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Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse and Sinkhole Coverage – The Differences

www.orlandosentinel.com An aerial view of the Winter Park sinkhole in 1981.

An aerial view of the Winter Park sinkhole in 1981.






Q.  What is the difference between Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse and Sinkhole Coverage?

A.  Resulting from a terrible amount of fraud and abuse of the insurance system the difference between Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse and Sinkhole Coverage has become a major issue for Florida homeowners.  The best place to get detailed information is through the Florida Department of Financial Services, which oversees the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.  Exact policy details often vary between insurance companies, but per Florida law a sinkhole is “a land form created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater.  A sinkhole may form by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution (the dissolving) of limestone or dolostone or by the subsidence as these strata are dissolved.”  You don’t have to see a giant gaping hole for it to be declared that there is a sinkhole.  “Catastrophic ground cover collapse is defined as geological activity the results in all of the following:  1). The abrupt collapse of the ground cover; 2). A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye; 3). Structural damage to the building including the foundation; and 4). The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the government agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure.”   If all 4 conditions are not met, there is no incident of Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse.  Coverage for “Sinkhole” has become increasingly rare because of the prevalence of fraud, while coverage for “Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse” has become the norm.  Check your policy declarations page or call your agent to be sure which your policy has.

What is a Wind Mitigation Inspection?

Have you had a wind mitigation inspection?

What Is a Wind Mitigation Inspection?

What is a Wind Mitigation inspection and should I get one?

Wind Mitigation inspection must be performed by a licensed general contractor, building contractor, architect, engineer, building inspector or home inspector. The form used as of August 2014 is OIR-B1-1802 and photos must accompany the wind mitigation report for it to be valid.

Wind Mitigation credits were mandated by the Florida Legislature several years ago, and they earn premium discounts for construction methods within your roof that resist damage by wind. There are several categories of credits, and within the several categories there are several levels of discounts. The age of the home and roof will be examined and inspectors will also be noting and taking photos of the roof deck attachment, roof to wall connection, roof shape and the existence of a secondary water resistance barrier.

The cost of a Wind Mitigation Inspection varies by vendor, but it is generally inexpensive. Do your research on inspection companies. You want to make sure the inspection is done properly. If you need a referral we work closely with and trust a few local inspectors so just ask!

The only way to know exactly how much you can save is by having the inspection done. The inspection cannot hurt you or cause your premium to go up. It can only cause the premium to stay the same or go down, sometimes by several hundreds of dollars!

Understanding a Wind Mitigation inspection

Understanding A Wind Mitigation Inspection

You definitely don’t have to be a professional to understand a Wind Mitigation inspection, however it does get technical.  Let’s take a look at what the inspector is looking for, why he or she is looking, and how the process came to be.  

First, it’s important to know that the Uniform Mitigation Verification Inspection Form is actually a legal affidavit.  That means that it’s considered a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation for use as evidence in court.  This goes along with why all insurance companies in Florida must offer premium discounts for Wind Mitigation (although they can vary by company); the state legislature mandated the credits!

A Wind Mitigation Inspection looks at 7 areas of your roof system.  They are:

