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Florida insurance discounts may hide under roof

Looking for savings on home­owner's insurance?

Finding a discount might be as easy as hiring a certified home inspector.

Greg Karsa, 61, of Palm Harbor, did just that this week, and now he could save more than $1,000. His home, the inspector found, already had several protections against hurricanes that were not calculated in his original $3,100 premium.

What did the inspector find?

Nails in the roof.

Don't laugh. It's true. Nails were a part of the discount because they work better than the staples used on the roofs of some homes that were devastated during Hurricane Andrew.

The nails have to be the right length, spaced correctly and properly attached. But the point is, there are some protections hiding under the shingles and guarding windows and doors that could save money, if the home is formerly reviewed by an approved inspector.

Inspectors review:

• Roof type (hip roofs are best).

• Roof coverings such as shingles or concrete (concrete is best).

• Roof deck attachments, whether plywood with nails or concrete (concrete is best).

• Roof-to-wall attachments with clips or wraps (wraps are best).

• A secondary water resistance barrier (a barrier applied to a hip roof is best).

• Shutters for window and door openings (hurricane-rated shutters are best).

The state's My Safe Florida Home Program helped tens of thousands of homeowners find insurance discounts by paying for inspections and providing grants for qualified Floridians to strengthen their dwellings against storms.

After inspections through the My Safe Florida Home Program, the state deemed 212,268 homeowners eligible for an average discount of $218.15 based on an average premium of $1,081.78.

The program reached its mandated goals and ran out of money in July. But "there is nothing to prohibit the homeowner from going to the inspector directly," said Tami Torres, program administrator for the My Safe Florida Home Program.

The cost is about $150.

Torres cautions homeowners to ensure they use licensed inspectors who are trained and certified. She said the Legislature is being asked to established sanctions for those who cheat homeowners with fraudulent inspections.

Brian Cesare, the certified inspector who reviewed Karsa's home, said some inspectors have offered questionable inspections for $25.

"I'm really suspicious of that," said Cesare, owner of OSI Inspection Services in St. Petersburg.

Otherwise, Cesare, who performs 100 inspections a month, said his customers generally realize some discount benefit. "It's like a stimulus package."

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332.

So here's the Edge

If you seek out an inspector, make sure those you hire have the proper licenses and certifications. Check the Better Business Bureau, state licensing agencies and consumer protection agencies for any complaints.

Homeowners can seek discounts on their insurance premiums if an approved "uniform mitigation verification inspection form" is completed and signed by one of the following:

• A hurricane mitigation inspector employed by an approved My Safe Florida Home wind certification firm. A list is available at: www.mysafefloridahome.com/InspectorList.Asp.

• A building certified building code inspector.

• A licensed general or residential contractor.

• A licensed professional engineer who has passed the appropriate equivalency test of the Building Code Training Program.

• A licensed professional architect.

To check a license, certification or complaint, visit the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation at www.myfloridalicense.com or call 850-487-1395. For Hillsborough Consumer Protection, go to www.hillsboroughcounty.org/consumerprotection/ or call (813) 903-3430. In Pinellas, visit www.pinellascounty.org/consumer/ or call 727-464-6200.

Florida insurance discounts may hide under roof 12/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:47pm]

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