Uniform Home Grading Scale
In 2006, the Florida Legislature ordered the Office of Insurance Regulation to develop an “objective rating system” that will allow homeowners to evaluate the relative ability of Florida properties to withstand the wind load from a hurricane. In 2007, the legislature amended that mandate, requiring the Financial Services Commission adopt a “uniform home grading scale”.
As a result, the Office of Insurance Regulation, working with the University of Florida and a private consulting company, designed and tested a rating system. An advisory board of experts from the public and private sectors oversaw system’s development and gave its unanimous approval. The rating system is based largely on research done on single-family, site-built homes from 2001 to 2002 -- and is not accurate when applied to manufactured housing or multifamily structures. The Financial Services Commission adopted the rating system on November 1, 2007, renaming it the Uniform Home Grading Scale (UHGS).
The Uniform Home Grading Scale produces scores between 1 and 100 and measures the relative ability of a structure to withstand the forces associated with a sustained hurricane or severe tropical storm. The UHGS currently does not produce scores of 100 at the top of the scale, as it has been designed to accommodate future building code improvements and implementation of “code-plus” mitigation techniques. The UHGS takes into account the construction features of the home, the wind zone location of the home, and the terrain surrounding the home. In evaluating the home itself, eight primary wind resistive building features are considered:
• Roof Shape (Hip and Other)
• Secondary Water Resistance
• Roof Cover (whether meeting the stronger Florida Building Code requirements)
• Roof Deck Attachment (using three levels of strength)
• Roof-Wall Connection (using four levels of strength)
• Opening Protection (using three levels of protection for wind-borne debris)
• Number of Stories
• Roof Covering Type (tile and non-tile)
In addition to these eight primary elements, the UHGS considers eleven secondary factors in its evaluation of the structure: dimensional lumber deck, masonry walls, reinforced masonry walls, opening coverage, unbraced gable ends, foundation restraint, reinforced concrete roof deck integral with reinforced concrete or reinforced masonry walls, soffits, vinyl siding, and the leak potential of doors, windows and skylights.
Because the home’s construction, location, and surrounding terrain are considered in the final rating, a score rendered by the scale can be interpreted consistently across the state regardless of wind zone location. In more severe wind zones a home will need to have stronger construction features to achieve a high score than a home located in a milder wind zone. Homes built to comply with the 2001 Florida Building Code (or later) will receive a score between 40 and 90, with “code plus” improvements and effective loss mitigation efforts raising the score within that range.
Other Uses of the Uniform Home Grading Scale
Real Estate Closings
Beginning in 2011, all purchasers of residential property located in the wind-borne debris region must be informed of the structure’s rating under the Uniform Home Grading Scale. In other words, sellers of such property will have to complete a valid wind storm inspection prior to closing the transaction. The property’s rating under the Uniform Home Grading Scale must be included in the contract of sale or as a separate document attached to the contract. The Financial Services Commission may adopt rules, consistent with other state laws, to administer this section, including the form of the disclosure and the requirements for the windstorm mitigation inspection or report that is required for purposes of determining the Uniform Home Grading Scale.
Premium Rate Filings
By February 2011, the Office of Insurance Regulation will propose a method to correlate wind mitigation discounts, credits or other rate differentials with the structure’s Uniform Home Grading Scale rating. The goal is to provide homeowners and potential homebuyers with a consistent, statewide method to determine the approximate cost of windstorm insurance.
By October 2011, the Financial Services Commission must adopt final rules directly tying the Uniform Home Grading Scale to an insurer’s rate filings for residential property insurance discounts, credits or other rate differentials. The rules may establish minimum rate differentials that all insurers must offer. All rate differentials must be consistent with generally accepted actuarial principles and wind-loss mitigation studies. The final rules must allow a period of at least 2 years after the effective date of the revised mitigation discounts, credits, or other rate differentials for a property owner to obtain an inspection or otherwise qualify for the revised credit, during which time the insurer shall continue to apply the mitigation credit that was in effect immediately prior to the effective date of the revised credit.