Office approves structure ratings
Numbers match home's ability to withstand storm
Floridians buying a home have something new to ask: What is the hurricane rating?
Following through on requirements set by the Legislature in January, the Office of Insurance Regulation has approved what it calls a ''Home Structure Rating System.''
The criteria establish a number, from 1 to 100, on an individual home's expected ability to withstand storms. It was developed by regulators, university academics and an engineering company. The numbers take into account not only the construction of the house and protections such as shutters, but also the home's location and expected exposure to hurricanes.
For now, the system applies only to site-built single-family homes. Commercial property and manufactured homes are excluded.
Being able to pinpoint that kind of information will be useful to consumers also shopping for insurance. Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty called the rating system ''further evidence that Florida is a national leader in hurricane-mitigation technology and information.''
Lawmakers gave regulators until June 30 to come up with the grading scale along with an operating plan of how to use it.
The state will start testing the software-based rating system through the free inspections offered through its mitigation program, said Tami Torres at My Safe Florida Home. It will replace a pilot rating system already in place for that program.
Eventually, Torres said, homeowners would be able to fill out the forms themselves, and compare the benefits of different storm mitigation projects for their particular home. The larger goal is getting residents to keep storm-worthiness in mind when making housing decisions.
''Ultimately this rating system moves Florida in that direction,'' Torres said.
Details on the project are on the agency's web site at: www.floir.com/HomeStructureRatingSystem.htm