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Understanding Commercial Property Rates. How are Commercial Property Insurance Rates Calculated?

Insurance companies use a process called underwriting to determine how likely your business is to file a claim. The greater the likelihood of a claim, the higher the premium will be. If an insurance company determines that your business is at a high risk for a loss, it may decline to issue you a policy.

Fire risk is usually the primary factor that determines a business’s commercial property rates. Insurance companies do inspections as part of the underwriting process. Fire inspectors use a standard rating system and weigh five factors to determine a structure’s fire rating. The five factors are:

Construction materials. Buildings made of potentially combustible materials will have higher premiums, while those made of fire-resistant materials could earn a discount. Additions to an existing structure might affect a fire rating, so it’s a good idea to talk to your agent or insurance company before remodeling. Internal structural elements can also affect a fire rating. Using wood partitions, floors, and stairways in an otherwise fire-resistant building will likely nullify any rate reduction. Fire-resistant interior walls, floors, and doors can help maintain a good fire rating.

Location. Buildings in cities or towns with good fire protection—as assessed by the Insurance Services Office typically cost less to insure than buildings outside a city or in areas with limited fire protection.
Occupancy. A building’s use also affects its fire rating. An office building will likely rate better than a restaurant or auto repair shop. In a building with multiple tenants, one hazardous occupant will negatively affect the fire rating of the entire building. If your business is in a building with a more hazardous tenant, your premiums will be higher.

Fire protection measures. Automatic sprinklers can reduce a building’s fire rating by as much as 50 percent. Buildings with fire extinguishers and automatic alarms and those within 500 feet of a fire hydrant will usually have lower ratings.

Exposure. Nearby hazards increase a building’s fire risk. Proximity to external fire hazards, such as a lumberyard or oil storage tank, will affect a fire rating even more. Other things that could affect your fire risk include cluttered buildings and grounds, heavy mechanical or electrical equipment, or volatile materials stored on site.