Homeowners insurance in Florida is a very unique experience. There are many different aspects the insured needs to research when purchasing a home and/or trying to obtain homeowners insurance. This can be your go to guide on what to look when you’re purchasing your homeowner insurance. We will take to you step by step on what the Florida homeowners insurance carriers are looking for and what you as a consumer should be looking or as well. Some things may seem elementary and others more complex, but we will make it understandable for all. There are so many different aspects of homeowner insurance: home characteristics, inspections, unacceptable items/animals, exclusions, and additional policy credits, policy types, choosing the right agency, and choosing the right carrier. We will breakdown the different aspects as we continue.
Home characteristics may seem very minor to insured when thinking about the preference of homeowner carriers. However, it plays a defining role in the overall premium and/or coverage offered. In this section we will explore the age of the home, construction type and location.
Before we begin let’s define home for our purposes. Home is defined as a single family dwelling, duplex, triplex, condominium, and townhomes.
Age: One thing the homeowner insurance carriers look at is the age of the home. Consumers can automatically receive certain credits and/or surcharges on their policy due the year the home was constructed. A term that is used frequently and everyone should be familiar with is the “Florida Building Code” better known as “FBC”. The Florida Building Code has changed many times over the years; however the last change in Miami Dade and Broward Counties took place in September 1994. Therefore homes built after September of 1994 and newer receive the designation of being and FBC home. As for the reminder of Florida that same building code change took place in March 2002, therefore all homes built after March 2002 also receive the FBC designation. As you will notice, newer homes tend to receive more competitive homeowners insurance premiums typically, however with that being said if there is an older home with newer updates, those homes can also receive better premium rates.
Construction: The construction of the home is a factor in the overall homeowner insurance premium. The most common types are frame, frame with hardiplank, masonry, masonry veneer, mixed (masonry/frame) and superior. A brief description for each is given below.
Frame – exterior wall of wood or other combustible construction, including wood ironclad, stucco on wood or plaster on combustible supports. Normally you will find aluminum or plaster siding over frame.
Frame with Hardiplank – exterior walls constructed of wood or other combustible construction with hardiplank siding.
Masonry – exterior walls constructed of masonry materials such as adobe, brick, concrete gypsum block, hollow concrete block, stone, tile or similar materials and floor and roof of combustible construction (disregarding floors resting directly on the ground).
Masonry Veneer – Exterior walls of frame construction veneered with brick or stone.
Mixed (Masonry/ Frame) – A combination of both frame and masonry construction is classified as frame when the exterior walls of frame construction including gables exceeds 33.3% of the total exterior wall area; otherwise, it would be classified as masonry.
Superior Construction – To qualify as superior construction, the home’s exterior walls, floors and roof must all be constructed of and supported by non-combustible materials such as concrete block, poured concrete, brick, stone, metal, or gypsum.
Consumers will notice that not all homeowner insurance carriers will take every construction type and that certain types of construction will have a larger impact on the premiums.
Location: The location of the home can dictate what Florida homeowner insurance carriers will coverage the property and what type of coverage they are willing to offer. The proximity of the home to the coast can open and/or close doors for homeowner carriers to offer coverage.
Inspections: There are many types of inspections used when obtaining homeowner insurance. Some inspections are designed to help the consumer know about the condition of the home before purchasing, others are to help the consumer obtain credits towards their homeowners’ insurance premiums, and others are used to validate updates to older homes. These inspections cannot be complete by just any individual, most homeowner insurance carriers require that the inspections are completed and signed by one of the following: a Florida licensed general or building contractor, building inspector, architect, and engineer. The two inspections that homeowner insurance carriers typically ask for would be the uniformed wind mitigation inspection and the 4-point inspection, both being age driven. Typically a 4-point inspection is required for homes 30 years of age or older and for foreclosure homes. Mitigation inspections are normally required for homes built before 2002 and/or homes built after 2002 waiting to receive the opening protection credit. We will take some time to review both inspections.
4-point Inspections: The purpose of a 4-inspection is to identify and validate updates to older homes and/or deficiencies and are valid for only a 12 month period. It is called a 4-point, because the focus of the inspection are four different aspects of the home, which are the electrical system, plumbing system, heating and air system, and the roof. Let’s take a look at each one individually.
Electrical: The electrical system must be sufficient for use for the size of the home and the entire electrical system must be grounded. The minimum amperage for the main panel is 100 amps but sub-panels may be less than 100 amps.
The following materials are the most commonly ineligible with the majority of the carriers (however carriers do differ):
─ Knob and Tube wiring
─ Federal Pacific, Stab-Lok, Zinsco, Challenger,
─ Double-tapped breakers or Sylvania electrical panels
─ Aluminum branch wiring
─ Cloth-sheathed wiring
Electric Panel Diagram
|1) Entrance Wire(s)|
|2) Ground Bus Bar Strip of metal with screws for connecting the ground wires of the various circuits.|
|3) Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters|
|5) Single-Strand (110) wires; also known as “branch” wires|
|6) Multi-Strand (220) wires. Most commonly used to service major appliances.|
MOST COMMON UNACCEPTABLE WIRING/ COMPONENTS
MOST COMMONLY INELIGIBLE ELECTRICAL PANELS
The above photos show Federal Pacific/Stab-Lok electrical panels. Both the white or black (mapping) box or brown paper labels are clear indications that the panel is a Federal Pacific/ Stab-Lok electrical panel.