  1. Which set of building codes is your entire home in compliance with?  Basically, when your house was constructed determines how strict the building codes were and how wind resistive it is at a minimum.
    • Wind Mitigation Discount Tip:  The newer the home the deeper the discount.  
  2. What kind of roof covering you have.  This is where the inspector notes if you have shingles, tiles, etc., and what building codes they are compliant with.  This is important because an older home from the first item can have a much newer roof.
    • Wind Mitigation Discount Tip: The newer the roof the deeper the discount (much more so than in number 1)
  3. What is the weakest portion of your roof decking (typically the flat plywood under roof) made of, what kind of nails is secured down with and how far apart are the nails.
    • Wind Mitigation Discount Tip:  Plywood is almost universally used, but not always.  The longer the nails and the closer they are together, the deeper the discount.  
  4. What is the roof attached to the walls of your home with?  There are 8 findings the inspection can have, but the most common in order from weakest to strongest are Toe Nails, Clips, Single Wraps, and Double Wraps.
    • Wind Mitigation Discount Tip:  If you are re-roofing your home make sure the best/strongest method is used.  All you have to do is upgrade as much is possible.  Always ensure proper permits are pulled and building codes are followed too.
  5. What is the geometry of your roof?  Very simply put, from a home insurance perspective, hip roofs are the best, gables are OK, and flat roofs are great for wind but aren’t so great overall.  A hip roof slants up on all sides like a pyramid.  It can have more than 4 sides.  Hip roofs can withstand the highest pressure loads from very fast blowing wind.  Gable roofs can be simple upside down V-shaped roofs or roofs with multiple peaks in the shape of a letter V.  Gable roofs can only withstand certain pressure loads because the blowing wind can get under and lift them, unlike hip roofs.  Flat roofs are less of a wind issue, but they tend to collect debris and to be very leak prone as they age.  
    • Wind Mitigation Discount Tip:  If building or purchasing a home, a hip roof is always preferable.  A home with a hip roof will generally have a lower insurance premium than a perfectly equivalent home with a gable or flat roof.
  6. The first item that has absolutely nothing to do with wind but is on a Wind Mitigation Inspection is Secondary Water Resistance.  Does the roof have more than just felt paper between the outer covering (shingles/tiles/etc.) and the decking (plywood)?  Is there rolled waterproof membrane in between?  Felt paper has a tendency to dry out and behave like potato chips.  As it crumbs away water can permeate the wood decking and work its way into the house causing damage.  Secondary Water Resistance helps prevent this water intrusion.
    • Wind Mitigation Discount Tip:  On a re-roof make sure Secondary Water Resistance is used.  It’s now part of the building codes throughout Florida to use it on new construction.
  7. Opening Protection is another less roof involving item, but it very much concerns itself with wind.  This possible credits looks to see if your house has hurricane shutters, specially designed garage doors, windows, skylights or other “openings” meant to withstand wind and strikes from blowing debris.  
    • Wind Mitigation Discount Tip:  A few extra bucks on the hurricane rated garage door/skylight/windows/etc. and investing in hurricane shutters will qualify you for some extra discounts!

Who Executes a Wind Mitigation inspection?

There are 6 types of qualified people who can sign-off on your Wind Mitigation Inspection.  It must also include your signature a series of photos that substantiate each of the 7 items.  Sadly, the photos became a requirement because a lot of Wind Mitigation fraud when the program first came to be.  This six approved inspectors are:

  1. A Home Inspector licensed under Section 468.8314, Florida Statutes, and is properly trained and passes a test, such as  interNACHI certification.
  2. A Building Code Inspector certified under Section 468.607, Florida Statutes.
  3. A General, Building or Residential Contractor licensed under Section 489.111, Florida Statutes.
  4. A Professional Engineer licensed under Section 471.015, Florida Statutes.
  5. A Professional Architect licensed under Section 481.213, Florida Statutes.
  6. Any other individual or entity recognized by the insurer as possessing the necessary qualifications to properly complete a uniform mitigation verification form pursuant to Section 627.711(2), FL Statutes.
    • Item 6 is rarely used – I’ve never seen it – and is solely at the discretion of your insurance company.  Insureds – you – have no say in the matter regarding the acceptability of a Wind Mitigation Inspector outside of the first five legally defined types.

Where did Wind Mitigation credits come from?  

Building Inspector

Every home insurance company in Florida must offer Wind Mitigation discounts.  However, there is no standard amount for each of the 7 credit earning items, nor is there any scientific data used to determine how much credit each carrier awards for each item.  Insurer A might give a 5% discount for having “Clips” in item 4, but Insurer B might offer only 1% or as much as 10%.  These discounts are also often only applied to the “Wind” portion of your premium:  Say your insurance costs $1,000.00 per year.  It is then broken down into “Wind” and “Non-Wind” portions.  Again, there is no standard amongst carriers for that split, so there is no way to substantiate it on a common level for all homeowners.  Effectively, the Florida Legislature said, “In order to get reelected we need a juicy talking point about saving Florida homeowners money on their insurance.  We’re going to cast aside the scientific data that makes claims costs predictable and require quasi-scientific discounts.”   

