Mitigation is a term that means diminishing or moderating the force or intensity of something. When applied to the power of a natural phenomenon, say, like the high winds that can arise during a tropical storm or hurricane, mitigation means lessening their destructive character by the implementation of certain building techniques in order to prevent or reduce the damage they can cause to a home or other structure.
In coastal areas, and especially in states such as Florida, tropical storms and hurricanes are more common than they are elsewhere in the country. In fact, hurricane season in the Sunshine State lasts for six months each year, from June 1 to November 30. And although we have been fortunate to have avoided major catastrophic damage over the last few hurricane seasons, it is only a matter of time before the next devastating hurricane sweeps across the Florida peninsula.
Florida homeowners would be hard-pressed to forget the damage inflicted by Hurricanes Charley and Ivan in 2004, and Katrina and Rita one year later. Because of the widespread destruction caused by these violent storms, many insurance companies went bankrupt over mounting claim and reparation costs, subsequently leaving many homeowners high and not-so dry, in their wake.
In order to protect both property owners and insurance companies alike, and to some extent, government agencies that must often step in to provide financial relief to hurricane victims, in 2006, Florida became the first state in the nation to mandate some form of insurance cost discounts based upon certain wind-mitigating characteristics of a home or commercial structure that would help limit the damage caused by high winds and their associated water intrusion. Florida statute 627.711 requires insurance companies to notify homeowners of premium discounts for hurricane loss mitigation and establishes a uniform mitigation verification inspection form.
However, in order to qualify for this discount, properties must undergo a certified wind mitigation inspection performed by a qualified inspector, usually a board-certified contractor, architect or engineer. Once the inspector submits his report to the property owner’s insurance agency, outlining the home or business’s ability to withstand storm damage, an appropriate discount can be applied to the owner’s insurance premium. In Florida, the average discount of 30 percent of the wind portion of the insurance premium (which can be between 15 and 70 percent of the total premium), can save a typical homeowner several hundred dollars a year – not to mention the much greater potential savings in repairs and rebuilding costs should a major storm actually hit.
In Florida, a wind mitigation inspector will look at several key categories of safety features that help protect a home from severe wind and water damage, including:
Remember, even though wind mitigation inspections are optional and not required by mortgage lenders or insurance companies, they are the only inspections that are likely to result in some level of discount on a homeowner’s insurance policy. The more wind resistive features a property has, the higher the total discount will be.
A wind mitigation inspection usually takes less than an hour, is relatively inexpensive when measured against the potential savings on insurance premiums, and is available for single family homes, multi-family buildings, condominiums and townhouses.
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