The above photos show Zinsco/Sylvania electrical panels. They often have a branding sticker, and another clear indicator is that the breakers are typically colored light blue, light green and red. NOTE: Although a photo of the Challenger electrical panels is not included above, these panels are also considered ineligible for most homeowner insurance carriers.
NOT Zinsco/Sylvania Similar colors, but they are brighter. This is an acceptable panel.
Plumbing: The water heater must be in favorable condition and it should have sufficient useful life remaining. The typical useful life of a water heater is 12-15 years, but it is possible for them to last longer if well maintained. If the water heater is 20 years old or greater, a replacement will mostly likely be required. Most carriers require that there is a temperature/pressure relief valve (TPR valve) installed. Polybutylene or PEX pipes in use in any part of the plumbing system would cause the risk to be ineligible and replacement of the ineligible pipes would mostly likely be required prior to binding with most homeowners insurance companies.
PEX plumbing is ineligible due to concerns associated with the material that significantly increase the likelihood of loss. The material is often installed incorrectly or fails to work property due to design/manufacturing defects. Extensive research has shown that the fittings are prone to dezincification, which causes blockages and reduces the mechanical strength of the fitting. Also, exposure to sunlight and chlorine can significantly decrease the dependability of the pipes themselves.
COMMON PLUMBING MATERIALS
COMMON PLUMBING CONTIDITONS
NOTE: While PEX can be white, the clear indicator that PEX is in use is that the pipe(s) are red or blue in color.
NOTE: While Polybutylene can also be white, the clear indicator that Polybutylene is in use is that the pipe(s) is grey or light blue in color.
Heating and Air Conditioning: The home must have central heat and cooling and the system must be sufficient for use for the size of home. In addition, the system must run on electricity or gas. The following are most commonly ineligible:
─ Window or wall A/C units in use as the primary source of cooling
─ Homes utilizing space heaters, fireplaces, or wood/ coal burning stoves as their primary source of heat
─ Furnaces which utilize oil for fuel
Roof: Most commonly eligible roofing materials are shingle, clay/concrete tile, slate or metal (excluding tin). All other materials (including but not limited to: tar and gravel; rolled roofing; modified bitumen membrane; rubber; wood shake; tin, etc.) are homeowner carrier specific to eligibility. Shingle roofs up to 20 years old and metal/ tile roofs up to 25 years old are typically eligible with all carriers. However, all roofs should have at least five years or more of remaining life and regardless of age, the covering must be in acceptable condition and not show signs of missing pieces, excessive wear, curling, bulging, leaking or sagging.
ELIGIBLE ROOF MATERIALS
CARRIER SPECIFIC ELIGIBLITY
COMMON ROOF CONDITIONS
Uniformed Wind Mitigation Inspection: A wind mitigation inspection is a specific type of inspection designed to help insurance companies identify if a home has features needed to increase the probability it will be able to withstand the damages normally caused by high winds. Since areas of Florida are known to have the highest risk of damage caused be hurricanes and/or other wind storms, it also has been known to have some of the highest insurance premiums. All insurance carriers in Florida provide a discount on wind portion of the insurance for properties that have proper documentation proving the home has one or more of the wind mitigation features. The wind mitigation inspection provides the documents needed to apply for these discounts. The areas that inspectors will look at when inspecting the home are listed below:
- Building code (is the home FBC)
- Proof of the roof age ** this is a permit driven credit, without permitting information the credit will not be obtained**
- Roof to wall connections: there are four different types
- Roof to deck attachment: there are five different types
To obtain the following three, both requirements must be satisfied.
- Secured to truss/rafter with a minimum of three (3) nails.
- Attached to the wall top plate of the wall framing, or embedded in the bond beam, with less than a ½ “ gap from the blocking or truss/rafter and blocked no more than 1.5” of the truss/rafter, and free of visible severe corrosion.
- Roof Geometry
- Secondary water resistance
- Opening protection
In some cases, the inspection may reveal that the home could benefit from a retrofit. The simple way to define a retrofit would be when the retrofit company physically adds nails, clips and/or straps to a roof to wall connection (the point where the individual trusses sit on the top plate of the walls in the attic). What determines which fasteners are used depends on what the home currently has for connectors. Some properties have a clips or straps already, but are only receiving toe nail credit on their wind mitigation, because the existing clips or straps are lacking the minimal nailing requirements. Some properties don’t have any clips or straps in which case they can be added. Most of the time the companies are able to perform a retrofit from the attic; however in some cases they cannot, due to the roof pitch, or other obstructions, they might have to remove the soffit (which could be stucco, wood, vinyl or aluminum soffit). After soffits are removed the retrofit work can be completed from the outside of the home then the soffits are re-installed or replaced. For more information on retrofitting, please contact Florida Retrofits at 877-659-8354 or online at www.floridaretrofits.com.