City's new rating reduces cost of building insurance

By Isaac Bonnell

An updated rating of City of Bellingham building codes and enforcement could reduce insurance costs for new residential and commercial construction.

At the direction of the city’s Building Official Jim Tinner’s, city staff put together the necessary information to meet the standards laid out by the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau (WSRB). Previously, the city had not participated in this voluntary rating service and was unrated.

After its review, the WSRB gave Bellingham a rating of 2 out of 10, with 1 being the best possible score. As a result, insurance costs for new home or business construction could be reduced by as much as 10 percent, Tinner said.

“This improved rating is a great opportunity to lessen the economic burden on new homes and businesses,” Tinner said.

The rating is used as a multiplier to adjust commercial, residential and industrial insurance costs. In addition to new construction, this rating may also apply to remodels of existing businesses when a new certificate of occupancy is required.

“Low insurance rates are something businesses look at when considering location,” Tinner said.

About half of the cities in Washington participate in the rating program, said Tracy Skinner, WSRB manager of member services. The WSRB reviews each city’s building codes for completeness and also assesses the building services department to make sure that the codes are being enforced.

Insurance companies then use these ratings to assess the risk of new construction being in compliance with building codes, especially for flood and wind damage. A good rating can help reduce insurance costs, but not every company uses the rating service.

“A score of 2 is pretty good. That’s something to crow about,” he said.

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