It is interesting to observe the things that do or do not cause outrage. I want to use a few hypotheticals in an attempt to make a broader point. Let’s suppose that one day, auto insurance carriers decided that because of all the improved safety features available in newer cars and the potential to reduce insurance claims and that all cars ten years or older should be removed from the roads and crushed because they are perceived by insurers to be too old to be insured. Clearly the potential cost savings for insurers could be sizable but what about the ever-increasing cost that car owners would have to bear? Should we just disregard the waste of resources and energy used to create these condemned relics in the first place or, for that matter, the remaining pleasure and service they could provide? Almost all of us can agree that this would be outrageous.
To take a similar – but somewhat darker – analogy a bit to the extreme, let’s suppose that health insurers decided that the cost of providing the elderly with healthcare was becoming too much of a burden. If we just got rid of everyone when they turn 50, look at how much money we would save! Besides having a personal stake in the latter, this would obviously be an appalling and unspeakable act. But the first example is not too far removed from the subject of this article.
Property insurers in Florida are doing something very similar every day and this practice has yet to receive the outrage it deserves. It dictates that property owners prematurely replace roof systems that have the ability to provide many more years, if not decades, of serviceable life. This forces the property owner to expend capital for unnecessary roof replacements. It also deprives them of receiving the full value from their initial expenditure for the roof that they are being forced to replace. While facing those roof replacement expenses, they are also dealing with ever increasing property insurance premiums driven by questionable insurer-funded roof replacements. This is even more egregious when one considers that this practice was fostered by insurers who were unnecessarily paying for older roofs that, in many cases, were just old and had suffered very little, if any, actual damage. They paid to replace these old roofs far too often and too easily and then they point to very questionable insurer-created data to justify why old roofs haven’t performed well and thereby must be prematurely replaced at the owner’s expense.
During the 2022 Special Session of the Florida Legislature, homeowners were given a very limited reprieve from the insurance companies premature replacement policies as follows. A portion of FS 627.7011 is shown below. I will refer to this as the
“15 plus 5 rule.”
(5)(b) An insurer may not refuse to issue or refuse to renew a homeowner’s policy insuring a residential structure with a roof that is less than 15 years old solely because of the age of the roof.
(c) For a roof that is at least 15 years old, an insurer must allow a homeowner to have a roof inspection performed by an authorized inspector at the homeowner’s expense before requiring the replacement of the roof of a residential structure as a condition of issuing or renewing a homeowner’s insurance policy. The insurer may not refuse to issue or refuse to renew a homeowner’s insurance policy solely because of roof age if an inspection of the roof of the residential structure performed by an authorized inspector indicates that the roof has 5 years or more of useful life remaining.
Unfortunately, insurers have already begun finding other means of limiting the availability of coverage. Property owners who don’t fit the “homeowner” description are completely left at the mercy of their insurers. They are being discouraged from maintaining their roof coverings because the insurers won’t consider the many available options that can extend the serviceable life of the roof when determining the need for its replacement. The potential for energy savings is lost when this unintended consequence reduces the use of reflective coatings that reduce energy usage as well as extend the life of a roof.
Insurers also give too little or no consideration to the overall quality of the particular type of roof materials and the quality of the installation before jumping to the conclusion that the roof is old and therefore it must be replaced. They seem to be stuck on the generic roof type (i.e., shingles, tile, metal) to determine the roof’s life expectancy while failing to understand that within any roof covering type one can buy good, better or best – like the shingle examples to the right – and that these differences in quality will be a far better indication of the roof’s potential longevity.
In many developed countries it’s not uncommon for roofs to last for many decades and even centuries. We visit other countries to take in their history and for many, it is the architecture and the overall ambiance that give many of these places a certain charm and patina. At home, however, we relegate viable and often visually appealing roof coverings to the landfill. Are we as Floridians bound to the current system that is driven by a complete lack of understanding of roofing’s technical complexities? It is understood that all roof coverings will eventually need to be replaced but the idea that one can determine when that should happen based solely on the age of the roof is ridiculous.
So, if the passage of time isn’t the best way to evaluate the remaining serviceable life of a roof covering, what is? I previously mentioned the “15 plus 5 rule.” This statute makes an excellent starting point when considering ways of dealing with this problem. The rule should be applied to all roof coverings on all types of buildings. The lack of a thorough examination by someone who understands roofing’s technical complexities and has the ability to assess the roof’s condition before condemning it, is another area that should be looked at. In Florida, only licensed roofing contractors can reroof buildings. They are also the only trade that can install roofs on new construction with a few extremely limited exceptions. Since this fact is clear, it calls into question why licensed roofing contractors are not specifically listed as those who can perform the inspections? This is not only cause for outrage, it also makes absolutely no sense! Few know roofing better than those qualified to do it. From the insurer’s position, this should be pretty simple. Roofers are in the business of installing and maintaining roof systems, so if you have a roofing contractor who is eliminating a possible reroof sale by attesting to the roof’s serviceability for another five years, you should have reason to believe them. If not, I’d like to know what the roofing contractor’s ulterior motive would be in turning away potential reroofing business. Also, a clarification should be made to the “15 plus 5 rule” that allows for the additional five years of useful (or serviceable) life to be recurring based on the inspections. This should be allowed until an authorized inspector indicates that the roof does not have five years of useful life remaining and should be replaced. At that point, the owner who benefited from the roof’s longevity should be in a better position to pay for a new roof without having to hope for an insurance settlement.
Clearly, many roof coverings will last much longer than insurers seem to believe. Premium steep-slope roofs like tile, slate, metal and, yes, even asphalt shingles, have proven this by their performance over many years. Many high-quality, low-slope roof coverings like BUR, modified bitumen, metal and single-ply have also been proven to last for many decades when properly maintained. To what extent insurers should be allowed to dictate how their insureds allocate roofing expenditures and whether insurers will continue to be given the authority to unilaterally condemn these roofs remains to be seen. Certainly, the status quo is not sustainable. To continue to waste insured’s money as well as the energy, natural resources and the labor of a limited number of skilled craftsmen by demanding that viable roof systems be unnecessarily replaced is simply unacceptable and if you are outraged by what is happening you’re not alone. Surely, we can do better.
Mike Silvers, CPRC is owner of Silvers Systems Inc. and is consulting with FRSA as Director of Technical Services. Mike is an FRSA Past President, Life Member and Campanella Award recipient and brings over 50 years of industry knowledge and experience to FRSA’s team.