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What Is a Homeowners Insurance Protection Class?

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Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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Insurance Q&A: “What is a homeowner’s insurance protection class?”

So, you’re moving out to a rural area and just discovered your homeowner’s insurance policy is more expensive than you anticipated due to the “protection class” for your new address.

Aside from being a little angry, you probably want to know the who, what, where, why, and how of this thing. The “when” doesn’t really come into play here!

Although we can’t make your insurance premium magically go down, we can explain why it may be higher expected, so here goes.

The Who

Your protection class, officially referred to as “Public Protection Class” (PPC™), is determined by Insurance Services Organization, known affectionately as “ISO” (pronounced “eye-so”) in insurance circles.

ISO is a leading source of information about property/casualty insurance in the United States. Property and casualty insurance can be thought of as anything other than life/health insurance. Think of it as home and auto insurance for our purposes.

What they do is way out of the scope of this article, but take our word for it…they know their stuff and insurers listen to them.

The What

Odds are you could care less about the ISO and what they do. So, let’s get to what a protection class is since you just found out your homeowner’s insurance is more expensive for your particular class.

Without grinding through the excruciating details of protection class assignment, let’s look at the basics, which are really all you need to know.

Protection class ratings deal with fire protection capabilities in a particular community, and may also be referred to as “Fire protection Class.”

Communities are typically assigned a PPC rating of 1-10. The lower the number, the better the rating for your property.

Being in a “Class 1” (best) generally means your home is located in an area with superior fire protection. Conversely, if your property is located in a “Class 10” (worst), the community you are in is on the very low end of the fire protection spectrum.

The How (and Where)

Yes, we realize we’re going out of order here, but stay with us. Protection classes are assigned using a few pretty simple factors.

• Distance to a fire hydrant (water supply)
• Distance to a fire station
• Fire station equipment and staffing – full time professional or volunteer?

That’s really it. As a rule of thumb, if you’re within 500-1,000 feet of a fire hydrant and within five miles of a fire station with a full-time, professionally staffed team, you’re going to be in good shape when it comes to protection class.

If you do not have a fire hydrant anywhere near your property, the closest fire department is 12 miles away and is staffed by volunteer firefighters, you are likely in a “Class 9” or higher.

[How are homeowner’s insurance rates calculated?]

The Why

Hopefully the section of the post is purely academic. Your property insurer is likely trading $1,000 or so dollars of your hard earned money and assuming the risk of rebuilding your $100,000 home from scratch if it burns to the ground.

One of the basic principles insurers follow with their pricing is charging more money to those who present a higher risk of filing a claim, especially a large claim.

[Will my premium go up if I file a claim?]

The longer a home burns before the fire department shows up, the more your insurer is going to have to pay for repairs. The higher your protection class, the longer your home would theoretically burn before they arrived.

Tip: State Farm has a proprietary fire rating system, which relies on its own loss data.

Protection Class 9-10

You may encounter difficulty obtaining homeowner’s insurance in the standard market if your property is located in an area with a PPC higher than an eight (8).

A “Class 9” grading means the community’s fire-protection system meets ISO requirements, but the water supply system does not.

A “Class 10” grading means the community’s fire-protection system does not meet ISO requirements.

Some insurers simply refuse to insure homes in these locations…at any price.

With regard to “Class 8” vs. 9-10, many standard insurers’ guidelines state they will accept the risk, but the pricing says otherwise and a call to an underwriter results in a “we are not really a market for that risk” response, which means if you value your appointment with us, you’ll write it somewhere else!

Be sure to shop your policy if you find yourself in this situation. While many companies prefer not to insure these homes, there are some that specialize in it, so they can offer a more cost effective premium.

Read more: What is the average cost of homeowner’s insurance?

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