Florida Wind Insurance and How to Lower Costs With Wind Mitigation Credits

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Wind insurance isn't mandatory in Florida, but your mortgage lender may require it. Regardless, windstorm insurance is a good buy for Florida homeowners, since the state regularly experiences strong winds, hurricanes and other storms. The companies available and rates you may pay for coverage vary widely by area. For instance, beachfront property owners typically have the fewest options and highest rates.

No matter where you live in Florida, you may qualify for wind mitigation credits that can greatly reduce the cost of windstorm coverage if your house is properly protected.

Windstorm insurance in Florida

Like homeowners insurance, wind insurance isn't required by the State of Florida. However, it's often required by mortgage lenders, particularly in coastal areas.

Windstorms that accompany hurricanes, along with tropical storms, strong winds and tornadoes, are hazards for Florida homeowners. Buying wind insurance can be a smart way to protect your property.

Florida law typically requires insurance companies that provide homeowners, renters, mobile home or condo insurance to also include coverage for windstorm damage caused by storms declared hurricanes by the National Hurricane Center. This insurance covers damage to the dwelling, similar to hazard insurance, as well as the rain, hail, dust or other materials that may enter your home through an opening caused by the windstorm.

However, homeowners who live in higher-risk regions for hurricanes or tropical storms may have difficulty getting a policy, especially one with broader coverage.

Insurance companies in Florida are also required by law to give you the option of declining wind insurance coverage from your homeowners policy by submitting a request in writing. This will lower your insurance costs, but it's not advisable, unless you have wind coverage through another company. You should have windstorm insurance if there's a high risk of significant damage to your home due to weather events like hurricanes, hail or other storms.

Wind insurance in wind-pool areas

People who live in the highest-risk areas, called wind-pool areas, may not have windstorm insurance included in their homeowners policies. They would have to get separate coverage.

Wind-pool areas include beachfront and coastal properties within 1,500 feet of a major body of water.

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, Florida's insurance company of last resort, is usually the only company that provides windstorm coverage in these regions.

Citizens was formed by combining the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association and Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association. They provide property insurance to homeowners who can't get coverage from other companies. They also offer wind-only insurance policies in Florida, as well as homeowners insurance policies with windstorm coverage if you're unable to get one elsewhere.

The cost of insurance is often higher from Citizens than other companies, so get multiple quotes before buying a policy.

What is a windstorm?

A windstorm typically refers to the gusts of wind, rain, hail and other wind effects that accompany a hurricane. This is why it's commonly called hurricane insurance, even though a hurricane can also cause flooding and other property damage that windstorm insurance wouldn't necessarily cover.

Florida also sees other sources of strong wind, such as tornadoes, cyclones and other tropical storms. Damages from these are covered by wind-only insurance or a homeowners insurance policy that includes wind coverage.

Windstorm insurance deductibles in Florida

Homeowners policies and wind insurance in Florida can have separate deductibles for hurricanes and other windstorms. A homeowners insurance hurricane deductible usually only applies to wind damage from storms declared a hurricane by the National Hurricane Center. These deductibles can either be a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of your homeowners insurance dwelling coverage.

Hurricane deductibles are generally higher than those for standard homeowners insurance but only need to be paid once per year. So, if Florida is hit by multiple hurricanes and your home is damaged more than once, you'd only need to pay the deductible the first time.

If your windstorm insurance's deductible applies to storms that are not declared, it can mean much higher costs, as you'd be responsible for a larger deductible for a greater number of claims. Be sure to review the deductibles carefully before selecting a company.

Cost of windstorm insurance in Florida

Wind insurance rates in Florida may depend on where your house is located, whether you purchase coverage as a separate policy, the company you choose, your home's value and how your home was built. The cost of wind insurance for an expensive beach house in South Florida, for example, will likely cost more than the same coverage for a small home away from the coast or farther north.

Similarly, the cost of windstorm insurance from Citizens may vary due to a number of factors, with location being one of the biggest. Windstorm insurance for a $350,000 house in Jacksonville might cost about $900 per year, while insurance for the same house in Miami could cost more than $4,000.

In addition to comparing rates and increasing your deductible, you can lower your windstorm insurance rates with wind mitigation credits. They're given to homeowners who implement certain home improvements that lower the risk of damage due to wind and hurricanes.

Florida wind mitigation program and credits

The Florida Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program (FHLMP), also called the My Safe Florida Home program, was created to help residents lower their risk of property damage from wind and hurricanes. Insurance companies are required by Florida law to offer discounted windstorm insurance rates to people who buy homes with wind-resistant features or retrofit an existing home.

Program discounts can reduce windstorm premiums significantly. To qualify for credits, you'll need to have a home inspection by a certified inspector, who will check for features such as:

  • Hurricane shutters
  • Impact-rated glass on doors and windows
  • Reinforced roof-to-wall connections
  • Roof-deck attachment
  • Roof covering, shape and bracing
  • Storm resistant doors and garage doors
  • Secondary water resistance

Windstorm mitigation inspections to qualify for credits are free for some homeowners. To qualify for a free inspection, you'd need to have a single-family, site-built home that is your primary residence with less than $500,000 of dwelling coverage. You'd also need to have a homestead exemption. Homeowners who don't qualify for a free wind mitigation inspection can pay to have one done. The cost is usually worth the insurance discount.

During the wind mitigation inspection, the inspector may also recommend additional measures you can take. By making these improvements, you can qualify for more windstorm mitigation credits and greater discounts. The FHLMP provides grants to help residential homeowners afford these improvements for an existing home. Whether you qualify for a grant, and your priority to receive one, depends on your home's insured value and your income.

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