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Tiny House Fire Victim And How You Can Help

Guest Post by Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings


About a week ago (July 22), a friend of mine (Kim Langston) had her little house caught up in a large barn fire. The house was in the construction phase, and while it wasn’t quite complete, it was close enough that she felt certain she’d be living in it by September or October.  It was completely destroyed in the fire and Kim didn’t have insurance to cover the loss.  I’ve attached before and after photos which, if you’re like me, will drop you to your knees.

I’ve been so racked by this incident… so sad.  And its brought up a couple of things for me: one is that I’d like to learn more about what sort of insurance options are out there for little hand-built structures.  Houses on wheels or built on the ground. I’ve done some searching and it seems there may be some tools but the loopholes are intense; you aren’t insured, for example, if the structure is on the highway or not insured if you don’t personally own the property where it sits.

Tiny House Fire Victim

Tiny House Fire Victim

If you have insurance, or have heard of an option for these structures, could you please contact me at [email protected].  Once I have information pulled together, I’ll offer it back to our tiny house community so we can all understand what’s available.  If we discover that traditional insurance is not available, it may be time to start our own Cooperative — an organization that will help cover catastrophic loss.


Click Here If You’d Like to Donate to Kim’s Tiny House Recovery Fund

I also want to help support Kim through a fund raising event. I understand that she and her friends are pulling together a Kickstarter or Indigogo fund that will help her pay down the debt she incurred through the fire and maybe even help support the dream of re-building.  You and I will have a chance to support Kim through that fund.  So stay tuned.  If you want to go ahead and get the ball rolling and support her now, here are some funding options:

Click Here If You’d Like to Donate to Kim’s Tiny House Recovery Fund

I appreciate your consideration and again, if you can offer any information about insurance options, please let me know.  And if you can support Kim… that would be awesome! Keep your eyes peeled for more information about their Fund Raising projects.

I’d also like to offer that I believe we all gain something tremendous when we see examples of someone reaching for and achieving their dream — when we read stories about this person or that person building their dream house, designing with cob or straw, retrofitting an ‘canned ham’, tinkering with pallet houses or living large in a house the size of a couple dozen potato chip bags. We are inspired when people dream big, and we all lose a little something when someone’s dream is crushed.  The fire that destroyed Kim’s house shouldn’t be the end of the story.  Let’s work together for something better.

Thank you.  Hope you are well.  Dee Williams

Click Here If You’d Like to Donate to Kim’s Tiny House Recovery Fund

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!




{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Margaret July 30, 2012, 3:40 pm

    I have a friend with a 350 square foot home on a foundation and she bought her insurance from a company that insures mobile homes. This might not work for every one or from every mobile home insurance agency but it is worth looking into.

  • sesameB July 30, 2012, 4:37 pm

    I am sorry to hear about this. Blessings to the homeowner for future small housing.

  • Dixie Hacker Hurley August 1, 2012, 4:13 pm

    To Kim whom I do not even know, but lost her tiny home in a fire, I’m so very sorry for your loss! I have a dream of a tiny home of my own one day, an do not even know how I will ever be able to realize tht dream yet or if I ever can, so it especially broke my heart to hear youve lost your home an dream! I can’t afford much, but I’ve sent a small gift to your bank fund in Washington to be a part of hopefully helping you rebuild. It’s the only right thing to do that I can think of .
    I really wish I could only do more! I know nothing about insurance, but if I hear anything I’ll contact you. May God bless an keep you, an Im happy no one was hurt or killed in the fire.

    sincerely yours in sisterhood , Dixie Hacker Hurley.

  • Devon August 1, 2012, 4:20 pm

    Hi Kim,
    I just donated what we could and wish you all the best in rebuilding. <>

  • Jim August 1, 2012, 4:26 pm

    I don’t know who will insure a tiny home. My thoughts have always run along the lines that grass fires- trees pose the greatest hazard for tiny homes as they are so often in places where fires are quite possible. That is why I like the idea of Hardy Board surrounding the skin of a tiny home including the bottom of the home. Hardy Board is very hard to ignite and would save a lot of homes. One thought is to build a normal roof and top it with Hardy Board as well. Assuming good electrical wiring it would be hard to get a tiny home to burn.

    If her Tiny Home was the type that could be towed or carried on a truck she just might be covered under her auto insurance. I wish i could afford to send money.

  • Paul August 1, 2012, 4:35 pm

    I recently visited with a local tiny house owner in Iowa. She told me Lloyds of London insures tiny houses. Maybe that is an avenue to recommend.

