Fortify Your Castle Part Deux: The Mississippi Windpool finally recognizes the building code.

Three and a half years in the making, policyholders that build in communities with the latest building codes will receive a discount. Homeowners who retrofit their houses will also get a discount. Anita Lee has the story from a bit over a week ago:

Changes coming July 1 to the state wind pool will reward communities that have adopted and are enforcing stronger building codes.

The wind pool will offer discounts to businesses and homeowners with structures built to stronger standards.

Wind pool board member Dave Treutel of Bay St. Louis said the South Mississippi insurer of last resort also will for the first time offer residents alternate-living-arrangements reimbursement when a mandatory evacuation has been declared. In addition, he said, policies will be easier to read.

Residents who live in homes built before stronger standards were adopted can receive discounts on premiums by retrofitting their homes. Those discounts will range from 12 to 30 percent.

“We’re recognizing those, and crediting those who have done well,” Treutel said, “not beating those who haven’t. But in reality, communities that haven’t had strong codes will not do as well.”

The community rating system for newer homes and businesses dates to 1996, when the national Insurance Services Office adopted what is known as the Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule.

The wind pool has been using the schedule for years, assistant manager Scott Jerome said, but this is the first time credits will be offered to lower premiums.

The wind pool has been exploring ways to lower rates since they skyrocketed in 2006 as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The pool’s customer base also has burgeoned to about 48,000 as private insurers have dropped out of the market. Stronger construction is widely viewed as the best hope for reviving that market. The building-code program works much like the community fire system that helps determine insurance premiums for fire hazards. Communities are graded on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the strongest.

Coast communities that qualify for the building-code discounts are Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, D’Iberville, Gautier, Gulfport, Long Beach, Moss Point, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, Waveland, Pass Christian and the unincorporated areas of Harrison County.

Property owners in nonqualifying localities can receive the credits on newer construction, but must have a set of stamped engineering plans, plus inspections throughout the building process. In most localities the credits will range from 10 to 30 percent, depending on the community’s code enforcement standards.

“It’s actually one of the best credits out there,” Treutel said.

Owners of older homes in all South Mississippi counties can qualify for mitigation credits. Those credits must begin with the roofing system, Treutel said.

“Statistics show if you take care of the roofing system, that will prevent a lot of loss, probably the most loss, to your house,” Treutel said.

Fully implemented, the roofing credit is 12 percent. After that homeowners can receive credits for impact-resistant glass, hurricane shutters or precut lumber to cover windows and other openings. A third set of credits applies to roof surfaces and a fourth to removing site hazards such as overhanging branches.

Coastal engineers helped develop the guidelines, Jerome said. “A lot of work went into this with experienced, licensed engineers,” he said.

The wind pool will assign licensed engineers to inspect and approve the retrofit work before the mitigation credits are applied. An ongoing mitigation study by the Mississippi Insurance Department is expected to create a program to retrofit homes, with grant money potentially available to help cover the cost. The program is expected to be similar to one offered in Florida.

“I think this is going to be a very positive thing,” Jerome said. “We’ve been working on this for a year or more. It’s been a long time coming. I hope people down there will take advantage of it.”

That would depend on the payback period Mr Jerome. As I illustrated in Fortify Your Castle building a concrete bunker cost mucho extra money and cash strapped consumers will not spend that extra money when the economics do not work.

Next up is the companion article where Anita drills down the changes and refers readers to the MWUA website. While this topic is really a post of it’s own I’ll note that this web savvy blogger took several minutes to negotiate the MWUA website and find the Building Code Effectiveness Grading System mainly because the webmaster used the program acronym in the hyperlink instead of the full title referenced in the article. The wind pool obviously uses some kindergarten kids to maintain their website and it shows. In any event I finally noted Bay-Waveland scored very nicely in the BCEGS so residents there should be pelased come renewal time. 

Numerous changes will be introduced July 1 by the state wind pool, insurer of last resort for around 48,000 South Mississippi policyholders.

The wind pool will offer credits to lower premiums on newer structures in localities graded under the Building Code Effectiveness Grading System. Participating localities are graded 1 to 10, with 1 being best. Your community’s participation and grade are listed at msplans.com/mwua. A certificate of occupancy must be filed with the wind pool to qualify.

Structures that meet the building-code standards but are outside participating localities can qualify, but the process is more involved. For details, call the wind pool at 601-981-2915.

The Web site for the wind pool, officially called the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriters Association, also has details about a mitigation program that offers discounts on premiums for retrofits to older homes. Information also will be supplied to insurance agents.

Other wind pool changes coming July 1: Policies that are easier to read, living-expense reimbursement of up to $1,500 when a mandatory evacuation is declared and a requirement that policyholders in velocity and A Zones buy flood insurance.

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