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Florida insurance companies add new requirements to avoid insuring older homes

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Posted at 12:03 PM, Jul 27, 2022

TAMPA BAY, Fla. — It’s almost been one month since new state legislation went into effect from a special session to address problems plaguing Florida’s property insurance industry.

Still, insurance agents are seeing some companies change policies to get around the new regulations.

For example, new laws prohibit companies from refusing to write or renew policies on homes with roofs that are less than 15 years old solely because of the roof’s age. They must allow the homeowner to get an inspection to prove a roof has five years or more of useful life.

However, Michelle Mosher, agent and owner of Southshore Insurance Professionals, tells WFTS that she’s seen new stipulations since July 1.

“Now I have a company who will take your roof if it's over 15 years old, but it has to have a secondary water resistance layer as part of the wind mitigation, and if it doesn't, it's not acceptable. So if you didn't do that 15 years ago, when you got your roof, you can't go to them as an option,” Mosher explained.

In addition to that, Mosher and other agents confirm that about five companies are now not accepting older homes in general. We’re told one company is only taking homes less than a year old.

“So they may not be able to not take you because of the age of the roof, but they can put other stipulations on it, and that's what we're seeing, or they've changed their guidelines to just not allow a home that's over 15 years old,’ Mosher said.

She’s owned Southshore Insurance Professionals for eight years.

She has about 800 policies, but she can no longer accept new business because they’re too busy re-writing their current clients who’ve either been dropped or their carriers have gone into receivership.

Somebody might have a 15-year-old roof, and they're being non-renewed. It's hard to get them a new policy until they get a new roof, but they've got 25 days to do that it's darn near impossible for that to be able to happen," Mosher explained. “Those who are not getting dropped are seeing rate increases of 80, 90, 112%.”

Suzette Bertini is not a client of Mosher’s, but she is a Tampa resident experiencing the shocking rate increases. Her property insurance has increased by nearly $7,000 since she bought her home in 2015.

We’re like, okay, we just might have to leave. This is hideous. I'm paying a grand a month for increases to insurance,” Bertini told ABC Action News in a phone interview.

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Suzette Bertini's home

Olympus is her insurance carrier. In 2015, her premium was $1,897.

In 2020 it went to $2,517; then in 2021 it went to $4,687. This year her renewal is $9,031.

I almost thought I was gonna have a heart attack when I open that bill… Holy crap! $9,000 from $4,500?!” Bertini exclaimed.

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She considers herself lucky because her roof is 20 years old, and her insurance never sent a non-renewal notice.

“No one has told me anything but a new roof,” she said. “I somehow got through it unscathed as far as a bad roof or denied coverage for an old roof.”

But homeowners should know that rate increases aren’t just because of the number of lawsuits insurance companies are dealing with; they also have to adjust policies to cover inflation costs.

Building materials are more expensive. Labor is more expensive, it's harder to get things done, and if they have a total loss, the coverage they had last year isn't going to build their home back this year,” Mosher explained.

Even if a policy has an inflation guard, she explains that it’s not enough.

We get emails from carriers all the time, even at just renewal, that they have 4% inflation writer,” she said.

The good news is that since special session laws went into effect July 1, agents are also seeing companies change replacement cost value on roofs to actual cost value, which insurance companies say will be a saving grace.

For now, those who need new insurance should go through an agent who understands the age of their home and roof.

You may be eligible for a roof certification waiver which means an inspection could buy you more time with an older roof.

Some carriers are also now allowed to offer separate roof deductibles on premiums, which may be an option to keep your overall rate lower.

For Floridians, it’s a matter of hanging on. The real effects of the new legislation will take 18 months to a few years to see.

We won't be here that long,” Bertini expressed. “We have planned to retire here. But if this doesn't resolve itself, and… I've already heard of other people moving, we'll be right behind them all.”

We reached out to Olympus, asking for the specific reason behind Bertini’s rate increase, but we have not heard back.

We also contacted a company we’re told has added the new roof wind mitigation requirements but did not receive a response.

On the Olympus Insurance website, an article states that homeowner’s insurance can be cheaper with home updates that make them “more secure or structurally sound.”

It advises you to "talk to your agent if any of the following apply:

  • You installed a new roof, or you have a hip roof
  • You added wind mitigation upgrades like storm shutters or reinforced garage doors
  • You updated your electrical or plumbing systems
  • You implemented a new security system 
  • You added a pool and pool enclosure to your home.

Olympus Insurance also lists advice for new homeowners to keep premiums lower.

1. Location of the Home in Florida

If you choose a home in a gated community, your risk for a break-in goes way down, and your homeowners' insurance premium can benefit as well. You can get a credit for living in an area with heightened security.

2. The Age of the House

How old your home is can impact your premiums. The newer the home, the better off you’ll be. Newer homes are built to higher standards than older ones, and are considered to be more capable of withstanding high winds and driving rain.

3. Features of the Home & Property

If your roof is at least a certain percentage “hip”, meaning that it doesn’t overhang the top frame of your house, you can get another credit. An even partially hip roof can significantly reduce the chance of it being ripped off in a hurricane or high wind situation.

4. Materials Used To Build the Home

A home that has wind mitigation features, like storm shutters and shatter resistant glass, can put up a strong defense against Florida storm season. Ask about these features when looking at new homes, and take their presence into account when considering a home with a few years on it.

5. Intelligence: Is it a Smart Home?

A “smart” home can also get you one or more credits on your homeowners insurance. Look for installations like a security system that gives you remote access, or water sensors that can send alerts about a potential leak to your smartphone.

Stassy Olmos at WFTS first reported this story.