As interest in tiny houses has grown exponentially, more and more insurance companies have found ways to underwrite them, giving us the benefit of coverage. A couple years ago, tiny house insurance options were limited to just a few states, but today, numerous tiny house insurance options exist and more are being added regularly.
One of the challenges of insuring tiny houses on wheels initially was that they’re mobile in nature; a hybrid between a residence and an RV. Tiny houses on fixed foundations were a breeze to cover, but when attached to a trailer on wheels, companies weren’t sure what to do with them. Fortunately, some creative insurance folks came up with viable and appropriate solutions. Let’s go over tiny house insurance options below.
..Tiny Homeowner’s Policy..
A tiny house specific homeowner’s policy is one of the best tiny house insurance options for owners who don’t plan on moving their home more than a couple times. These policies extend liability insurance (in case someone hurts themselves in your tiny), content coverage (in case of theft of your belongings), and structural coverage (loss through fire, etc.) These tiny house insurance policies mimic a traditional homeowner’s insurance policy but they must be purchased through a tiny house insurance broker since this option is not readily available on the market.
Tiny homeowner’s insurance is available for certified and DIY builds. Some carriers require an on-site inspection, while others do not. Some will also ask for an electrical system inspection by a certified electrician. In any DYI build, we recommend you document the entire process with photos.
Currently, there are two main exclusions for THOWs and tiny homeowner’s policies: earth movement (any damage incurred during transit) and theft of the house itself. It’s also important to mention that the moment you connect your THOW to a tow vehicle’s hitch, the homeowner’s policy is no longer active. At that point, another insurance option must be added if you want to maintain coverage (more on these options below).
Tiny house homeowner’s insurance is not available in all US states just yet so if you have a hard time finding coverage in your area, it’s worth exploring companies providing insurance for park models/manufactured homes. Some of these carriers have begun to offer coverage for THOW and even trip endorsements for relocation events.
RV insurance is a great option for certified (RVIA) THOW that plan on hitting the road regularly. These policies offer similar coverage to auto policies by providing collision, content protection, and liability coverage. RV insurance is actually a legal requirement in all US states if you plan on towing your certified THOW.
One potentially large pitfall is that many companies specifically exclude anyone living in their certified RV/THOW full time. Be absolutely certain that any company you choose actually covers full timers (if you intend on living in yours as your primary residence). Always be up front with your insurance carrier. If you withhold information and/or lie, the field agent will likely discover this at the time of any claim filing and deny it.
Another pitfall we have seen has been when insurance agents unfamiliar with tiny houses have mistakenly classified a THOW as a “manufactured house”. Ensure that they qualify your certified THOW as an RV (not a manufactured home). This is important because manufactured home policies only allow for one or two relocations and also require a separate rider. If you plan on moving your certified THOW regularly, this option will be completely impractical.
Remember, only certified tiny houses qualify for RV insurance. DIY THOW don’t. Let’s go over options available for those of us that built our own tiny houses below.
..Inland Marine Insurance Policies..
Inland marine insurance has been around for decades and is used to cover any property that’s mobile in nature. Historically, it’s been used in industries where a business hauls materials, tools, goods, etc. Inland marine can be applied to THOW which is great BUT, it doesn’t provide any liability coverage, meaning that if someone gets hurt in your THOW and sues you, you’ll be stuck with the bill. Inland marine policies sometimes have exclusions for personal belongings, so renter’s policies must be tagged on to protect belongings.
..Automobile Insurance Policies..
Auto policies are easy to obtain and are required by law in all states except for two (NH and VA). They provide coverage for the car itself as well as liability. Many companies allow for a THOW to be towed on the policy provided that a trip endorsement is added. The key here is that an auto policy will only provide liability coverage, but none for the structure itself or its contents. To fill in those gaps, people will often combine a renter’s policy along with an inland marine policy while towing.
..Renter’s Insurance Policies..
