This is a public service announcement about trying to insure housing in rural areas.
I live in a 1989 custom-ordered Palm Harbor mobile home at the halfway mark of Momma and Poppie’s two acres. It is not luxurious but it has been adequate, affordable housing for 25 years. Following the 1992 massacre of mobile homes during Hurricane Andrew, most mobile home insurers pulled out of Florida including my insurer, Allstate.
My agent placed me with Citizens Property Insurance Corporation which is a “not-for-profit, tax-exempt government corporation whose public purpose is to provide insurance protection to Florida property owners throughout the State (of Florida).” It was the insurer of last resort.
At some point in time, Citizens became the largest insurer and efforts were made to reduce that exposure risk. In October 2014, I received a letter from Citizens that I was being spun off to a brand new, unrated insurance company. If I chose to opt out of going with this new insurance company, I would be subject to “assessments” in the event of another catastrophic storm.
Needless to say, I did not want to go with an unrated company (Mount Beacon) nor could I afford any assessments. I began to shop for other insurance in February 2015. I couldn’t find any company willing to take me.
Poppie’s health took a turn for the worse and I informed my agent, who had been instrumental in suggesting other insurers, that I would be going with the new insurer because I no longer had time to shop. She reminded me of what I already knew – that I would not need to do anything because Citizens would automatically send my file to Mount Beacon.
My renewal date was April 5 but I forgot all about it because of Poppie’s death. On February 12, it occurred to me that my renewal date had come and gone but Mount Beacon had not sent me a statement for coverage. I called my agent who called both Citizens and Mount Beacon. Apparently, neither company wanted to claim responsibility. The agent suggested yet another company for coverage. They politely declined me, too. As did another company my friend, The Mad Tattah, suggested.
At that point, I called my agent back and reminded them that I had been with them for 25 years and they needed to find me insurance without any expense to me or I would file a complaint with the State of Florida’s Department of Insurance.
I was so upset I did that anyway but I named Citizens and Mount Beacon as the scandalous perpetrators of my distress. Having already been dismissed by countless agencies, I wondered if Mount Beacon was tossing some of us in the trash as undesirables and I mentioned this suspicion. The Department of Insurance employee did not know but a lot of consumers won’t take the time to complain. A state can’t fix what it doesn’t know about. Each and every state probably has a Department of Insurance, a Department of Banking and a Chief Financial Officer who oversees any number of issues relating to consumer services, seniors, and unclaimed property.
Right after my chat with the Department of Insurance, my agent informed me that she had written a new policy for me with Citizens and her boss would come by at 1:30 to take photos for the file. He remembered being on the property seven years earlier to get update photos and talking to Poppie because I was at work.
I told him some of the excuses I had received from companies not willing to cover me – that my mobile home was too old and I was not a full owner of the property. I also mentioned my suspicions of another unspoken reason. I then demanded an answer for my inability to obtain coverage. Probably fearing that I might hog tie him and beat it out of him, he gave me an insurance lesson that is likely not shared with insurance consumers.
I learned that I am a “Townclass 10” – the worst rating for insurance because my mobile home is on private property rather than an approved mobile home park and there is no fire hydrant within 500 feet. My agent mentioned a mobile home park west of me and said the average policy in that park was HALF what I was paying.
With just that one word, “townclass”, I turned to my computer and learned about the Public Protection Class (PPC) that shows up on your home owner’s insurance policy. All over the United States, communities are rated (from 1 to 10) by the Insurance Services Office on the community’s fire-fighting ability. Neighborhoods get classified with a “town class” designation for their proximity to a fire hydrant, fire stations, how well those fire stations are equipped, plus the communications network and telephone system of the town or city’s fire stations. The lower your town class rating, the lower your insurance costs and vice versa. It makes sense to contact your local fire department to find out what protection class you are in. If they upgrade it, you can contact your agent for a policy reduction.
(1) It is no longer a good idea to buy a mobile home in Florida. Any savings in your housing costs will be eaten up by higher insurance policies and an inability to obtain insurance as the mobile home ages. I suspect Florida’s Insurance Department has no idea that some of these insurance companies are “telephone weeding” consumers by first asking them “How old is your mobile home?” Unless we complain to the Insurance Department when we are immediately rejected, they won’t know.
(2) If you choose to live in a rural neighborhood without a nearby fire hydrant, your home is at risk for fire and it will be more expensive, if not downright difficult, to obtain insurance.