on your roof when you’re redoing it. It’s called a “secondary water barrier,” and it “does not add much cost to the re-roofing project but helps water from penetrating through the roof deck,” said Nelson.

Barra recommends consumers keep detailed records of home improvements, including photos, receipts, permits and correspondence with their insurance company, agents and inspectors regarding the upgrades and what qualifies for a discount.

“It is the responsibility of the homeowner to clearly show documentation to the insurance company for work [that has] been done,” he said, adding that the documents will help the consumer challenge a decision revoking legitimate discounts.

Don’t forget to take photos of the roof every year, Bates add. “The single biggest [reason] many insurance companies denied claims after Hurricane Wilma was because they said the roof damage was a pre-existing condition,” he said. “Have it inspected and documented by a licensed roofer before the hurricane, and most will do it at no charge.”

Find this article here:  http://www.sun-sentinel.com/fl-hurricane-discount-tips-20110718,0,3026208.story