Renter’s policies don’t cover the structure itself, but they do provide liability coverage as well as insurance for personal belongings in case of theft or loss. These policies actually extend to your personal possessions, no matter where you’re traveling. They’ll also cover your living expenses for a short period in case your house becomes uninhabitable.
..What Type Should You Get?..
RVIA or Certified Tiny Houses:
RV insurance is likely your easiest and best bet in terms of tiny house insurance options. It can provide you with the full suite of protection (structural, liability, collision, medical, roadside assistance, and protection from underinsured or non-insured motorists). You don’t need to let your agent know each time you’re moving either. Remember to make sure they offer full-timer’s coverage and that they don’t classify your THOW as a “manufactured house”.
Non-RVIA (Certified) Tiny Houses Built by a Professional:
If you plan on keeping your professionally built THOW parked in only one or two spots, work with a tiny house insurance broker to get a homeowner’s policy. This coverage provides liability, structural, and content protection. Your tiny house can remain on wheels (no need to affix it to a permanent foundation).
When/if you need to move your THOW to a new location, combine an auto policy, inland marine and renter’s policy to create full coverage during your towing event. A tiny house insurance broker can help you with all of these details. You’ll need to tell your broker each time you move your THOW and conversely, when you’re settled in to your new address.
Tiny house homeowner’s policies are not quite available in all 50 states yet so you should contact your favorite tiny house insurance broker to ensure coverage exists in a new location before committing to a move.
DIY Tiny Houses:
Coverage for us DIY tiny housers is becoming increasingly available. The best advice we can offer is: take photos of your construction process and get an electrical inspection before you close up your walls. Even though not all insurance companies require this inspection, it’s an inexpensive investment into your peace of mind.
Assuming your DIY THOW won’t be towed around the country regularly, a tiny house insurance broker should be able to provide you with a policy that provides liability, structural, and content coverage. If you plan on towing your DIY tiny house quite a bit, consult with a tiny house insurance broker about options and solutions. You’ll likely be looking at a suite of insurance options and they can help you line that all up.
..Finding a Tiny House Insurance Agent..
If you work with an agent that doesn’t quite understand what a THOW is and what they’re dealing with, it could end up costing you big time. We have heard some pretty horrendous stories of THOW residents getting stuck with the full bill during an event because their broker didn’t set up their policy properly. Yikes.
It’s worth restating that you should always be 100% transparent with your broker. You don’t want to end up in a situation where your omission of important information excludes you from coverage when you actually need it.
Currently there are two insurance brokers specializing in tiny house insurance options that we know of (please let us know if you know of others and we will add them to this list for reference):
Darrell Grenz out of Portland, OR provides insurance for tinys on wheels, foundations, skids, and can also extend coverage for DIY tiny houses, builder’s risk (coverage during your build), rental occupied tiny houses, tiny house communities, RVIA, and even earthquake coverage for THOWs in California. His coverage extends to most states in the US. Darrell is our personal insurance agent.
Martin Burlingame from Strategic Insurance Agency is based out of Colorado Springs and also offers a full suite of insurance products for tiny houses including DIY builds, tiny businesses, ADUs, rentals, AirBnB, RVIA, etc. He can also offer insurance products in nearly all states through a variety of carriers. The best way to reach him is by calling (719) 602-6066.
There are others joining the scene as well. We just heard from the office of Michael Carmona in Portland, OR. He is a Farmers Insurance agent and offers tiny house coverage in 40 states. He requires no inspections, even on DIY builds.
Of course it’s totally OK to work with a non-tiny house specific insurance agent, just be sure that you understand the potential pitfalls so that you don’t end up with any surprises if it comes time to file a claim. Make sure to choose a product that matches your needs and shop around for a price that best fits your budget.
With all of these options, you should be able to get coverage in nearly all states now…what a long way we’ve come!! How about you? Do you have a favorite insurance broker that has been able to provide insurance for your tiny house? Please comment below for others to benefit from what you’ve discovered. J