  • Kerry Dawborn August 1, 2012, 6:04 pm

    So sorry to hear about all that hard work and hopes and dreams gone. But as as been alluded to here, perhaps there is a pheonix that can now rise from the ashes. I have made my donation and feel great for doing it, as i’m sure many others will too.
    I think the idea of a community insurance fund is fantastic and suggest it be done regardless of whether there are other options out there, unless you find something that is really coming from a good place that matches the heart, intentions, objectives and needs of the Tiny House Movement in every way.
    The potential benefit of a community generated and operated fund, to set its own culture and the worldview from which it will operate ans thereby build something empowering that is of real lasting value for the community and society in general, is huge. I say go for it! I’d help except i am in Australia so that might be diluting the effort over geography a bit too much… But i am inspired to look into this sort of thing for my community too!
    Best wishes to you all,

    Kerry Dawborn

  • Christopher August 1, 2012, 7:34 pm

    There was no insurance on the barn itself? My homeowner’s policy covers the contents of the house and barn.

    I wouldn’t know where to get insurance for something like this. I would also think that some of us who are interested in tiny homes build them because we don’t want to deal with bureaucratic red tape – whether from government agencies or insurance companies. Still something to think further about.

    So sorry to hear about this. Can’t donate right now, but Kim will be in my thoughts.

  • Tom B August 1, 2012, 10:32 pm

    I know some insurance companies insure home-built travel trailers. Even those used as a primary residence. Since most tiny homes are built on wheels wouldn’t they qualify?

  • RJ Hickey August 2, 2012, 1:28 am

    I asked the insurance agent in our Kiwanis Club about this and here’s what she said:

    What I would suggest is that before any project like this is started the person building any structure should purchase a builders risk policy before construction begins. If a builders risk policy had been in place they would have received the full amount of the completed project. We have carriers that are very happy to insure “green” projects such as this one. I hope that answers your question.

    If you would like to talk to her about insuring your tiny house or whatever, please send an email to Alex. I will send him Marcia’s contact info.

  • Clyde August 2, 2012, 2:53 am

    It may or may not be any consolation to you but the trailer can be saved for considerably less money than buying a new one (especially if you do most of the work yourself). I would sandblast and prime the frame but don’t sandblast the fenders because doing so will warp the sheet-metal. Instead, sand and then prime the fenders. Look for details on doing this properly online, in a book, or from someone with experience with automotive painting. Take the wheels to a tire shop and have new or used tires mounted on them. Replace wiring, lights, and reflectors.

    If I were local to you I would donate my time to perform this work. I plan on building my own tiny home on wheels and I am saddened with the knowledge that your dream has been undone. However, I believe that things will, ultimately, turn around for you and, in the end, lead to good results. 🙂

    • ImReady August 5, 2012, 5:41 pm

      Most likely, the frame of the trailer is warped some too. I’ve done a lot of sandblasting, and I guarantee you that you’ll have a hard time warping the fenders with a sandblaster. Just don’t stay in one place too long, with the blasting gun. Recently, a grass fire broke out under a trailer similar to yours, and really warped the frame. I was amazed at how much damage a simple grass fire did to the steel. Yours might actually have been protected some, from all the flooring, since it seems to still be in place. Good luck on your restoration! Or on your new start.

  • Clyde August 2, 2012, 3:02 am

    I recommend using Rust-Oleom primer and paint (for metal) because of its durability and attractive price. It can be sprayed or brushed on. Modern automotive paints are a considerably more expensive option.

  • Nichole August 2, 2012, 9:36 am

    Kim- I am so sorry this happened to you. I know you loved that little hand built home you put so much time and energy into. Stay positive and look for the silver lining, something great might come from all of this. Please keep us posted.

    Hi Everyone,

    Insuring the “contents” of the tiny home may be a way of getting some coverage before we find the solution. When I lived in a mobile home that was not insurable because of it’s age I was able to purchase a policy for everything inside the building…furniture, appliances, dishes, electronics and clothing. It was easy to track and I has receipts/pictures (inventory) of everything.

    Even though this does not insure the building- roof, floor, or walls it would allow you to make a claim on something. If the house was stored in the barn isn’t it technically “contents” inside the barn? I think the reimbursements are in the form of a check and could be used to rebuild the structure. It would be worth the research to find out specifically how the claim process works…maybe it would work. Something is better than nothing.

    *Also if the tiny home is a “accessory dwelling” to a single family residence it might qualify for coverage like a garage or “contents” section of the single family policy.