The proof is in the pudding.  It’s why the companies are required to offer a certain level discount.  There’s no data to use to be certain that feature X is really that significantly better than feature Y.  Thus, the elected officials get to say they got you a discount, but the insurers get to make it as big or little as they want because it’s not really a science-based item.  

This doesn’t mean that all Florida homeowners shouldn’t take advantage of a Wind Mitigation Inspection.  We often find that the inspections pay for themselves, earning at least $80-$100 of credit each year for a guaranteed 5 years (often longer).  Many times the credits reach well into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars.  It is rare that no credits are earned because without the inspection your home is assumed to have the least possible wind resistive features.  It’s also important to note that the inspection CANNOT hurt you.  You cannot be charged more unless you had a prior Wind Mitigation Inspection that had incorrect findings in your favor.  I urge all Florida homeowners to get the inspection done.  I cannot guarantee a savings with 100% certainty, but it’s tremendously likely ( 90% or more in my opinion) that you’ll wind up with a positive result!

**This piece is intended as an incomplete introduction and reference to the process of Wind Mitigation Inspection for Florida homeowners.  It does not imply or guarantee any premium savings, insurance coverage or protection against loss.  Wind Mitigation Inspectors are hired at all homeowners’ own risk.  Harry Levine Insurance is in no way responsible for positive or negative outcomes of any actions taken in reliance on this article.  No action should be taken in reliance on this article.**

What is Water Back-Up and Sump Overflow coverage?

Water Back-Up and Sump Overflow coverage





Q.  What is water back-up coverage?

A.  Water Back-Up and Sump Overflow coverage protects against water intrusion in the event that public utilities and/or septic systems become inundated and reverse course.  This type of coverage became very common after the 2004 hurricane season during which storm drains could not handle the amount of rain water inundating them.  This coverage is separate from flood insurance and most homeowner insurance already covers water damage from roof leaks/burst pipes/certain other causes.  Simply put, if your toilets and/or sinks began overflowing into your home due to reasons outside of the home (not a hairball in the P-Trap or tree roots in the main drain) this coverage may apply. If you are not sure if your policy has Water Back-Up and Sump Overflow coverage call your agent.

What is Employment Practices Liability Insurance?

Employment Practices Insurance EPLI




Q.  What is Employment Practices Liability Insurance?

A.  Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) is a critical form of protection that all businesses need to have.  Like worker’s compensation, it does not matter if a company has 1 part-time employee or 1,000 full-time employees; this coverage is paramount.  EPLI primarily provides legal defense against claims of improper employer behavior (hiring/firing practices, discipline, harassment in the workplace) and it can sometimes provide coverage for accusations of improper tabulation of hours and payment of wages, as well as third-party (i.e. customer) harassment claims.  While illegal and intentional acts are never insurable, the cost of defending such claims can be into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Employment Practices Liability Insurance policy premiums are incredibly small compared to the potential legal fees that an honest employer may have to pay to defend accusations (whether true or not) made by a disgruntled employee.
Read more →

What is Worker’s Compensation Insurance?

I don't safety standards allow this anymore!

I don’t safety standards allow this anymore!




Here is a brief introduction into Worker’s Compensation Insurance

Q.  What is Worker’s Compensation Insurance?

A.  Everyone who owns a business with even a single part-time employee needs Worker’s Comp!  Worker’s Comp is an amazing product that essentially voids an employee’s ability to sue an employer for negligence/liability in the event of a workplace injury.  It provides a stated limit of liability for employer negligence and unlimited coverage for covered workplace injury treatment.  If an employer doesn’t have Worker’s Comp they are risking their business.  Absent coverage employees may directly sue their employer.  Everything from keyboard induced Carpel Tunnel Syndrome to catastrophic accidents are covered.
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What is Cyber Liability Insurance and Do I Need it?

