A Florida judge has ruled thousands of homeowners may not have received proper insurance discounts for hurricane-proofing their homes, including the installation of wind-load-rated garage doors or other reinforcement products.
Administrative Law Judge Robert Meale ruled Oct. 19 that the forms used by property insurers to calculate the discounts are flawed and should be thrown out. The decision could greatly affect homeowners who lost discounts during a re-inspection program by Citizens Property Insurance Corp., an insurer of 1.5 million homeowners.
Meale ruled the forms are invalid because they failed to provide a separate discount for homes with wind-resistant garage doors, a discount required by law. The discounts are dependent on one another, so one flaw impacts all, so some homeowners may have received incomplete discounts, Meale said.
The forms are based on a study commissioned 10 years ago by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). Jack Stumpff, a small-business owner in Plantation, Fla., initiated the lawsuit against OIR, which appealed the Oct. 19 ruling in circuit court and downplayed the potential impact on homeowners. The company did report it plans to change its forms to include garage door discounts.
Stumpf said his business, which offers a product to help strengthen garage doors, has been seriously impacted by the lack of discounts for retrofitted garage doors. Stumpf’s Secure Door product sells in Lowe’s stores but is not eligible for a discount based on the current forms.
Florida homeowners can receive discounts on their property insurance bills when they strengthen their homes against hurricanes. These measures can include window shutters, hurricane-resistant roofs, impact-resistant glass doors and wind-load-rated garage doors.
After spending $2,000 on a new garage door, Allan Schwartz, a homeowner in New Port Richey, Fla., said he didn't receive an insurance discount because the windows on the garage door weren't fortified.
State and federal studies following previous hurricanes showed many homes were destroyed due to the lack of a secure garage door. Wind pressure caused the doors to break or tear apart, leaving the home vulnerable. Fortifying an older garage through replacement or additional strengthening products can prevent wind damage during a hurricane, the studies found.