Insurance: Mobile homes

Mobile home insurance resembles auto coverage

Among those hit hardest by Florida’s property insurance crisis have been mobile home owners, many who are seniors on fixed incomes.

Insurance for mobile homes is somewhat similar to that of automobiles in that a mobile home’s value is depreciated each year. So the amount an insurance company might pay you for a destroyed older home might only be a fraction of what it would cost to get a new mobile home.

Private insurers dropped tens of thousands of mobile home customers after the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes. Mobile home owners ended up in state-sponsored Citizens Property Insurance Corp. paying significantly higher rates.

Over the last two years some alternatives to Citizens have sprung up, including American Tradition Insurance Co. and Modern USA Insurance Co. American Tradition begin writing mobile-home policies in 2006; Modern USA in 2007.

The companies say availability is particularly limited in coastal areas such as South Florida. The companies confine themselves to writing new mobile homes complying with tougher 1994 federal government construction standards, but will make an exception for homes older than that, up to 35 years old, if they are located in a mature adult trailer park, age 50 and over.

Some mobile home owners go without insurance because the value of their older home is so small. But mobile home insurance also provides other protections, such as liability insurance, to cover injuries to visitors.

There are also no mitigation discounts for mobile home owners as there are for site-built homes.

Citizens officials refused to provide discounts for 2,000 mobile home owners who shored up their carports, verandas and screen ports as part of a state grant retrofit program in 2006 and 2007. Those attachments proved to be vulnerable in the most recent hurricanes. Citizens officials have said they need to see that the retrofit program works before they can offer lower rates.

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed financing for the continuation of the retrofit program last year, saying he had questions about its effectiveness. The veto left 94,000 mobile homeowners in 229 parks statewide on a waiting list for the program without any options except paying for the work themselves.