Cyber Liability Insurance







Q.  What is Cyber Liability Insurance and do I need it?

A.  People have heard of the Target Hack. You may be thinking, well my business isn’t that big or my credit card vendor will cover such a breach. You are wrong. Cyber Liability a category of insurance protection that is needed by every business that uses any sort of electronic database system, takes credit cards, or facilitates any type of electronic transaction using customer information.  People often believe that their credit card processing vendor offers them protection, and in some cases they may offer some small form of coverage.  
Read more →

What is Umbrella Insurance and Do I Need it?

Julie and Jason have an umbrella!

Julie and Jason have an umbrella!

Q.  What is Umbrella Insurance and do I need it?

A.  Liability Umbrella policies are incredibly valuable and affordable protection needed by individuals and business, alike.  Your primary policies – home/car/boat/business owner’s/worker’s compensation/commercial automobile/etc. – provide an initial layer of liability protection.  This primary coverage is often maxed out at $300,000 – $500,000 for individuals and $1,000,000 for businesses.  Umbrellas can come with many different coverage limits, but the most common limits are $1 million, $2 million and $5 million.  Insurance is designed not only protect your current assets, but it also aims to protect your future earning potential against wage garnishments and judgments that a major claim may give rise to.  Umbrellas extend your liability protection beyond your primary coverage.  Simply put, someone with $500,000 primary liability and a $1 million umbrella effectively has $1.5 million in protection (within the bounds the policies involved).  Umbrellas can sometimes even provide additional coverage that your primary insurance does not.

Whether or not you buy an umbrella policy is up to you, but for guidance call your agent!


If My Power Goes Out Is My Food Covered?

is spoilage covered by insuranceI would like to thank one of our agents, Kathy Barton, with suggesting this question for our blog. This is a very specific question and if you have any questions on what exactly your policy covers make sure to call your agent.

Q.  I just went grocery shopping and filled my deep freezer and refrigerator right before the big storm hit. My power has been out for 2 days and all the food has spoiled. Will my homeowner’s insurance cover this?

A.  Your homeowner insurance may very well cover for spoilage of refrigerated property due to off premises power failure.  However, this is usually only by a special add-on that incurs an additional premium.  That means that you must request and pay for this specific coverage.  It is not part of most standard homeowner policies.  When reviewing your policy you should ask your agent what upgrades or optional endorsements, like spoilage coverage, are available through your homeowner insurance company.


Does my auto insurance cover my rental car?

Rental Car InformationQ.  Does my auto insurance cover my rental car?

A.  There is a strong chance that it does.  Most standard and preferred automobile insurance carriers extend coverage to private passenger vehicles that you rent such as while on vacation.  You must check with your specific carrier though, as many non-standard carriers and certain standard/preferred carriers do not extend such coverage.  Also, remember that most auto carriers do not extend coverage to non-private passenger vehicles such as do it yourself moving trucks. As always if you have specific questions as to your coverage and policy make sure to contact your agent.

Why did my insurance rate go up?

Our goal at Harry Levine Insurance is to make insurance a little less confusing and scary.

Q.  Why did my rate go up?

A.  No, your rate didn’t go up because your insurance company spent too much on office supplies!

Insurance rates are derived by mathematicians (known as actuaries) who look a wide variety of factors.  Whether it’s home, automobile, or business, insurance rates are formulated based on trends observed over time regarding how many claims have happened in a geographic area or demographic group. The more premiums an insurance carrier pays out to help people, the more it must take in to make sure it remains able to pay such claims.

Fraud is one of the leading drivers of high premiums in Florida. Whether it’s staged accidents or unscrupulous legal and medical professionals, Florida insurance rates are much higher than they really should be thanks to extreme abuse of the system.

Urban areas often have higher rates than rural areas because more congestion typically leads to higher numbers accidents/incidents. Each company insures different people, so sometimes one company’s rate of claims is higher or lower than another.

When too many policy holders in a company’s “risk pool” have claims, it requires the company to raise rates to keep up with the demand for claim payments.

Have any more questions, let me know!