Citizens raises roof on policies
June 15, 2009
By BOB KOSLOW
DAYTONA BEACH — Thousands of homeowners in Volusia and Flagler counties could lose their wind-only home insurance if their roofs are too old or damaged.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. last year and again earlier this year notified policyholders that wind-only home insurance policies would not be renewed without a roof inspection or proof of a new roof. Citizens is the state-backed insurer of last resort for owners who cannot find a private insurer. The agency has about 17,000 wind-only policies in the two counties and many are up for renewal by early August.
"My fear is that homeowners got the notices with six months to comply and put them aside waiting for the last minute or have forgotten about them," said Steve Hall, president and owner of East Coast Insurers with offices in Ormond Beach and Palm Coast. "If a hurricane comes, they may not be able to find an inspector, get a roof repaired in time or have insurance."
The new requirement comes because Citizens is updating its wind-only policies and switching them to a new computer system. In effect, Citizens is canceling policies unless the roofs are in good condition.
"Citizens not only provides insurance for property owners who need it, but we also are committed to helping our policyholders protect and preserve their property and their personal safety," said Citizens spokesman John Kuczwanski. "The roof is a major source of protection when there are high winds. If a roof is allowed to deteriorate, the entire home and all its contents and even the people inside are vulnerable to storm damage. Insurance is not meant to pay for property damage that is due to normal deterioration or lack of upkeep."
The roof age and condition requirement are mandatory for homes that are 25 years old and older with shingle roofs, all mobile homes and homes that are 50 years and older with other types of roofs, including tile.
Homeowners can meet the requirement by submitting proof that a new roof has been put on the home since it was built. A receipt or a contract should be filed with the insurance agent.
If paperwork is unavailable, an inspection of the roof is required with the filing of a roof condition certification form. That is different from a uniform mitigation verification inspection, used to qualify for insurance discounts by having certain hurricane protection features, such as window protection, gable end braces and roof truss straps.
Not just anyone can perform an inspection.
Citizens requires the roof inspections be done by a Florida licensed general, residential, building or roofing contractor; a licensed building inspector; a registered architect; a registered engineer; or a city or a county building code official.
Costs can vary between $74 and $150.
"Two years ago, it was wind mitigation, and now it’s the roof verifications. It’s helped business immensely. I did nine on Monday and five in Tuesday," said John Banks of Coastal Home Inspections and John Banks Builders, both in Ormond Beach. "I have not added staff, because I do them myself. Everyone should get an inspection to lower insurance rates and for safety."
Mike Hawryluk of CBC Roofing Co. is a licensed roofing contractor. He has not seen an increase in inspection business because of the new Citizens requirement. However, business increased after five days of rains that had roofs leaking.
"We’re getting some calls, but not all that much more than in the past for inspections. We are also hearing that some insurance companies are requiring new roofs or they will cancel policies," he said.
Shingles that are 25 years old are "pushing" the life expectancy, Hawryluk said. They may curl and wear out. And older roofs may have loose screws on the vents. Roofs installed under older, less strict codes may not provide adequate ventilation to protect roofs, he said.
"It’s usually just neglect. The roof is not something you think about a lot until it starts to leak, and there is usually more damage than just the leak," Hawryluk said.
Qualified roofs do not leak and have at least three years of useful life remaining.
Citizens is not forcing policyholders to adjust coverage, deductibles or premiums, but does require that the policy cover the replacement value of the home.
Florida law does not require wind insurance, but most mortgage lenders require coverage to protect the lender.