Charlie Gallagher and Jim Ayotte: Fix needed to protect vulnerable homeowners

Published: Monday, March 4, 2013 at 5:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 4, 2013 at 5:24 p.m.

This session, the Federation of Manufactured Home Owners of Florida and the Florida Manufactured Housing Association are asking lawmakers to pass legislation that will make crucial changes to how Citizens Property Insurance Corp. values property insurance policies for mobile-home owners.

Currently, Citizens does not take into account any improvements made to the home, the home’s location, or any of the amenities available to the homeowner. Further, Citizens has dropped coverage of mobile home-related structures, putting policyholders at great risk in the event of a major storm or catastrophic event.

Senate Bill 378/House Bill 573 will provide a critical fix for mobile and manufactured home owners by reinstating insurance coverage for the full value of their home. The bills would require Citizens to adequately assess the value of manufactured and mobile homes in order to better protect the people who can least afford to go uninsured.

There is no private market for mobile home insurance and, for them, Citizens is truly the insurer of last resort.

Without adequate property insurance coverage, mobile and manufactured home owners are forced to violate legal obligations outlined in the Florida Mobile Home Act. Currently, Citizens uses the Blue Book to determine the value of the home. If this mechanism is allowed to continue, a potential buyer who needs financing to purchase the home will only be able to borrow the insurable value, instead of the realistic value of the home, which is very bad for the seller.

We urge lawmakers to consider important policy changes, such as this, to address the critical need vulnerable homeowners have to be adequately protected. While a long-term plan to lessen the risk of Citizens begins to take shape, this short-term fix is critical to help protect the homeowners who are least able to help themselves.

Charlie Gallagher is president of the Federation of Manufactured Home Owners of Florida and Jim Ayotte is executive director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association.

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