We sat down with Tiny House Insurance expert Darrell Grenz of the Darrell Grenz Insurance Agency and asked him to answer 10 of the toughest questions related to insuring tiny houses. Darrell was kind enough to provide us with some straight answers to one of the most vexing issues with owning tiny house – how to insure it.
TTH – How did you get involved in the tiny house movement?
Darrell Grenz – I had a client who owned one. I toured her tiny home and I was instantly hooked! I’ve had the good fortune to have met many of the true luminaries of the tiny house movement and have gained a lot of insight and knowledge from them. The fun part is the movement is constantly changing so no day is ever the same.
TTH – Just how big of an issue is insuring tiny houses?
Darrell Grenz – You know, in the beginning it started out as more of a curiosity. You had a few tiny home builders selling to a few select customers. Back in those days it was really tough to find someone (insurance carriers) who would insure them. It was all a big unknown to them and no underwriters wanted to write a policy on something that was an unknown. In general tiny homes didn’t fit the underwriting and product guidelines and for many of the insurance carriers so they didn’t want to touch them. Insurance carriers have to file their product guidelines with the department of insurance for each state they do business so they have to see a big enough upside in a new niche product. Most of the carriers thought of the tiny house movement as a passing fad so they didn’t want to prioritize resources such as filing with the states, creating new programming in their quoting platforms, getting new marketing collateral out to their distribution channels, etc.
TTH – How has it changed?
Darrell Grenz – Obviously, you’ve got 100s of companies building tiny houses now. The market has become big enough that there are TV shows about it. Cities are building entire communities of tiny houses. Tiny houses are popping up everywhere and what once thought of as a “fringe movement”, has become mainstream.
TTH – And what about insuring them?
Darrell Grenz – When we started, there were only a couple insurers who would even consider underwriting tiny houses. Many of our early policies were underwritten by Lloyd’s of London because they were one of the few underwriters who would write them. Now many large insurers will underwrite tiny houses, or at least type of them. For example, tiny houses that are designated as RVs and registered with the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) can be written by a lot of insurers who insure travel trailers and motorhomes.
TTH – And how big a part of your business is tiny house insurance?
Darrell Grenz – It’s significant and it’s growing every day. I probably field 20 calls a day from people trying to insure their tiny houses. You can hear the frustration in their voices because there aren’t many people who understand all the intricacies of insuring all of the different types of tiny homes that are out there. It’s very rewarding when we can help people navigate through their roadblocks and teach them industry jargon that will help ease their frustrations. People can’t lease lots or take out loans or get a license plate for their Tiny House on Wheels (THoW) because they can’t get insurance. And you magnify that by the number of laws in each state, county and municipality…it can be pretty daunting just trying to figure out everything you need to know to legally own and insure a tiny house.
TTH – Talk about that. How many states do you operate in?
Darrell Grenz – Right now we’re licensed in 24 states and we’re adding additional states all the time. Some states just don’t have enough of a concentration of tiny houses to justify getting licensed, but we’ll do it if we need to help someone get insured. Also, some of the carriers want a volume commitment out of us for a certain amount of business before they will open up a new state for us. We track all of the inquiries we get so if you need coverage please let us know so we can pass that along to the carriers.
TTH – You mentioned the RVIA certification, what does that mean in terms of insuring a tiny house on wheels?
Darrell Grenz – Some tiny house manufacturers go through the process to get RVIA certified. This means that their tiny houses are technically considered to be an RV or a travel trailer. This means that there are a lot more options when it comes to insuring these houses. Some underwriters who originally would not consider underwriting tiny houses, felt very comfortable writing RVs because it was a business and a risk they could understand. For this reason, it’s much easier for them to insure a tiny house / travel trailer.
TTH – What about tiny houses that aren’t from RVIA certified builders or aren’t professionally built?
Darrell Grenz – We can usually insure them too! Every case is unique but if there are any issues, we can usually recommend an insurer who will insure it after it has been inspected/certified. Having this type of certification opens up more options for underwriters who are willing to write it.
TTH – So do you recommend certification for everyone?
Darrell Grenz – Not necessarily. Certification can be very expensive. Typically, you’d only need a certification in specific situations. For example, an insurer requires it; the area where you’re parking it requires; a bank needs it for a loan. A certification may also be a good idea for those looking to rent out their tiny homes as it gives the tenant peace of mind or those that they plan on selling in the future. Only in cases like that where there is a good reason to do so.
TTH – Are tiny houses expensive to insure?
Darrell Grenz – The price you pay to insure your tiny house is dependent on several factors. The value of the tiny home. Where it’s kept. How it’s built and by whom. If it’s on wheels and how often it’s moved. The price of tiny house policies can range widely. The key is, getting the right coverage for your unique situation. If people have questions, I’d love to discuss their needs and help them make sure they get into the right policy for them.
TTH – Thanks Darrell, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do for the tiny house movement!
To read more about tiny house insurance check out our article 5 Things to Know Before You Insure Your Tiny House and visit www.insuremytinyhome.com.