This article was originally published in The Galveston County Daily News on 3/9 as part of my weekly 2019 column.
Let's talk about insurances and the Texas Gulf Coast. Unlike our mainland/inland county friends, along the coast we have the joy of having three separate policies to cover our houses. At least, in most cases. There are exceptions. Generally, however, you can expect to have three to deal with. One for “homeowners”, which in most other places cover everything but flooding and rising waters. In the 14 counties along the gulf coast and parts of Harris County it only covers fire, theft, and liability. That's because around 1970, after Hurricane Celia struck the southern coast of Texas, the major insurance companies elected not to cover wind and hail-related damages any longer. In answer to that decision, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association was established in 1971 by the Texas Legislature to provide wind and hail coverage to applicants unable to obtain that insurance in the private market.
TWIA is a residual insurer of last resort and therefore is not a direct competitor in the private market. TWIA’s primary purpose is to provide an adequate market for windstorm and hail insurance in certain designated seacoast areas. Many of us argue that private insurance losses are much higher in Central Texas from hail and wind; it's actually been documented, but the state will not extend the pool of coverage nor force private insurers to cover the seacoast.
There are fairly complex rules regarding windstorm insurance. Before doing any exterior modifications to a property, be sure and consult your insurance agent. New roofs, porches, doors, windows, stairways and siding all must be inspected by a qualified engineer to be insurable. And that's the simplest set of rules! If you are interested in a property which claims recent roof, windows, or siding, it would be wise to ask your Galveston Realtor about the existence of a WPI-8 as evidence that the work was done according to current windstorm code.
If however, you are buying or currently live in a house built more than fifty years ago, then you are likely eligible for a Texas Windstorm Exemption Certificate. This program is administered by the Texas Historical Commission, and with it, if your historic building is damaged during a storm, a windstorm exemption will allow you to replace damaged windows, shutters, doors, and other character-defining elements with in-kind items rather than those that meet the current wind code requirements. If you do not have the exemption on file and your building is over 50 percent damaged in a storm, you may not be allowed to rebuild the structure.
In order to be exempted, the forms are available at www.Galvestonhistory.org. They are reviewed by Jami Durham, Property Research and Cultural History Historian with the Galveston Historical Foundation, and if approved are submitted to the Texas Historical Commission for final approval. Your house may already be approved and that can be found on the GHF website as well.
There are also insurers who will write coverage of new construction which includes coverage for windstorm damage, but they seem rather uncommon when the average house is far over 50 years old.
It really makes sense to be sure you are working with a Realtor or insurance agent who is used to dealing with our local and particular oddities. Being able to know your house is insurable can make a huge difference. I for one hate being told I must replace a roof within 6 months because someone did not realize the roof had exacting rules to meet when installed.
Galveston Realtors and Galveston Insurance agents can be a lifesaver when buying a home. Next week, we'll take a look at the interesting challenges of flood insurance.