Many South Florida residents believe that tile roofs are some of the strongest against hurricanes. For years, insurance companies have given homeowners discounts on their installation premiums.
However, some insurers have stopped discounts because of the complicated new shape of the state. It costs homeowners like Amir Kanel of Palm Beach Gardens hundreds of dollars a year.
Kanel installed a $ 50,000 concrete tile roof in February just to get his insurance agent to say he wouldn’t get a discount. Its insurance premiums will increase 10 percent this year to $ 3,573. Kanel’s house wasn’t eligible for a discount because the insurance inspector didn’t say he should get one on a one-year state form.
The form doesn’t specifically mention tile roofs as eligible because it is based on a 2002 government study that did not rate tile roofs – one of the two most common roof types in South Florida, especially for upscale developments, according to construction officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties .
“If I knew that concrete tile roofs beforehand [wouldn’t qualify for a discount] I wouldn’t have done it, “Kanel said, adding that he needed special permission from his homeowners association to put a different type of roof on.
The state has received many questions about tile roof rebates since the new state inspection form was released, officials from the Insurance Regulation Bureau and the Ministry of Financial Services said. In some cases, inspectors will provide additional information that the tile roofs should comply with the latest building codes and be eligible for discounts.
“There are still insurers who are taking a harder line and sticking strictly to the language as it stands,” Treasury Secretary Rob Powell wrote to Kanel in April.
Some inspectors are wary of new state rules that make it a crime to give unjustified discounts, so they are wary of gray areas on the form.
“It’s been a mess for about a year,” said Kanel’s agent Theresa Goulet of Horace Mann Insurance in Jupiter. Goulet said it was up to policyholders to push for discounts and Kanel could get one if he could get the inspector on board.
Kanel’s insurer, Universal Property & Casualty, agreed it was up to the inspectors. “If a policyholder has additional information about an inspection, we are happy to consider that information as per discount requirements,” said Sean Downes, the company’s chief operating officer.
Kanel’s home inspector Larry Smith said he couldn’t change a form once he submitted it, but he would be ready when Kanel gets the company’s approval.
Tile roof omission
Applied Research Associates, a research and engineering firm hired by insurers and others to help file tariffs and other analysis, looked at roofing performance for the state in 2002. It did not rate tile roofs because there was insufficient data on them had insurers, said Larry Twisdale Jr., executive vice president.
“Tile roofing materials were not included in the [study] and consequently were not “included on the form,” said Brittany Perez, spokeswoman for the Office of Insurance Regulation.
Since last year, policyholders have complained that other legitimate discounts have been revoked by inspectors hired by insurance companies using the new inspection form.
The insurance regulatory bureau met with insurance industry representatives, inspectors and others on Monday to discuss changes to allow discounts on tile roofs, among other things.
“The office continues to hold public hearings and workshops to continue the dialogue to improve the form and make it more comprehensive, while reducing fraud,” or unjustified discounts, Perez said.
Tile roofs in storms
Since 2002, Applied Research and others have been studying how roofs stand in storms.
Stephen Leatherman, co-director of Florida International University’s Coastal Research Laboratory, said metal roofs are considered to be the strongest in hurricane-force winds, followed by concrete-tile roofs.
He said there were problems with asphalt shingles – which are still discountable – and adobe roofs during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
“There are different types of asphalt roofs; the heavy quality will survive the smaller hurricanes,” he wrote in an email. “Hurricane Wilma … caused $ 16 billion in damage to South Florida in 2005, largely from clay tiles and asphalt shingles flying off,” and water leaked into the house.
As for wood shingle roofs, there aren’t many in South Florida, and their strength would depend on their age and condition, Leatherman said.
A FEMA report of damage in Florida from Hurricane Charley in 2004 found that parts of the tile roofs were blown away in high winds, but they kept water off homes. Water damage repairs often cost more than the roof alone, the report said.
FEMA concluded that asphalt shingle roofs generally performed poorly unless they were recently installed.
The FEMA report showed that the performance of most roofs had more to do with how well they are installed and how they are fastened than with the roofing materials. For example, tiles fastened with nails or foam performed better than mortar-fastened tiles, according to FEMA, although problems with foam-bonded tiles were typically due to errors in the placement and amount of foam used per tile.
In 2008, Applied Research looked at tile roofs – without distinguishing between concrete and clay – and found that tile roofs resulted in about 30 percent higher losses for an insurer, also because they are more expensive to repair and replace, Twisdale said.
“They are [more] easy to crack and damage, and generally harder to match new tile with old tile so you may have to replace the entire roof, “he said.
Overall, good installation is key to any roof’s ability to weather a storm, Twisdale said. A survey of 370 homes after Hurricane Charley found that newer roofs that complied with the Florida Building Code, first approved in 2000, had half the damage of homes that didn’t, he said.
Truth about roofs
Visit SunSentinel.com/hurricaneroof to find out which roofs can withstand hurricanes
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INFORMATION BOX: metal
Best viewed in hurricane-force winds. Listed as eligible for discount on state insurance form when new and properly installed. tile
Concrete tiles are second strongest in hurricanes. Clay tiles can break more easily. Best protects against water damage in storms. May qualify for a discount if the inspector verifies and the insurer agrees. Asphalt shingles
One of the most popular roof types in South Florida. Listed as eligible for discount on state insurance form when new and properly installed. SOURCE: FIU Coastal Research Laboratory, FEMA, Applied Research Associates