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

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 of whether it is required for you, windstorm insurance is a good consideration for Florida homeowners, given that the state regularly experiences strong winds, hurricanes and other storms. The wind insurance companies that are available and the rates you may pay for coverage vary widely depending on where your home is located. For instance, beachfront property owners typically have the fewest options and highest rates.

But no matter where you live in Florida, you may qualify for wind mitigation credits that can significantly 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 if you live in a coastal area. Windstorms that accompany hurricanes, along with tropical storms, strong winds and tornadoes, are all hazards for Florida homeowners, so buying wind insurance can be a smart way to protect your property.

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

However, homeowners who live in higher-risk regions for hurricanes or tropical storms may have difficulty obtaining a policy, particularly one that includes broader wind insurance coverage.

Insurance companies in Florida are also required by law to give you the option of excluding wind insurance coverage from your homeowners policy if you submit a request in writing. This will lower your insurance costs, but we recommend not doing so unless you've found windstorm coverage through another insurance company. There's a high risk of significant damage to your home due to weather events like hurricanes, hail or storms.

Wind insurance in wind-pool areas

Homeowners 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 obtain separate coverage. Wind-pool areas include beachfront and coastal properties that are located within 1,500 feet of a major body of water. Citizens Insurance, Florida's insurer of last resort, is usually the only company that provides windstorm insurance coverage in these regions.

Citizens was formed by combining the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association and Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association. It provides property insurance to homeowners whom private insurers won't cover. It offers both wind-only insurance policies in Florida, as well as homeowners insurance policies with windstorm coverage if you're unable to purchase a policy elsewhere.

The cost of wind insurance or other coverages from Citizens is often higher than you may be able to find elsewhere, so we recommend requesting rates from several other insurers before purchasing a policy.

What is a windstorm?

A windstorm typically refers to the gusts of wind, rain and hail, and other wind effects that accompany a hurricane. This is why windstorm insurance is commonly referred to as hurricane insurance, even though a hurricane can also bring flooding and other forms of 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 events would be covered under the combination of a wind-only insurance policy, or your homeowners insurance policy if it includes wind coverage.

Windstorm insurance deductibles in Florida

Homeowners and wind insurance policies in Florida can have separate deductibles for hurricanes and other windstorms. A homeowners insurance hurricane deductible typically only applies to windstorm damage from storms declared to be 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 typically higher than those for standard homeowners insurance coverage, but only need to be paid once per year. So if Florida is hit by multiple hurricanes and your home receives damage more than once, you would only need to meet the deductible the first time.

If your windstorm insurance company charges a wind deductible that applies to storms that are not declared, this can result in significantly higher costs, as you would be responsible for a larger deductible for a greater number of claims. We recommend you review the deductibles carefully before selecting a Florida wind insurance company.

Cost of windstorm insurance in Florida

Wind insurance rates in Florida may vary depending on where your house is located, whether you purchase coverage as a separate policy, the insurer you choose, your home's value and how your home is 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 that's located away from the coast or farther north.

Similarly, the cost of windstorm insurance from Citizens in Florida may vary according to a number of factors, with your home's location being one of the most significant. Windstorm insurance for a house valued at $350,000 in Jacksonville might cost about $900 per year, while insurance for a house of the same value in Miami could cost more than $4,000 per year.

In addition to comparing rates from multiple insurers and increasing your deductible, Florida homeowners also have the option to lower their windstorm insurance rates by using wind mitigation credits. Wind mitigation credits are 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 Comprehensive Hurricane Damage Mitigation Program (FCHDMP), 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 homeowners who purchase homes with wind-resistant features, or retrofit these features onto an existing home.

Discounts from Florida's wind mitigation program can reduce windstorm insurance significantly. In order to qualify for wind mitigation credits, you'll need to have a home inspection by a certified inspector who will check for certain 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 certain homeowners. In order to qualify for a free inspection, you would need to have a single-family, site-built home that is your primary residence and insured for less than $500,000 of dwelling coverage. You would also need to have a homestead exemption in order to be eligible. Homeowners who don't qualify for a free wind mitigation inspection can also pay to have one done themselves, a cost that is typically much lower than the discounts you'll receive on wind insurance.

During the wind mitigation inspection, the inspector may also recommend additional damage-prevention measures you can take to improve your home. By making these improvements, you can qualify for a larger number of windstorm mitigation credits and receive greater discounts. The FCHDMP provides grants to help residential homeowners afford these improvements to the construction of their existing homes. 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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