It’s been on my to-do list for a while now: calling around insurance companies to see if I can insure my tiny house on wheels. There’s not a windy night or a really hot stretch of weather that doesn’t set me a little on edge – one gum tree down or a few stray sparks and everything could be gone in a puff of smoke. That raises two issues to discuss, firstly safety and secondly insurance.
Safety for Tinies
This is an issue that needs more exploration and is now being tackled by some groups here in Victoria, such as the newly minted Tiny Not-for-Profit. I’m interested in hearing more about the Tiny House Safety pilot study currently underway and it’s something we’ll have to investigate as we continue to advocate for tinies to be welcomed into councils and the housing industry. Building regulations, whilst tedious and somewhat restrictive, must’ve been created to increase safety, accountability and higher quality homes. What happens when enthusiasts without any building experience take on these projects and work outside of regulations? How will the increasing requirements for homes in bushfire prone areas apply to tiny homes? And if those requirements don’t apply, or if people choose not to adhere to them, what might the consequences be? Not exactly my favourite questions to ask, but they raise important issues.
Insurance is another topic that many tiny housers have tended to side step. I spent the day calling around last week and sadly had no luck finding someone who could insure my house. CIL now offer tiny house specific insurance but it seems limited to certain manufacturers in Australia at this point. They also said that because my trailer was 2.8 metres wide and falls outside the standard width of a caravan (2.5m) I didn’t qualify under their policy. The conversation stopped there, so I didn’t find out what paper work, certifications and valuations would be required if there was a policy I could apply for. It didn’t seem like an easy or straightforward process. Especially not for someone who paid cash in hand for carpentry, plumbing and electrics without any paperwork involved. At this stage, it looks like I’m on my own. My insurance policy currently involves a good savings account and learning how to invest for future contingency plans.
So where do we fit in?
Discussions about safety standards and insurance options for tiny houses are still pretty limited at this stage. Partly that’s because tiny houses have evolved outside of the mainstream housing system, at least here in Australia. Those who first tapped into the tiny house ethos and this way of living were outliers. Even now, in some ways living in a tiny house is a way of stepping out a system that doesn’t represent who we are and how we want to live. But with a rise in popularity, more people are asking where tiny houses fit in. Hiding on the outskirts is becoming less of an option and less appealing. Challenging the system to shift and make room for alternative dwellings such as tinies now seems like a possibility. If the system can evolve to include more realistic housing options such as tiny houses, perhaps we will see more options for insurance and safety in the future.
I don’t have any answers here but I think it’s important to continue having realistic discussions. This includes thinking about the risks and challenges that come along with building and living in a tiny home. Change is on the horizon, for better or worse. But government is a slow moving beast and we may also have quite a while to wait. In the meantime, stay safe everyone!