Wind mitigation discounts have been in the headlines this year as Citizens has embarked on a controversial campaign of reinspecting more than 250,000 homes across the state. Three out of four homeowners inspected by Citizens have lost discounts that they had previously been receiving, leading to an average premium hike of $800.
Citizens and other insurers recently began reinspecting homes under the premise that homeowners were receiving discounts they didn’t deserve. Meale’s ruling indicates that the reverse may be true.
The inspectors that fanned across the state this year to scrutinize homes were using deficient forms that omitted checkboxes for discounts homeowners deserved, according to the ruling.
Allan Schwartz, a New Port Richey homeowner, said he spent $2,000 on a new, state-of-the-art garage door, but didn’t get an insurance discount for it because his windows weren’t also fortified.
“This thing looks like Fort Knox,” said Schwartz, who is covered by Citizens and recently had a reinspection. “They say if your garage door goes, your house goes.”
Meale called OIR’s omission of separate discounts for garage doors “arbitrary” and “illogical.”
Studies conducted by state and federal agencies after hurricanes Andrew and Charley found that many homes were destroyed when winds overpowered weak garage doors and rushed through homes. The pressure caused by the rush of wind caused roofs to cave in and walls to crumble.
As a result, several studies have found that fortifying old garage doors is one of the best ways to prevent wind damage during a hurricane.
However, homeowners who strengthened their garage doors were not rewarded with insurance discounts.
OIR said that even as it appeals the ruling, it will likely change the forms to account for garage-door discounts.
It’s too early to say how much a homeowner might save by doing a retrofit, though Meale’s ruling indicated the savings could be substantial.
According to OIR, the ruling does not require restitution for those homeowners who have been given incomplete discounts for the past few years.
Any lawsuits filed in attempt to recoup those lost discounts would be “frivolous,” said Miller.
“A homeowner should mitigate their home, whether or not they’re getting a discount from their insurance company, in order to protect their family and to prevent loss,” she said.
Toluse Olorunnipa can be reached at tolorunnipa@MiamiHerald.com or on Twitter @ToluseO.