What do I need for my tiny house insurance in Ohio?

Tiny house insurance in Ohio is required for construction, towing, and parked tiny homes. Obtain RVIA certification to qualify for RV and auto insurance and receive collision, liability, and contents coverage.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Ohio zoning laws have not yet caught up with tiny home living
  • Insurance options for tiny homes are more abundant than ever
  • It is much easier to obtain insurance coverage for homes certified by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association

A tiny home craze is sweeping the nation, but even tiny homes come with large insurance coverage issues. Tiny homes role as both mobile and semi-permanent housing raises coverages above and beyond what traditional homes face.

It’s imperative that an owner of a tiny home maintain proper coverage when their home is under construction, being towed, or parked. Make sure you compare rates with our free quote tool above! 

Insuring a Tiny House on Wheels (THOW) in Ohio

Owners of tiny houses during the early days of the movement learned quickly that it wasn’t a simple task to insure their THOW.

Semi-permanent tiny homes that remained parked in a single spot were easy enough to cover, but many THOW owners learned that insurers were less willing to sell policies for a home that was on wheels and easily transportable.

The insurance industry eventually responded with many coverage options for tiny homes.

The most basic coverage is a tiny homeowner’s policy. Good for a THOW that won’t be moved more than one or two times, a tiny homeowner’s policy generally operates like a traditional homeowner’s policy.

This type of policy offers liability coverage, content protection, and covers structure damage. The coverage on these policies is only extended when a THOW is parked and immobile.

One way the insurance industry has adapted to the THOW phenomenon is extending RV insurance policies to tiny homes. RV insurance includes coverage for liability, damaged contents, and structural damage.

As we will discuss in detail below, not every THOW is eligible for RV insurance.

THOW owners also turn to inland marine insurance policies for coverage. Inland marine policies originally covered business entities that would need coverage when transporting tools and goods but many insurers will now extend these policies to tiny homes.

The downside for these policies is that they don’t extend liability coverage. Another type of policy insurers are willing to issue for a THOW is automobile policies.

Auto policies will cover a THOW much like it does a vehicle in that they provide liability coverage but lack any coverage of the contents or structure of the home.

Finally, owners of a THOW that want coverage for the contents of their home but don’t have RV coverage available often turn to renter’s insurance.

A renter’s policy will insure the contents of a THOW from things like fire damage and theft but will provide no coverage to the THOW itself.

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Coverage during Construction

It is commonly understood that insurance coverage for a THOW is necessary when being towed or parked.

However, many overlook the value of insurance protection during the construction the home. It is recommended that a THOW be adequately protected by insurance at every stage.

Do-It-Yourself Construction

It has been common since the very beginning of the tiny house phenomenon for prospective owners to build their homes themselves. Doing it themselves is satisfying for the adventurous type and the money savings can be substantial.

There are insurance coverage issues that need to be considered in this case, though. One part of the building process that should always be handled by an expert is electrical wiring.

Electrical work can be dangerous when done by an amateur, and a THOW with wiring that hasn’t been certified by a licensed electrician will have fewer options when it comes time to purchase an insurance policy.

Another helpful tip that is often overlooked during the building process is to insure your building materials. During a DIY build, the materials make up nearly the entire budget. Insuring those materials can keep a theft from ruining a homeowner’s budget.

After construction has completed it’s recommended homeowners seek certification from the National Organization of Alternative Housing (NOAH). Certification from NOAH shows a THOW complies with minimum safety standards.

This certification is useful because it opens doors with insurers and even gives a homeowner increased access to parking. To receive NOAH certification the THOW must go through a third-party inspection.

Professional Construction

Hiring a professional builder has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Not surprisingly, a THOW will be more costly if built professionally. However, that increased price comes with a number of benefits.

For instance, it is up to the builder to deal with any insurance issue and the safeguard the building materials during the building process.

A Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) certified builder also provides the added benefit of greatly increased insurance options for the life of the home.

Coverage during Towing

In Ohio, the difference between a THOW considered parked or being towed depends on whether the THOW is attached to a trailer hitch or not.

Once the THOW is hitched up and ready to go insurers will no longer consider it semi-permanent. It’s important to know how you intend to use your THOW before moving the home as additional policies may be required.

Proper insurance coverage during the towing process isn’t just common sense; Ohio law requires towed vehicles to carry liability insurance.

Insurance for RVIA certified homes while they are being towed is fairly straightforward. RVIA certified homes are eligible for RV insurance from most insurers.

RV insurance is the most comprehensive insurance available to a THOW and allows for complete coverage without needing multiple policies.

RV insurance won’t provide liability insurance for the towing vehicle, however. The price of an RV policy will also depend on how frequently a THOW owner intends to use the home. RV Policies are considered either full-timer or recreation.

Full timer policies are more expensive but contain better coverage since it’s intended to cover a THOW that is used as a primary residence. Recreational RV policies are less expensive but provide less coverage due to less frequent use of the home.

Insurance coverage options are less abundant for a THOW that doesn’t have RVIA certification. Insurers will not issue RV policies to non-RVIA certified homes.

This requires homeowners to bundle policies that together will meet all of their needs. The most common option is bundling the following coverage types:

  • auto
  • inland marine
  • renter’s

The auto policy provides the THOW with liability coverage, the inland marine policy provides coverage for any structural damage done to the THOW, and the renter’s policy provides protection for the contents of the THOW while it’s towed.

It is possible the insurer providing the auto policy will also require a trip endorsement before coverage applies to a THOW.

With multiple policies and varying requirements, it’s always a good idea to compare 3-4 options when shopping for auto insurance for a THOW. It is difficult for homeowners to obtain the best coverage and price without making these comparisons.

Coverage while Parked in Ohio

Ohio doesn’t have specific guidelines for insuring a THOW once it’s parked but generally the best option will be a tiny homeowners policy. This type of policy is comprehensive in that it extends coverage for liability, content and structure damage.

It isn’t uncommon for carriers to have additional requirements for a THOW to be eligible for a tiny homeowners policy. For instance, some policies will limit the number of times a THOW can be moved or require prior notice to any move.

Other policies may require the wheels removed and a skirt installed to make the home semi-permanent.

Ohio does not currently have any regulations that specifically apply to tiny homes. However, many municipalities still have broadly worded residential zoning requirements that apply the same to a tiny home as they do a full sized house.

That has become an issue in Toledo where tiny homes are too small to qualify for residential permits. One possible resolution for that issue is operating the tiny home as a mixed-use residential-agricultural property.

Ohio law provides for a waiver of requiring a permit for tiny homes if the property is both residential and agricultural in nature. This requires the property to be some type of working farm however and the licensing process can be long.

Determining the Best Coverage Options

A well thought out plan will go a long way for owners of tiny homes. It is recommended these prospective owners know how frequently they will be using the home and whether it will be mobile or semi-permanent.

These distinctions can affect not only the price of a policy but also if coverage is actually available or not.

A homeowner should always be truthful with an insurer as using a tiny home outside of its intended purpose can lead to gaps in coverage.

Finally, with the possibility of multiple insurance policies being a necessity it’s always best practice to compare three to four insurance policies before selecting one.

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