    • Linda Ogden August 6, 2012, 10:03 am

      Where to get insurance on contents of Mobilehome? What companies? We live in a 73 mobile in a park. Can insure it for very little, and very little on contents per our insurance agent (guess insurance company feels we do not have anything worth insuring if we live in a mobilehome). We were previously able to get renters insurance for personal possessions, but when we purchased, were unable to get coverage.

  • Aaron August 2, 2012, 11:14 am

    I am currently building my own tiny dwelling.
    Fire was a major concern of mine and thus I opted to use non-combustible construction.
    I feel horribly for Kim and certainly this article raises awareness even more about safeguarding against fire either through insurance policies or building with non-combustible materials.

    I work for am architectural firm and construction is my life both professionally and as a hobby. I feel even more inspired to write a few articles on non-combustible construction methods in regards to tiny houses.

    My own tiny dwelling is 50% finished now that the structure is up. I’m sealing the windows and finishing painting this week and then moving to the interior. I started taking pictures so maybe I’ll send those over to Alex (who runs this site i think) or start a blog for it. I know friends and neighbours are certainly very interested in my latest pet project.

    In my area I couldn’t find insurance for it, but I am not concerned about fire anymore. Most materials have combustibility ratings and flame spread ratings which can be found online or in the national building codes.

  • Tom Beaudin August 2, 2012, 12:19 pm

    Kim & Tiny House Community,

    Try calling a company called RV Insurance Professionals, or visit them online at rvinsurancepro.com. I did. You can do a private, no-hassle quote request in just a few minutes online, FYI. I am searching for the very best tiny house insurance company, and the search is not over yet. I’ll post my findings here when/if I strike gold! Meantime, Kim, hang in there and be grateful you are unharmed. Life’s a journey, never forget it!

    Cheers,
    TOM B.

  • Erik M August 2, 2012, 11:19 pm

    This is … real life, right.
    The frame looks reuseable. I’m glad no one was hurt and the rebuild will make completion, all the more satisfying. Plus, there is the opportunity to change those little things that you learned the first time around.

    I just finished my tiny house and am living in for almost a full week now. I love IT. Today (Thursday) I was just talking to my insurance agent and this nationwide carrier offers RV insurance, but only if used occasionally. She gave me the name of another broker who has assured me that they have a couple of insurers that handle Tiny housers that live in full time. More info. tomorrow.

    Kim’s house looks great, and will again.

  • Roseann August 3, 2012, 10:36 am

    I’m not an expert on this matter by any stretch of the imagination, but there are several avenues tiny house builders/owners can explore.

    Accessory dwelling policy: Some house insurance policies cover a secondary building on the premise called an “accessory dwelling unit” i.e. granny flat, office hut, etc. If you’re building the house, it’s a good idea to tack this onto your current policy. If you’re living on a friends land, you could offer to pay the difference to have them add it to their own policy.

    RV policy: A couple friends of mine in Canada did this with their tiny house and it worked. Just be sure you go to the DMV and change the title to RV.

    Travel trailer policy: This one is a little fuzzy because it can either be covered through your auto insurance or through a separate policy altogether. Also, some policies only insure up to a certain amount, so you might have to pay some out-of-pocket expenses if any damage is accrued.

    Mobile home insurance: This one is a gamble because there are federal and state laws that regulate what can be deemed as a mobile home. It’s usually a matter of size and “safety” codes. However, if you can manage to classify your tiny house as mobile home, then this is a good policy to look into as the compensation for damage is usually pretty decent.

  • TR Kelley August 3, 2012, 12:13 pm

    Check with an independent insurance agent – someone who sells several lines of insurance, not just one company’s agent. There have been lots of good ideas here: RV, barn contents, accessory dwelling. If you are on the Oregon coast I recommend Abel Insurance. Pretty much anything that can be insured is insured by someone. Lets pool our resources mentally and get a list going. This shouldn’t be a hearsay/ignorance issue for our community. Personally, I practice minimalism and non-attachment and don’t believe in insurance, but then again, I live in a chicken coop. 🙂

  • MysticVegan August 4, 2012, 5:16 am

    Thank the Divine Intelligence that she wasn’t living in it at the time. The following link may be of help to all those lucky enough to be living the tiny dream:

    http://www.progressive.com/rv/rv-insurance-coverages-full-timers.aspx

  • ST February 9, 2013, 9:37 pm

    Kim- how are you doing at rebuilding?

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