Florida homeowners may face insurance inspections before renewals

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An Orange County woman just lost homeowners insurance coverage because her provider uncovered a hidden risk inside her house.

Action 9 found most insurers now require an inspection before renewing your policy and there are three defects that could cancel your coverage.

Janet Smith can’t wait to get her house put back together. It had to be repiped after her homeowners insurance demanded an inspection before it considered renewing her policy.

“It failed on that inspection,” Smith said.

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Her home failed because of polybutylene pipes, also known as PB, that were installed as a cheap alternative to copper piping from 1978 to 1994. But the pipes are so prone to damaging ruptures that Smith’s insurer canceled her policy.

“I need to get it replaced so I can get insurance because I don’t have it right now,” she said.

Polybutylene has been risky for years. But now skyrocketing insurance premiums have triggered mandatory inspections for older homes across Florida before renewals or writing new policies.

Insurance companies are looking for potential problems by requiring a 4-point inspection. The inspection covers a home’s roof, electrical, plumbing, AC and heat.

Besides PB pipes, the 4-point inspection could uncover aluminum wiring and a specific electrical panel that might cause insurance to be canceled.

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Aluminum wiring was common in Florida homes built in the late ’60s and early ’70s and Federal Pacific Stab-Lok electrical panels builders used from 1960 to the early ’80s are considered fire hazards.

“The devastation and horror of it all. My life had gone up in flames,” Karla Galant said.

That breaker box had failed in Galant’s home. Many electrical engineers call the panel a fire waiting to happen.

“A 4-point inspection is going to be required by almost every insurance company now,” said insurance expert Tom Cotton.

Cotton says it pays to know your risks before there’s a cancellation threat, and if you do the inspection now, then making repairs on your own terms and timeline can limit your losses.

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“The premium saved will pay for the replacement in a matter of a couple of years,” Cotton said.

The inspection results left Smith scrambling to make repairs and find new insurance.

In general, if your home was built more than 10 years ago there’s a real chance an insurance inspection is in your future.

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.