Florida’s home-hardening grant program is lowering insurance premiums for some, but not all homeowners. Here’s why.

Patronis
There are 2 main reasons why some grant recipients aren’t seeing lower insurance premiums after improving their homes.

A home-hardening initiative Florida lawmakers resurrected last year to improve property wind resistance and insurance premiums is rolling ahead, with nearly 10% of the program’s grant pot already distributed to residents who upgraded their houses.

So far, fewer than half have reported lower insurance costs.

Steven Fielder, chief business officer at the Department of Financial Services (DFS), gave lawmakers an update on the My Safe Florida Home program, which received its first grant application Nov. 18, 2022.

Since then, the state has completed more than 92,600 house inspections, 22,240 grant applications and reimbursed homeowners who installed impact windows and doors or replaced their roofs with a combined $38.5 million.

With a total of 22,240 grant applications approved to date, more projects and grants are running out the door daily, according to Fielder.

“I just did another approval for $1.9 million this morning,” he told members of the House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee Tuesday.

Of the 4,198 homeowners who were approved for grants, secured a contractor, paid for home upgrades and received reimbursements from the state, 2,050 saw their insurance premium decrease, Fielder said.

About a third (1,044) did not see their premiums go down and about 1 in 7 (625) actually saw their premiums rise.

The remainder could not provide information on the matter.

Fielder said there are two main reasons why some homeowners aren’t getting premium discounts. One is because they only replaced some, but not all, of their windows.

The My Safe Florida Home policy, he said, is to approve grants for eligible projects if it leads to a property being in better shape than before, even if it’s not completely protected.

“The homeowner may have to go back next year and buy another window, and the year after that they might need to buy another window (using) their own dollars. But at least we’re moving the needle,” he said. “That being said, I have personally seen in correspondence with insurance agents that they will not give the premium discount until all of the windows are done.”

Another way a policyholder may not get a better premium is if the repaired or replaced aspect of the home was previously in such disrepair that they were at risk of losing coverage. In that case, Fielder said, the improvement kept the homeowner on their insurance policy, but it didn’t reduce its cost.

“We allowed that person to get their roof done,” he said. “They were allowed to remain insured as opposed to being uninsured, and that is a net benefit to the state.”

Lawmakers revived the 17-year-old program in May 2022 to help thousands of homeowners access free home inspections and money to replace the entryways and tops of their properties. The program was originally conceived in 2006, when the Legislature assigned $250 million to the program, enough to cover some 400,000 inspections and 32,000 home upgrades.

But the program was slow to get going and plagued with scandals during the two years it existed through 2008, prompting lawmakers to defund it and fire the company the state hired to conduct inspections after myriad homeowners who signed up were placed on a long waitlist and some were shortchanged on their bills.

Asked by Hudson Rep. Kevin Steele if DFS is aware of any issues with fraud through the My Safe Florida Home program now, Fielder said there have been some complaints about contractors.

“In the grand total, it’s a small percentage,” he said. “But it’s significant enough (that) it has definitely piqued our interest.”

Fielder added that DFS has contacted state agencies outside of Florida with jurisdiction over the contractors in question — whose names he did not offer — to deal with the issues.

Steele said he wanted to provide Fielder with the contact information of a woman “who is in her 80s, high 80s, who was taken advantage of, and maybe you guys can follow up.”

Fielder said DFS would “absolutely” do that.

Later, CFO Jimmy Patronis said that any program like My Safe Florida Home is bound to attract scammers, but the good has thus far outweighed the bad considerably.

“Whenever you have a program where people are eligible for dollars, there’s going to be an opportunity to find vulnerabilities and take advantage of them,” he said. “But talking to our window dealers, our window manufacturers … they’ve gotten excited about these programs (and) it’s created an awareness campaign (and) I don’t know if we can put a dollar amount on what’s happened organically just through the market.”

The new iteration OK’d in May 2022 included a $150 million nonrecurring earmark from the General Revenue Fund last year: $115 million for hurricane mitigation grants, $25 million for inspections, $5 for administrative costs, $4 million for education and consumer awareness, and $1 million for public outreach to contractors, real estate brokers and associates.

In April, the Senate and House agreed to set aside another $100 million in fiscal 2024 and passed a measure doubling the maximum grant from $5,000 to $10,000 and raising the eligibility cap to include homes with insured values of up to $700,000, up from $500,000.

Townhomes were also added to the program, though the state did not start accepting applications for them until July 1, just over two months before the grant application portal closed.

Another bill (HB 1C) Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in November following the Panhandle destruction of Hurricane Idalia infused the program with even more funds, bringing the total for existing grant applicants to $391.1 million.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


3 comments

  • Funny Thing 2050

    December 12, 2023 at 5:34 pm

    I thought the state data was self reported.

    It seems that there is no proof that this program helps. If it does help, it’s only helping those that have a large amount of money to pay up front for repairs and then get reimbursed.

    This program isn’t the solution. This is FL pretending that they are helping. FL is not helping…. unless you consider … the fact that your reps knew that some ins companies were committing fraud and knew that some companies weren’t paying claims (Washington Post and Insurance Journal plus the Florida channel hearing on 12/13/22) , and the state still voted to make it impossible to hold those companies accountable….. if you count that as FL as helping, then.. I guess they are helping. But, I don’t see it.

    I think we need transparency in Rates. Tell us the portion of our premium that’s due to risk, roof type, location, etc. Tell us how much we are paying for a brand name.

    Give us the options to have a $50k+ deductible instead of $1k.

    Give us the information to be informed consumers.

    And give us tools to hold ins companies accountable when they don’t hold up their end of a contract.

    Anyone that has a mortgage has to have insurance. This isn’t optional if you owe money. It shouldn’t feel like a hostage situation to have ins in our state.

    FL is approving these rates and keeping Citizens rates capped at an 11% -14% increase. Which way is it? Rate hikes are justified or they aren’t?

    Citizens if not charging enough can char he every policy holder in FL- not just home insurance policy holders- everyone. Car, rental, business, etc.

    And.. there is a gr EA t article in the insurance journal about how SB 1718 likely increased our ins rates.

    So…. yea…. Folks, this is a gong show. But, FL reps keep trying to tell you it’s not their fault. And, I don’t see it.

    • Julia

      December 12, 2023 at 6:23 pm

      Though frauds abound, rest assured that every website is reliable and prosperous. It’s bringing in significant profits for thousands of people. To view more information, visit the link. There is no immediate financial obligation; registration and information bs02 are free of charge………………………….. careershome123.blogspot.com

  • Teri

    December 21, 2023 at 11:48 am

    First with the my safe Florida home, seems all the approved vendor employees got the funds to do new windows but average citizens did not! That being said, I’m a senior who could not keep applying every year and going without so I paid full price to have it done! Now my home with new impact windows, new garage doors, 2 year old metal roof, 1 year old water heater, and accordion shutters over patio, does not qualify for insurance reduction! I have basically built them a new home! Ron DeSantis does nothing for us, Olympus insurance is a scam and so are their agents making me do all the leg work trying to get breaks!

Comments are closed.


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