There is established within the Department of Financial Services the My Safe Florida Home Program. The department shall provide fiscal accountability, contract management, and strategic leadership for the program, consistent with this section. This section does not create an entitlement for property owners or obligate the state in any way to fund the inspection or retrofitting of residential property in this state. Implementation of this program is subject to annual legislative appropriations. It is the intent of the Legislature that, subject to the availability of funds, the My Safe Florida Home Program provide licensed inspectors to perform inspections for owners of site-built, single-family, residential properties and grants to eligible applicants. The department shall implement the program in such a manner that the total amount of funding requested by accepted applications, whether for inspections, grants, or other services or assistance, does not exceed the total amount of available funds. If, after applications are processed and approved, funds remain available, the department may accept applications up to the available amount. The program shall develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated approach for hurricane damage mitigation that may include the following: (1) HURRICANE MITIGATION INSPECTIONS.— (a) Licensed inspectors are to provide home inspections of site-built, single-family, residential properties for which a homestead exemption has been granted, to determine what mitigation measures are needed, what insurance premium discounts may be available, and what improvements to existing residential properties are needed to reduce the property’s vulnerability to hurricane damage. An inspector may inspect a townhouse as defined in s. 481.203 to determine if opening protection mitigation as listed in paragraph (2)(e) would provide improvements to mitigate hurricane damage. (b) The Department of Financial Services shall contract with wind certification entities to provide hurricane mitigation inspections. The inspections provided to homeowners, at a minimum, must include:
1. A home inspection and report that summarizes the results and identifies recommended improvements a homeowner may take to mitigate hurricane damage.
2. A range of cost estimates regarding the recommended mitigation improvements.
3. Information regarding estimated premium discounts, correlated to the current mitigation features and the recommended mitigation improvements identified by the inspection.
(c) To qualify for selection by the department as a wind certification entity to provide hurricane mitigation inspections, the entity must, at a minimum, meet the following requirements: 1. Use hurricane mitigation inspectors who are licensed or certified as: a. A building inspector under s. 468.607; b. A general, building, or residential contractor under s. 489.111; c. A professional engineer under s. 471.015; d. A professional architect under s. 481.213; or e. A home inspector under s. 468.8314 and who have completed at least 3 hours of hurricane mitigation training approved by the Construction Industry Licensing Board, which training must include hurricane mitigation techniques, compliance with the uniform mitigation verification form, and completion of a proficiency exam. 2. Use hurricane mitigation inspectors who also have undergone drug testing and a background screening. The department may conduct criminal record checks of inspectors used by wind certification entities. Inspectors must submit a set of fingerprints to the department for state and national criminal history checks and must pay the fingerprint processing fee set forth in s. 624.501. The fingerprints must be sent by the department to the Department of Law Enforcement and forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for processing. The results must be returned to the department for screening. The fingerprints must be taken by a law enforcement agency, designated examination center, or other department-approved entity.
3. Provide a quality assurance program including a reinspection component.
(d) An application for an inspection must contain a signed or electronically verified statement made under penalty of perjury that the applicant has submitted only a single application for that home.
(e) The owner of a site-built, single-family, residential property or townhouse as defined in s. 481.203, for which a homestead exemption has been granted, may apply for and receive an inspection without also applying for a grant pursuant to subsection (2) and without meeting the requirements of paragraph (2)(a). (2) MITIGATION GRANTS.—Financial grants shall be used to encourage single-family, site-built, owner-occupied, residential property owners to retrofit their properties to make them less vulnerable to hurricane damage. 1(a) For a homeowner to be eligible for a grant, the following criteria must be met:
1. The homeowner must have been granted a homestead exemption on the home under chapter 196.
2. The home must be a dwelling with an insured value of $700,000 or less. Homeowners who are low-income persons, as defined in s. 420.0004(11), are exempt from this requirement.
3. The home must undergo an acceptable hurricane mitigation inspection as provided in subsection (1).
4. The building permit application for initial construction of the home must have been made before January 1, 2008.
5. The homeowner must agree to make his or her home available for inspection once a mitigation project is completed.
An application for a grant must contain a signed or electronically verified statement made under penalty of perjury that the applicant has submitted only a single application and must have attached documents demonstrating the applicant meets the requirements of this paragraph.
1(b) All grants must be matched on the basis of $1 provided by the applicant for $2 provided by the state up to a maximum state contribution of $10,000 toward the actual cost of the mitigation project.
(c) The program shall create a process in which contractors agree to participate and homeowners select from a list of participating contractors. All mitigation must be based upon the securing of all required local permits and inspections and must be performed by properly licensed contractors. Hurricane mitigation inspectors qualifying for the program may also participate as mitigation contractors as long as the inspectors meet the department’s qualifications and certification requirements for mitigation contractors.
