Recent Changes to Florida’s 25-Percent Rule

By Alan Mullenix, P.E., Principal Consultant, Envista Forensics and Brian G. Johnson, P.E., District Manager, Envista Forensics

In an effort to address availability and affordability of property insurance in Florida, Governor DeSantis convened a special session of the Florida legislature in May 2022. The results of the special session were captured in Senate Bills 2-D and 4-D, which addressed several issues that will be of interest to professionals within the insurance industry including measures related to reinsurance, contractor solicitations, roof underwriting, bad faith, attorney’s fees, insurer regulation and transparency, and changes to Florida’s 25-percent rule. With the recent wind-related damages associated with Hurricane Ian, it is important for the property adjuster and his team to be familiar with these recent changes to Florida’s 25-percent rule.

Floridians have understood that roof coverings should be built to resist hurricane-level winds in order to minimize and/or prevent damage. These concerns were reflected throughout each revision to Florida’s Building Code (FBC) as the requirements became more comprehensive. Further, the FBC contained a 25-percent rule in order to encourage adoption of these requirements. The 25-percent rule reads as follows (from 706.1.1 of the FBC, Existing Building):

Not more than 25 percent of the total roof area or roof section of any existing building or structure shall be repaired, replaced or recovered in any 12-month period unless the entire existing roofing system or roof section is replaced to conform to requirements of this code.

As a result of the 25-percent rule, roof coverings sustaining damage to an area which exceeded 25-percent of the total roof area would be required to be replaced unless it could be established that roof covering met all the requirements of the latest edition of the FBC. During the special session of the Florida legislature, the following exception was adopted to address the escalating costs of compliance with the 25-percent rule. The except reads as follows:

Exception: If an existing roofing system or roof section was built, repaired, or replaced in compliance with the requirements of the 2007 Florida Building Code, or any subsequent editions of the Florida Building Code, and 25 percent or more of such roofing system or roof section is being repaired, replaced, or recovered, only the repaired, replaced, or recovered portion is required to be constructed in accordance with the Florida Building Code in effect, as applicable. Pursuant to s. 553.844(5), Florida Statutes, a local government may not adopt by ordinance an administrative or technical amendment to this exception.

In a nutshell, if a roof built in accordance with the 2007 FBC sustained damage to more than 25-percent of its total area, then only the damaged portions must be repaired in a manner that brings them into compliance with the latest edition of the FBC. The remaining undamaged portions of the roof can be left in place and do not require further upgrades.

A few questions immediately come to mind regarding the exception. Namely, why was the 2007 FBC determined to be the baseline? How can you establish whether a roof meets the 2007 FBC requirements? And, is it possible that a roof installed prior to the 2007 FBC taking effect would still meet those requirements? Let’s look at each of those questions.

First, the FBC is updated on a three-year cycle. Each new edition of the FBC incorporates the latest research and best practices for improved building performance. Within the 2007 FBC, additional requirements were added including increased performance, material, flashing, and attachment requirements. While additional changes were made in subsequent editions of the FBC, allowing a roof to only meet the requirements of the 2007 FBC seeks to balance an acceptable level of building performance while minimizing the impact of repair costs.

How can you establish whether a roof meets the 2007 FBC requirements? Unless demonstrated otherwise, it can be assumed that a properly permitted roof was built in accordance with the building codes in effect at the time of the permit. A review of building permits associated with the building would be required by the adjuster or engineer to confirm if a roof was permitted in compliance with the 2007 FBC. When checking permits, it must be understood that the 2007 FBC went into effect on March 1, 2009. As such, the permit would need to be issued after that date.

Finally, if a roof was installed prior to the 2007 FBC taking effect, it may still meet the requirements contained therein. However, as noted above, the 2007 FBC incorporated numerous requirements related to roof coverings which varied from the previous edition of the code. The effort (and costs) associated with establishing compliance with the 2007 FBC would likely, although not necessarily, be prohibitive.

If you would like more information about this article, please contact Alan Mullenix or Brian Johnson with Envista Forensics at 888-782-3473.

This is a publication of Southern Loss Association, Inc., P.O. Box 421564, Atlanta, GA 30342. The articles published on this website are in a general format and are not intended to be legal advice applicable to any specific circumstances. Legal opinions may vary when based on subtle factual differences. All rights reserved.