TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/The Herald
Virginia Neill, a Bradenton Beach homeowner, holds up one of the metal storm shutters she installed along with Bermuda shutter in order to protect her home. Her insurance company dropped her coverage anyway.
**BRADENTON BEACH - **Virginia Neill sunk $15,000 into storm shutters for her Bradenton Beach home a few years ago, thinking she’d be eligible each year for a discounted rate on her homeowners insurance.
Instead, Neill was recently notified that her homeowners policy is being canceled.
“I’m supposed to get an insurance discount doing that, I wasn’t supposed to be dropped,” Neill said. “It’s ridiculous. I just wish the insurance companies would understand that there are people behind their decisions.”
Neill, no relation to this writer, contacted her local insurance agent, who suggested she get a home inspection and provide the results to her insurance carrier, Sunshine State Insurance Co.
Despite the inspection report indicating her concrete-block home had no deficiencies, Neill said Sunshine State told her she must replace her roof - and even that wouldn’t guarantee her a renewed policy.
“They want me to put a new roof on my home to have insurance,” Neill said. “I can’t afford to do that - not after just spending, three years ago, $15,000 on storm shutters. I would have chosen the roof over the shutters had I known they were going to do this to me. But I was told that shutters would help me keep my insurance.”
Mechlin Moore, spokesman for Sunshine State, said the decision to not renew Neill’s policy boiled down to simple numbers.
The company no longer accepts new applications on houses more than 50 years old and Sunshine State’s records indicate Neill’s home was built in 1955, Mechlin said.
For homes older than 50 years, Mechlin said the roof, heating, electrical and plumbing has to have been updated within the past 10 years in order for the policy to be renewed.
Sunshine State’s records showed that Neill’s roof had not been replaced since 1995, therefore her policy was not renewed, Mechlin said.
The case illustrates the confusion surrounding a push in the state to strengthen homes against storms.
“Home-hardening” and “wind-protection retrofitting” are terms that have been bandied about lately as a solution to mounting damage claims in the state following the past two storm years.
This year, the Florida Legislature approved $250 million for a home-hardening program called My Safe Florida Home. The program provides free home inspections for those interested in strengthening their residences against hurricanes.
Contingent upon a completed inspection, My Safe Florida Home also provides up to a $5,000 matching grant to each homeowner for adding things like storm shutters, garage door reinforcements and other strengthening devices.
But the program is currently in its pilot phase and limited to residents of Miami-Dade, Broward and Lee counties, said Jeff Takacs, spokesman with the Florida Department of Financial Services, which implements My Safe Florida Home.
Takacs said there was no timeframe for the program to begin offering inspections in Manatee or Sarasota counties but residents are welcome to pre-apply.
The program was launched Aug. 15, and no Floridian has yet received a matching grant and been able to complete retrofitting work, Takacs said.
State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, whose office Neill contacted, believes her frustration is justified.
“I think she has a right to be upset,” Galvano said. “As I understand it, her home is in good shape. It’s fortified, she doesn’t need a roof or anything like that. She got an inspection, shared it with her insurance provider and was canceled. It’s just another example of why we need to act legislatively to fix this continuing program.”
Galvano said My Safe Florida Home is an important step to solving the state’s insurance crisis but it isn’t the solution.
“That’s not a solution to our insurance woes,” Galvano said. “We have to restructure the way this state regulates insurance and the way we participate in property insurance through the catastrophe fund.”
Galvano suggested that the state’s catastrophe fund be used to offset the cost of reinsurance, which is insurance for insurance carriers.
That would encourage more private companies to enter or stay in the market, Galvano suggested.
“We need to move away from the path we’ve been on where you have the state just being another insurer in the market,” Galvano said.
A component of the legislation that created the My Safe Florida Home program also calls on insurance carriers to provide discounts to homeowners who strengthen their homes against storms.
But that provision has caused consternation among some homeowners who have gotten far less than they expected in terms of premium breaks for their improvements.
John Laurie, a local insurance agent who serves on the Technical Advisory Council to the governor’s Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee, recently pointed out such disparities to fellow board members.
“Hopefully, we’re moving toward standardized discount rates,” Laurie said. “Because right now, they (discounts) vary from zero to 45 percent. That’s a pretty wide range.”
Laurie said he believes regulators and legislators are also moving toward better disclosure of discount rates on the parts of insurance carriers.
Conversely, insurance carriers have said that they don’t expect to have to bear the burden for homeowners that don’t strengthen their homes, Laurie said.
“The carriers have testified that they are more than willing to give discounts for mitigation efforts,” Laurie said. “But that means they need to get a higher base rate for those that don’t.”
The biggest problem I have personaly come up against was a single town home in a block of 4 units that had been built in the 1900’s, none of the units had any fire seperation so were not insurable by themselves.
Yes, the whole row was ballon framed with no fire blocking what so ever, the party walls were old lath and plaster, and the attics ran straight across the units with no fire wall seperation.
Interestingly, this was a property that I had under management, ithad been bought by one of my investement clients just after WWII and he had never had a problem with insurance until the late 1990’s, at that point no one would insure it at any price.
Strange group these Insurance companies .
Port hope has a lot with
Aluminum wiring and it is easy to get insurance .
I live 30 miles away and I looked at a home and the Company I deal with ( The largest in the area )would not give me insurance .
I asked for 90 days coverage and they agreed but said I could not do the work in the home .
I said OK My son is also and electrician and they said that was OK for him to do the wiring.
I did not get the home but these insurance companies are nuts .
I asked about fire sprinklers in the home they said they would not cover water damage from sprinklers .
Smoke damage from a small fire cost’s the insurance companies a huge amount and I do believe there is many dollars less damage from sprinklers
Ontario Hydro has not condemned Aluminum. It is only some insurers who have an issue with it.
Other insurance industry concerns
wood stove - combustible clearances, chimneys
Cast Iron waste lines.
Oil tanks 15-20 years old
Purchasers are advised to consult with Insurance agent prior to purchase to ensure insurance is obtainable dependent of course upon the choice of house and associated insurance concerns.
Many of the older homes around here have knob and tube wiring. I have not heard of any insurance companies refusing to insure them…but I have heard many people SAY that you can’t get insurance if your house has K&T. I think Roy is right…it just all depends on what type of houses/issues there are in certain areas…EIFS is making a huge comeback in certain areas around here, and some lenders are requiring moisture inspections before they will loan money on EIFS houses…