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My Safe Florida Home Program

This program, funded with $250 million by the Florida Legislature, was created to better protect Floridians by strengthening their homes against hurricanes and to reduce the state's exposure to hurricane damage. To be eligible for a free home inspection, Floridians must live in a single-family, site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or less and have a valid homestead exemption. Documents verifying this information must be submitted with a completed application.

Nearly 14,000 Florida homeowners received free home inspections during the program's pilot phase last year.

Inspection reports provide the following information to homeowners:

  • their home's current strength against a hurricane on a 0-100 scale,
  • ways that homeowners can improve their home's strength,
  • a cost estimate for the recommended improvements,
  • amount of savings homeowners can anticipate on their wind insurance premiums if the improvements are made.

Homeowners choosing to make the recommended improvements are eligible to receive matching grants from the state up to $5,000. The grant funds must be used to implement improvements specified in the inspection reports, and homeowners will be required to use participating contractors. The list of participating contractors, organized by county and type of work performed, is available at the My Safe Florida Home web site.

The My Safe Florida program is currently being evaluated and in the process of statewide expansion, after which the application process for free home inspections will resume. However, Floridians looking to harden their homes now can learn more about recommended home improvements at the web site.

From the press release: "I am excited that thousands of homeowners will soon be receiving valuable information about how they can harden their homes," said Alex Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. "The 2007 hurricane season is rapidly approaching, and we want to arm these homeowners as quickly as possible with the information they need to protect their homes against the devastating effects of hurricanes."

There are reports that the program is in a bit of a shambles. Some people are finding that they are not getting the full grant for 50% of the approved work.

There were some retrospective changes to the legislation, so if you were inspected after May 1, 2007 then you may not be getting what you hoped for. According to the Government:

The 2007 Florida Legislature and the Governor passed legislation that modifies some components of the My Safe Florida Home program, including grant criteria. Under the new law, if you received your wind inspection report after May 1, 2007, you will be eligible for a matching grant up to $5,000 if you live at least six months out of the year in a single-family detached, site-built home that meets the following criteria:

a.. built before March 1, 2002;
b.. insured value of $300,000 or less;
c.. valid homestead exemption;
d.. located in the wind-borne debris region;

Grant funds can only be used for opening protections, which includes windows, skylights, gable vents, exterior doors and garage doors, and the bracing of gable ends. You are required to use a participating contractor from our list to be eligible to receive a matching grant.

If you are eligible for a grant and you choose to protect your windows, you must protect all windows identified by your wind inspection report as needing hurricane protection. If you choose to protect your doors, you must protect all exterior doors identified by your wind inspection report as needing hurricane protection. If you choose to protect your garage door, you will be eligible for grant funds to make this improvement.

Under the law, only homeowners who received a wind inspection report before May 1, 2007, will be eligible for a grant under the previous program rules.

The big change is removing homes in the 120mph or less wind zones from eligibility in the program.

Although they can't get a state grant to fortify their homes, those homeowners can get the inspections, which cost the state $150 apiece.

A criticism of the program is that it is just another example of more self insurance being forced on the policy holders.

Mitigation is relatively expensive as it has to be done by licensed professionals! DIY will not get credit, no matter what your background or expertise is! The insurance company requires a certificate from a licensed entity. Licensed persons or companies are usually more expensive than the unlicensed alternatives.

Check with your insurance company before you spend money on mitigation upgrades to determine your potential savings.

Upgrades for hurricane protection may also increase the value of your home and the amount of your property tax.

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