Insurance for Your Mobile Home


Introduction

As an insurance salesman, I approach insuring mobile homes as homes and not trailers. Manufactured homes are frequently used in our rural areas around Austin in place of more expensive site-built houses. I fear that many are insured only to satisfy a bank loan and not with the broad insurance protection appropriate as primary residences. There are other special issues regarding safeguarding your mobile home that are particular to mobile home situations and their rural settings.

Your Home in the Country

One of the reasons to opt for a manufactured home is the cost advantages in a rural area vs. a custom site-built home. Country living lets you escape the racket of in-city living, see the stars at night and avoid crowding from your neighbors. You can have a hobby farm, large garden, build a workshop and even have horses. The rural area of Central Texas is full of countryside with natural beauty ready to be your dream home site.

Insurance Coverage for Mobile homes

Broad protection is available but often overlooked when insuring a mobile home. Maybe the dealer included the insurance with the home sale with little opportunity for your input. Pull out your policy and call an insurance professional to review it with you. The core coverages are the home and any attached additions, secondary structures, contents, loss of use and liability. A homeowner’s package for a site-built home will include these items automatically but a mobile home policy is more of a “kit” and these coverages have to be added.

The Home – Protecting your home is more than covering the loan. While you have to meet the loan insurance requirements, your focus should be protecting your whole house investment at its entire value.

Replacement cost on the primary structure is an important coverage feature that is often not included with mobile home plans. Always ask for it and be willing to pay extra. It improves how you are reimbursed for an insured claim by removing the reduction for depreciation (lose of value due to age).

The attached decks, added room and connected carport are considered part of the main structure for insurance purposes. They can add up to many additional thousands of dollars to replace after a fire, tornado or other insured event. Be sure these additions are included in your estimate to replace your home and increase your home insurance limit as needed.

The Secondary Structures – The banker won’t care if your insurance extends to the shed, detached garage or workshop. More than site-built homes, manufactured home owners can have a considerable investment in these added buildings. Unlike insurance for site-built homes that typically automatically extends some coverage for secondary structures, mobile home insurance plans are in “kit form” and this coverage has to be added. I have seen situations for my clients where the large secondary buildings are worth as much as the primary residence.

Contents – This is the normal stuff of living including clothes, kitchen equipment, furniture and more. Mobile home policies often have only a token amount of contents coverage included. My normal rule of thumb is that a family of four will have $20,000 to $30,000 worth of normal contents, roughly $5000 per child and more for adults. Unless you review and adjust your contents coverage, your protection could be very short in the event of a claim.

Loss of Use – This is packaged with most mobile home plans and normally can’t be adjusted. Unlike insurance for site-built homes, a typical policy includes loss of use coverage for a manufactured home as part of the total home insurance limit and not as a coverage extension. The expectation is that a heavily damaged home will be totaled and replaced rather than a long period of dislocation as a site-built house is rebuilt from the ground up.

Liability Protection – The typical mobile home policy does not include homeowner’s liability but it can be added as a separate adjoining contract. Like any property owner, protection from a lawsuit after accident damage or injury is important. A manufactured home will have stairs up to the door or attached deck and often has a larger land area that increases the “trip fall” risk of premise liability. The modest cost to add this important protection is very worthwhile.

Special Risks for Mobile homes

Wildfire – Many homes in Central Texas often are located on rural land. The recent Bastrop Complex Fire and other major fires in our area in 2011 force focus from property owners on their defense from a wildfire. Brush and dead trees should be cleared away from your house and secondary structures. Don’t forget to clear around the propane tank! Clean debris off your roof to keep a fire from spreading to your home when sparks are flying. Proper skirting also reduces the risk of a grass fire from impacting your house. Talk to your local fire department about what can be done to improve your wildfire defense and also improve fire equipment access to your property.

Flooding – Manufactured houses can often be found in flood prone areas. Be sure of your flood peril risk and buy appropriate coverage if you are within or adjacent to a “Special Flood Risk Area.” Any creek in Central Texas is a potential torrent in minutes – don’t be fooled by the modest trickle you see when it is not raining. Yes, it may have never flooded before (but it could tomorrow!).

Relocating – One advantage of a manufactured house is that you can move it to a new place. Relocating is a big event and you need the help of experts. Be sure to add a “Trip Endorsement” to your insurance to protect your home while it is in transit. You will also need professional help to envision the insurance appropriate for your new location.

Rural Fire Protection – The rural location can include many natural wonders, but often does not include a Professional City Fire Department or close by fire hydrants. Many of the Volunteer Fire Departments provide good help in case of a fire, but won’t have equipment or training of the large city fire departments. Also, the high pressure and high volume of water from a fire hydrant needed to combat a house fire could be miles away from your property. When you consider your land purchase, understand the fire protection issues including distance from both your first response fire station and your closest fire hydrant.

Windstorm – A manufactured house is more venerable to the impact of strong horizontal winds, hurricanes and tornadoes than most site-built homes. Proper installation including sturdy tie-downs and tough skirting are critical during a storm. Professional mobile home installation from a state licensed installer is a requirement for insurance. Don’t let your home’s skirting deteriorate. It is a critical part of your homes’ wrapper during a windstorm and also important in reducing fire damage (blocks air from reaching a fire).

Summary

Mobile home can be a great place to live and can be properly insured. Many are not adequately protected. Have your insurance professional review your current mobile home insurance plan and help you make any needed adjustments. Insure your mobile home as a home and not as a trailer by broadening your insurance protection.

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