Vol 6 No. 47 -August 16, 2006
Program helps fortify homes
By Louise Bolger
SUN STAFF WRITER
It's August. Do you know where your batteries are? We're
well into the official Florida hurricane season and hopefully
you're fully prepared in the event of a major storm. You have
your hurricane routes memorized, Home Depot has begged you to
buy more batteries than hopefully you will ever need, your supply
of bottled water is taking up an entire closet and your mother
in Kansas sent you a can opener, but is your home ready?
The Florida Legislature has created a new statute as part of
the 2006 regular legislative session. The statute #215.5586
is titled the Florida Comprehensive Hurricane Damage Mitigation
The purpose is to help Floridians identify how they can strengthen
their homes against hurricanes and to reduce hurricane damage
exposure. The program will offer free home inspections by qualified
home inspectors and grants up to $5,000 to eligible homeowners.
Homeowners whose primary residence is a single family, site-built
home, who have a valid homestead exemption and whose home has
an insured value of less than $500,000 are qualified. In addition,
homeowners whose primary residence is a unit in a residential
building with a maximum of four units, who have a valid homestead
exemption and whose unit has an insured value of less than $500,000
are also qualified.
There are, however, a few catches. All unit owners in a residential
building must agree to participate in the program, and since
the buildings can only be a maximum of four units, most condominium
associations will not be eligible for the program. Also, meeting
the $500,000 maximum insured value will eliminate quite a few
properties on the island and surrounding waterfront areas. Mobile
or manufactured homes, second homes, rental properties, apartments
and businesses are not eligible for the program.
Information and applications for free inspections will be available
this month. At that time there will be an on-line application
available as well as a toll-free consumer helpline.
After your application has been approved, you will be advised
who will do the inspection. The Department of Financial Services
will assemble a group of qualified inspectors with specialized
training to perform the inspections.
The inspection report will outline what eligible improvements
may be made to your home, provide a range of how much each improvement
will cost, explain possible insurance discounts, and offer a
hurricane resistance rating scale outlining the home's current
and future ability to withstand hurricanes. Having an inspection
does not obligate you to make the recommended improvements.
Having an inspection, however, does not automatically qualify
you for matching grants to make improvements. You still need
to make an application. Decisions are made by the state and
prioritized based on the best areas to reduce hurricane exposure.
If you're approved for a grant, you will receive a matching
dollar for every dollar spent up to a maximum of $5,000. For
example if the recommended improvements cost $3,000, you would
pay $1,500 and the program would pay the other $1,500.
The grant funds are available only for wind-resistance improvements.
Some of the qualifying improvements are: improving the strength
of a roof deck, creating a secondary water
barrier to prevent water intrusion, improving the survivability
of roof covering, bracing gable-ends in the roof framing, reinforcing
roof-to-wall connections, upgrading exterior wall opening protections
and upgrading exterior doors.
Home improvements must be done by contractors approved by the
Department of Financial Services. The program will not reimburse
you for home improvements already done.
Just like all government programs, this one has restrictions
and ambiguous instructions. It may not work for every homeowner,
but for those who are interested and qualify you can make improvements
and save some money. It's too late for this hurricane season,
but there's always next year, one more thing to add to your
"hurricane to do list," at least you've got the batteries.
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