The state has begun certifying local contractors and evaluators for the Louisiana Fortify Homes Program (LFHP) that will provide grants to homeowners to help retrofit their roofs to withstand hurricane-force winds.
As of Thursday, the Louisiana Department of Insurance has approved 13 of 21 evaluator applications and 35 of 57 contractor applications. With those approval numbers, the insurance department is on track to exceed its goal of matching numbers in Alabama’s program, which state lawmakers used as a model when crafting the LFHP legislation.
“Our goal was to have as many contractors and evaluators as Alabama’s program, which has 26 contractors and 14 evaluators after being operational for several years,” LDI spokesperson John Ford said in an email. “We have exceeded the goal on contractors and are close on evaluators. We will continue to add contractors and evaluators that are interested in participating.”
The LFHP will offer grants of up to $10,000 for eligible homeowners to retrofit their roofs to new building codes. They call for better fasteners and seals that allow roofs to withstand winds of up to 150 mph and keep water from leaking through to the wood below the shingles.
Homeowners will be able to apply for the grants beginning in October, Ford said.
To be eligible, homeowners will have to get a state-approved evaluator to inspect their home and then obtain bids from at least three insurance department-approved contractors who can do the work.
Louisiana has been in the midst of an insurance crisis after a string of costly disasters since 2020 bankrupted several insurance companies and prompted others to stop writing new policies in the state. Other insurers have hiked premiums so high that people have been forced out of their homes.
During the 2023 legislative session, state lawmakers allocated $30 million for LFHP grants. At up to $10,000 per recipient, the program should “fortify” at least 3,000 homes statewide. Unlike loans, grants are monetary gifts recipients don’t have to pay back.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance is giving priority to homeowners who have had trouble insuring their homes by dedicating the first $15 million in grants to policyholders with Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Ford said. Louisiana Citizens is the insurer of last resort for homeowners who can’t find coverage on the regular insurance marketplace.
Houses with stronger roofs should generate fewer property damage claims, LFHP proponents say, and that should translate to lower insurance costs. Property owners who don’t qualify for the grants could still get significant discounts on their insurance premiums if they retrofit their homes or buildings to the fortified standards, and that goes for both residential and commercial property.
Anyone interested in becoming an LDI-approved evaluator must obtain a fortified home evaluator certificate from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). Licensed general contractors and home improvement contractors who wish to build fortified roofs must also obtain certification from the IBHS, among other requirements.
The full rules of the program are detailed in the LFHP regulation.
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