State insurance committee needs input from owners

Published September 30, 2006

The cost of homeowners insurance has become prohibitive. Often the only option for many whose insurance has been canceled or whose insurer no longer operates in Florida is to seek insurance through the state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Co. Many companies want nothing to do with a "mobile home," or if they do, the premium is out of reach.

The current value of your home plays a major role. Older, usually single-section homes have very low resale value. Some new manufactured homes are valued at $200,000 or more. The insurance companies don't like homes in either of those categories.

The state Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee is trying to find ways to solve many of the insurance problems. However, although there are almost 1-million manufactured homes in Florida, the committee's efforts are concentrated on site-built homes or on manufactured homes on owned rather than leased land.

The Lakeland Ledger reported Sept. 8 that the committee is considering mandating that insurance companies offer discounts for certain home improvements that are likely to help avoid damages from hurricanes or windstorms such as hurricane shutters or roof improvements.

The question is whether the committee will include manufactured homes on leased land when they craft solutions to the insurance crisis.

I recently had a system installed on my carport that will protect it in winds up to 140 mph. I submitted the invoice for the system, along with a certified copy of the engineering report, to my insurance company, assuming I'd obtain a discount on my homeowner premiums. The response: "We are not offering discounts for hardening carports at this time."

I also installed security film on all our windows. I was supplied with engineering information assuring me that debris hitting our windows in winds up to 160 mph will not break through and damage the interior of the house. I was told by the contractor that my insurer might offer a discount on my homeowners for hardening my home. Once again, wrong. No discount.

I'm not sorry I took those steps to strengthen my home. Considering the size of deductibles on hurricane damage, I will be money ahead if a hurricane strikes my area and I have no damage and don't have to worry about a huge deductible.

If this is a source of concern, you can write to Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, who chairs the Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee, and demand that her committee encourage or require insurance discounts on manufactured homes on leased land. The address: Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, The Capitol, 400 S Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399.

The panel's recommendations are due Nov. 15, but they may be announced sooner, because the governor plans to call a special session before the elections to consider changes.

Send comments or questions to Len Bonifield at elb@gate.net or write him at 2914 Dollar Bonnet Lane, Lakeland, FL 33810. Please include your e-mail and mailing address. Because of the volume of mail, he can't respond personally to every query. Bonifield is a manufactured home resident and a past HOA president and former officer of the FMO District 1 board of directors.