Volume 3 Number 48
November 27, 2006

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GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES FREE HOME INSPECTIONS TO START IN PANHANDLE

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced that free home inspections will soon begin in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Walton counties for approved homeowners who applied through the My Safe Florida Home program. The program, funded with $250 million by the Florida Legislature, was created to better protect Floridians by strengthening their homes against hurricanes and to reduce the state’s exposure to hurricane damage.

“Before this hurricane season ends, my goal is to provide 12,000 free home inspections across the state to help Floridians strengthen their homes and better protect their families against catastrophic storms,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services which administers the My Safe Florida Home program.

Gallagher said that homeowners in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Walton counties who have already submitted completed applications will be contacted by a department-approved inspector to schedule an inspection. The department has already received roughly 1,400 completed applications in these three counties. Future applicants will be served with additional funding of the My Safe Florida Home program.

Following an inspection, homeowners will receive a report that outlines up to seven areas that could be improved to better protect the home against hurricanes, an estimate of how much
improvements would cost, the expected insurance savings the homeowner would receive if improvements were made, and a rating of the home’s current ability to withstand hurricanes and its future ability to withstand hurricanes with improvements.

Gallagher said that the expansion into Escambia, Santa Rosa and Walton counties is possible thanks to a partnership with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) to screen and train over 500 inspectors.

Applying and obtaining a free home inspection is just the first step of the program. Homeowners who undergo the My Safe Florida Home inspection may also qualify for matching grants of up to $5,000 to fortify their homes. As directed by the new law to reduce hurricane exposure and property losses in Florida, grants will be prioritized and awarded to homeowners who live in high-risk, hurricane-vulnerable areas of the state.

Since the My Safe Florida Home program launched in late August, approximately 9,500 inspections have been completed in 17 Florida counties. To ensure each county receives a fair share of free home inspections, the My Safe Florida Home program is limiting the number of inspections in each county based upon population. Applicants who do not receive a free home inspection before this limit is met will have their applications held for future phases of the program.

Eligible Floridians must live in a single-family, site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or less and have a valid homestead exemption. Documents verifying this information must be submitted with a completed application. Floridians can apply on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com or by calling 1-800-342-2762 to get an application packet.