By Beaman Floyd
From fire to flood, hail to tornados, and everything in between — Texas proved once again last year that it really does have the most diverse weather risk in the country. That exposure, to nine different types of natural disasters, is the biggest cost driver when it comes to buying homeowners insurance in the Texas marketplace.
While Texans cannot control the weather, implementing and enforcing sound building codes for new construction or when rebuilding can help reduce the resulting damage caused by that weather — and drive down the cost of insurance claims.
Building codes are designed to reduce deaths and property damage from hurricanes and other weather hazards by setting design, construction and maintenance standards for structures.
Yet Texas trails most coastal states when it comes to instituting and enforcing building codes, according to a residential building code analysis released last year by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). Texas scored a dismal 18 points (out of 100) in the survey, lower than all but two of the 18 states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast.
Though Texas has adopted a statewide building code, the law allows municipalities to adopt weaker standards than set out in the code. Our low score in the IBHS survey is the result of the widespread lowering of standards in various areas allowed by current law, a lack of inspection and enforcement, and a lack of registration and licensing rules for various building trades.
The Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions (TCAIS) read the IBHS report with interest — we will be advocating during the 2013 legislative session for broad adoption and better enforcement of nationally recognized building codes. During the legislative interim, TCAIS presented the IBHS report to the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which had a charge to “review housing and development codes, and guidelines for structures in areas prone to natural disasters, and make recommendations on how these structures can be 'hardened' to avoid loss.”
Good building codes, properly enforced, will save property and lives. They also will help insurers evaluate and manage the risk of property damage in our catastrophe-prone state. Damage to homes built to a strong code is less likely or less severe, leading to fewer losses and lower cost insurance claims.
Nine years ago Texas began passing reforms to strengthen its homeowners insurance market. Today, more companies than ever are competing for business here, even though they continue to absorb some of the most severe weather losses in the country.
Texas has the rare opportunity for a clear double benefit in this issue. Enforcing strong building codes not only is important to public safety, it is a logical next step toward a healthier insurance marketplace.
Read the full op-ed column here: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Sound-building-codes-can-reduce-weather-damamge-4168131.php#ixzz2HJjgDkUe
Beaman Floyd is executive director of Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions (www.tcais.org), an alliance of insurance providers and trade organizations, whose members include Allstate, Farmers, Nationwide, State Farm and USAA.