(d) Matching fund grants shall also be made available to local governments and nonprofit entities for projects that will reduce hurricane damage to single-family, site-built, owner-occupied, residential property. The department shall liberally construe those requirements in favor of availing the state of the opportunity to leverage funding for the My Safe Florida Home Program with other sources of funding.
(e) When recommended by a hurricane mitigation inspection, grants for eligible homes may be used for the following improvements:
1. Opening protection.
2. Exterior doors, including garage doors.
3. Reinforcing roof-to-wall connections.
4. Improving the strength of roof-deck attachments.
5. Secondary water barrier for roof.
(f) When recommended by a hurricane mitigation inspection, grants for townhouses, as defined in s. 481.203, may only be used for opening protection.
The department may require that improvements be made to all openings, including exterior doors and garage doors, as a condition of reimbursing a homeowner approved for a grant. The department may adopt, by rule, the maximum grant allowances for any improvement allowable under paragraph (e) or this paragraph.
(g) Grants may be used on a previously inspected existing structure or on a rebuild. A rebuild is defined as a site-built, single-family dwelling under construction to replace a home that was destroyed or significantly damaged by a hurricane and deemed unlivable by a regulatory authority. The homeowner must be a low-income homeowner as defined in paragraph (h), must have had a homestead exemption for that home before the hurricane, and must be intending to rebuild the home as that homeowner’s homestead.
(h) Low-income homeowners, as defined in s. 420.0004(11), who otherwise meet the requirements of paragraphs (a), (c), (e), and (g) are eligible for a grant of up to $10,000 and are not required to provide a matching amount to receive the grant. The program may accept a certification directly from a low-income homeowner that the homeowner meets the requirements of s. 420.0004(11) if the homeowner provides such certification in a signed or electronically verified statement made under penalty of perjury.
(i) The department shall develop a process that ensures the most efficient means to collect and verify grant applications to determine eligibility and may direct hurricane mitigation inspectors to collect and verify grant application information or use the Internet or other electronic means to collect information and determine eligibility.
(3) EDUCATION, CONSUMER AWARENESS, AND OUTREACH.—
(a) The department may undertake a statewide multimedia public outreach and advertising campaign to inform consumers of the availability and benefits of hurricane inspections and of the safety and financial benefits of residential hurricane damage mitigation. The department may seek out and use local, state, federal, and private funds to support the campaign.
(b) The program may develop brochures for distribution to Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, general contractors, roofing contractors, and real estate brokers and sales associates who are licensed under part I of chapter 475 which provide information on the benefits to homeowners of residential hurricane damage mitigation. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is encouraged to distribute the brochure to policyholders of the corporation. Contractors are encouraged to distribute the brochures to homeowners at the first meeting with a homeowner who is considering contracting for home or roof repair or contracting for the construction of a new home. Real estate brokers and sales associates are encouraged to distribute the brochure to clients before the purchase of a home. The brochures may be made available electronically.
(4) FUNDING.—The department may seek out and leverage local, state, federal, or private funds to enhance the financial resources of the program.
(5) RULES.—The Department of Financial Services shall adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 to govern the program; implement the provisions of this section; including rules governing hurricane mitigation inspections and grants, mitigation contractors, and training of inspectors and contractors; and carry out the duties of the department under this section.
(6) HURRICANE MITIGATION INSPECTOR LIST.—The department shall develop and maintain as a public record a current list of hurricane mitigation inspectors authorized to conduct hurricane mitigation inspections pursuant to this section.
(7) CONTRACT MANAGEMENT.—
(a) The department may contract with third parties for grants management, inspection services, contractor services for low-income homeowners, information technology, educational outreach, and auditing services. Such contracts are considered direct costs of the program and are not subject to administrative cost limits. The department shall contract with providers that have a demonstrated record of successful business operations in areas directly related to the services to be provided and shall ensure the highest accountability for use of state funds, consistent with this section.
(b) The department shall implement a quality assurance and reinspection program that determines whether initial inspections and home improvements are completed in a manner consistent with the intent of the program. The department may use valid random sampling in order to perform the quality assurance portion of the program.
(8) INTENT.—It is the intent of the Legislature that grants made to residential property owners under this section shall be considered disaster-relief assistance within the meaning of s. 139 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.
1(9) REPORTS.—The department shall make an annual report on the activities of the program that shall account for the use of state funds and indicate the number of inspections requested, the number of inspections performed, the number of grant applications received, the number and value of grants approved, and the estimated average annual amount of insurance premium discounts and total estimated annual amount of insurance premium discounts homeowners received from insurers as a result of mitigation funded through the program. The report must be delivered to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by February 1 of each year.