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Here’s how to keep home insurance costs as low as possible

The brochure from the North Palm Beach-based company that sealed Michael Burrow’s roof with a “special coating” makes a compelling claim: “Recognized by home insurers as a re-roof.”

Unfortunately, that is not true. Coating your roof is not one of the many steps Florida homeowners can take to minimize property insurance costs.

Other companies make similar claims. The website of a Hollywood-based roofing company boasts, “you can save money on your insurance” with its silicone roof coating, while a Boynton Beach-based roofer claims that its roof coating is “accepted by most insurance companies”.

Forced to seek new insurance this month, Burrows said no insurer was willing to apply a rebate for roof sheathing, which he says will extend the life of his roof by years by preventing water intrusion.

“No insurer offers this discount,” says Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications for the Insurance Information Institute.

While “special coatings” won’t save you money on property insurance, there are legitimate ways to save money on home insurance.

As insurance costs rise and hurricane season is just around the corner, here are some ways to cut costs.

“In Florida, you qualify for home insurance discounts if you make your home more windstorm resistant,” Friedlander said. “This includes installing storm shutters, bracing your roof, and installing wind-resistant garage doors, windows, and exterior doors.”

All of these and other home hardening items will be eligible for a 6% sales tax refund beginning July 1. Reimbursement eligibility will last for two years. Additionally, state grants will soon be available to help Floridians strengthen their homes.

The insurance reform bill signed into law in the just-concluded special legislative session also provides $115 million in state matching grants for storm-proofing upgrades. Qualified applicants will receive $2 in public funds for every dollar spent, up to $10,000.

Home improvements funded by the program will allow homeowners to qualify for discounts when purchasing new or renewed policies.

Details on how owners can qualify for the program have yet to be released.

Here are other ways to lower your insurance costs:

The issue of roof age has dominated discussions among Florida lawmakers about how to stem increases in insurance rates.

While most homeowners know that homes with the newest roofs get the biggest discounts, many police are looking for detailed information about those roofs.

In what year was it replaced? What shape is it — flat, gabled, hipped or whatever? Hipped roofs that slope down on all sides of the house are the most resistant to hurricane-force winds.

Other factors include: roof materials, type of fasteners used to secure the roof decking, roof decking material, whether there is a layer below the deck for water resistance and wind speed it is designed to withstand.

If you know your roof has been built to the latest structural codes and is designed to withstand the wind speed and pressure rating of your geographic risk area, of course you should make sure your insurer knows this. also.

In recent years, some insurers — citing excessive claims and lawsuits resulting from aggressive solicitations for roof repairs — have refused to cover homes with roofs as young as 10 or 15 years old. Many homeowners were faced with the expensive option of replacing a roof with years of useful life remaining or purchasing policies from state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

But the reforms enacted during the special legislative session on insurance prohibit insurers from refusing to take out new or renewed policies on homes whose roofs are less than 15 years old.

The new legislation also prohibits insurers from refusing to underwrite new or renewed policies for homes with roofs over 15 years old if the policyholder submits an inspection report showing that the roof is still five years old or over. useful life.

Standard roof policies have required insurers to fund complete roof replacements when 25% or more of the roof is damaged by storms or falling trees, as required by Florida’s building code. The new legislation will update the code to allow insurers to replace only the damaged part if the roof was built to the standards of the 2007 or later versions of the code.

The reforms also allow insurers to offer discounts to policyholders who accept optional roof coverage deductibles of 2% of the insured value of their home or 50% of the cost of roof replacement. The deductible would not apply if the structure is a total loss, the roof damage is the result of a hurricane, the roof is punctured by a falling tree or other hazard, or the damage requires repair less than 50% of the roof.

Some companies have already received permission to sell policies that only cover the depreciated value, rather than the full replacement value, of roofs. These policies cost less than policies with full replacement value coverage.

Consumers opting for a roof coverage deductible or depreciated value coverage should consider whether they can afford to pay the difference out of pocket if they are faced with a sudden need for a new roof.

If your roof isn’t damaged and needs to be replaced because it’s at the end of its life, you can at least know that your new roof will be built to the specifications of the Florida Building Code’s 2020 revision, which tightened the requirements. for roof assemblies.

A wind mitigation inspection will identify what protective measures your home currently has and what you can add to maximize safety and minimize insurance costs. For an inspection that will cost around $150, you may find that you are not getting credit for all the discounts you are entitled to.

Not all insurance companies in Florida allow policyholders to bundle their home and auto insurance, but many national companies do. Customers insured by major national carriers, such as State Farm, USAA, Progressive, Liberty Mutual, AAA and others can often realize significant savings by bundling.

If you have purchased auto or home insurance from a large company, you should ask if it is possible to bundle coverage and get a discount.

Most insurers request information about the use of or access to a long list of security features and consider the responses when calculating coverage rates.

For example, your distance from fire departments and hydrants makes a difference in what you pay, as insurers expect closer homes to suffer less damage in the event of a fire. . Policies filed by Universal Property & Casualty for approval by the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation, for example, ask whether applicants live within five miles or more than five miles of the responding fire department. They also ask if a home is less than or more than 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant.

Owners in the nearest ranges should check to ensure they are credited.

Other preventative measures you want to talk to your insurer about include burglar alarms, fire alarms, and sprinkler systems.

If you own an older home and haven’t replaced your windows and doors with modern versions made with impact-resistant materials, you should seriously consider doing so.

You’ll pay less if your home has impact-resistant doors and glass, including extra reinforcements on your garage door. These measures reduce the possibility of your home being penetrated by flying debris during hurricanes, which can destabilize the pressure in the home and cause walls or roofs to collapse.

But to qualify, all openings must be protected, including all house doors, garage doors, skylights and glass blocks.

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Various financing choices are available, including PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) programs that require no upfront investment. Homeowners are eligible for a long list of energy efficiency and windstorm mitigation upgrades as long as they have sufficient equity in their home and are up to date with their property taxes and their mortgage payments.

However, homeowners choosing PACE financing should be aware that the debt will appear as a lien on their home. An annual repayment installment will be required, which can be escrowed by their mortgage agent. Failure to prepay could lead to foreclosure, and federal mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not guarantee loans with PACE privileges. This means that in many cases the loan must be paid off in full before borrowers can sell their home.

You need to decide on two different deductibles: a hurricane deductible which usually ranges from 1% to 5% of the property’s insured value, and the comprehensive (non-hurricane) deductible which is usually a dollar amount, such as $500 or $1,000. Going for higher deductibles will get you a lower premium, but make sure you can afford the out-of-pocket expenses if you have a catastrophic storm claim.

Insurance costs for many homes have risen not only because of rising rates, but also because of the inflation-fueled increase in what it would cost to rebuild your home. However, the replacement values ​​for some fonts may be higher than necessary.

Some higher value homes in South Florida are overinsured because consumers assume the insured value should be equal to their purchase price. But much of that purchase price results from the value of the land, and the replacement value of their homes could be significantly lower.

Your insurance policy automatically adjusts your replacement value for inflation, but if you think the replacement cost is too high, you can contact your insurance agent or hire a contractor or appraiser who will use tools standard to update your estimate.

Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at [email protected].