Floating Home Insurance Explained
by Ron Moreland
Jan/Feb 2013

If you are having problems getting insurance on your floating home, join the club. Unfortunately, obtaining insurance on floating homes has at times been difficult and always expensive. Over the years insurance companies willing to insure our homes have come and gone. Right now we have only two companies who provide property insurance, Red Shield and the California FAIR Plan. There are significant differences between the coverage offered by each and an even more significant difference in their cost.
Generally speaking the Red Shield offers more coverage, but the cost to obtain this coverage means paying a substantially larger premium. So it makes sense for you to read more to find out the differences.

For those of you who don’t know, the FAIR Plan is a private association comprised of all insurers licensed to conduct business in California. It was established through state legislation in 1968 to provide basic fire insurance for persons unable to obtain coverage from the voluntary insurance market. Thanks to the FHA, the Sausalito area floating homes are permanently part of the FAIR Plan. The FAIR Plan does not have agents, but any licensed California insurance broker can assist you in obtaining a FAIR Plan policy plus other coverage not offered by the Plan, such liability insurance. For detailed coverage information, visit their website at Insurance through Red Shield can only be purchased through a limited number of insurance brokers.

The FAIR Plan’s rates are substantially less than Red Shield’s, but the coverage provided is less. Although “supplemental” insurance is now avail- able and you must purchase separate personal liability coverage, I strongly suggest that you obtain quotes from both Red Shield and the FAIR Plan, and then decide which option is best for you using the following table. Please keep in mind we have only tried to highlight the major differences, as this is not a complete comparison.

Coverage Red Shield FAIR Plan Supplemental Personal Property
“ Home Structure (building) covered – building Yes Yes No
“ Personal Property – building Yes Yes Yes
“All Risk” except for excluded items – building Yes No N/A
“All Risk” except for excluded items – personal property No No No
Perils of the sea (excluding tidal waves Yes, both building and contents No No
Fire, wind, hail, lighting, aircraft damage, riot, vehicle damage, explosion and smoke Yes (these perils are included in the “all risk” coverage Yes Yes
Vandalism and malicious mischief Yes Yes Yes
Theft Yes No Yes
Glass breakage Yes No
Additional cost to rebuild due to enforcement of building laws No Yes (optional coverage) No
Accidental discharge or overflow of water from plumbing (owner occupied homes) Yes No Yes
Replacement cost – building Yes Yes N/A
Replacement cost – contents Yes, as an option No Yes
Damage from watercraft Yes No
Damage to owned small watercraft Yes, up to $1,000 No Yes. up to $1,000
Floatation (concrete barge, Styrofoam, fiberglass, etc.) Limited to 5% of the home value insured and then coverage only provided for damage arising out of fire and collision No N/A
Debris Removal Yes Included in Coverage A Yes
Earthquake Yes, as an option Yes, as an option Yes, as an option
Reimbursement for alternate living expenses while home is being repaired Yes, as an option Yes (10% of the building coverage).  Option to purchase 20% limit. Yes
Personal Liability Yes No (but available at additional cost from other insurers) No
Premium payable in installments No, but premium financing available Yes, if premium greater than $250.  40% down and two additional installments of 30% each.  $2.50 per installment.
Personal property covered worldwide Yes 10% of policy limit (Coverage A) No

So what do I think about the differences between these insurers? One of the biggest differences is the lack of personal liability coverage under the FAIR plan. Fortunately, you can purchase a separate policy for this coverage. Since most marinas require that you buy liability insurance you need to add the cost of liability coverage to any comparison with the Red Shield coverage.

On the property insurance side, one of the biggest differences is the lack of sinking coverage under the FAIR Plan. While our community has experienced few sinkings due to salt water leaks, there have been a number of sinkings due to fresh water (plumbing) leaks. But the Supplement Personal Property insurance does cover water damage due to a fresh water leak.

Only you can decide if the cost difference is worth getting this coverage. Another big difference is the lack of theft coverage under the FAIR Plan. Fortunately this coverage is now available via a supplement property insurance policy (see below for details). Also keep in mind that neither Red Shield nor the FAIR Plan provides a significant amount of coverage for fine arts and jewelry. If you want to insure those things, you need to buy a separate policy or pay an additional premium to cover it under the Sadler & Co. supplemental property insurance policy.

We are aware of the following insurance brokers that represent insurers who provide coverage for floating homes:

Broker Red Shield FAIR Plan Personal Liability Supplemental Personal Property
Sadler & Co.
(415) 257-2400
No Yes Yes Yes
Payne Whittington
(415) 884-2930
Yes Yes Yes Fine Arts and other specialized
property floaters available
(925) 284-4483
 Yes Yes Yes No
Kenneth S. Baron
(415) 391-4920
Yes Yes Yes No