What is condo insurance and what does it cover?
Despite condo insurance being in an entirely different insurance arena than homeowners or renters insurance, it still shares similar elements. Unlike a homeowners policy, your condo insurance doesn’t cover damages to the surrounding area or the exterior walls of your condo. It provides coverage interiorly - for you and your personal belongings within the unit. Coverage for the exterior of your condo, and surrounding areas, is built into what is referred to as a master policy or a HOA policy; which is owned and maintained by the owner of the condominium complex. Together, your condo policy and your condo association master policy work together to protect you and your assets.
A further look into your condo policy
Typically, homeowners policies is broken down into HO-2, HO-3, and HO-5 policy types. The distinctions within these policies refer to what they will and will not cover. If you own a condo, your condo insurance fits into a modified HO-2 policy known as a HO-6. This policy is what the insurance world refers to as a "named-peril policy," meaning all risks that will be covered are named within the policy contract. Let’s explore further.
Within the physical damage portion of your condo insurance contract, there are some caveats that are dependent on the HOA master policy plan. If your master plan has an “all-in” option, it will usually cover original items built into your unit such as appliances, lighting fixtures, wiring, and plumbing. However, if your HOA uses a “bare walls” policy, you will need to make sure your condo insurance policy covers everything within your actual unit.
A condo policy covers damages resulting from:
- Fire and smoke damage
- Wind and hail
- Theft or malicious theft
- Riots, civil commotion
- Vehicles not owned or operated by a resident
- Burst Pipe
But will typically not cover:
- Intentional damages
- Nuclear hazards
- Regular wear and tear
Regardless of whether you have an “all-in” or “bare walls” type of HOA policy, you have to get a condo insurance policy in order for your personal property to be covered. Your personal belongings cover things like your computer, TV, and furniture. As is the case with a homeowners or renters personal property coverage, this coverage follows you around the world.
Your liability coverage provides protection in the event a claim is brought against you or a resident of your condo due to bodily injury or property damage. This includes settlement, defense, and court costs. Excluding your monetary limit and deviations within insurance companies, your liability coverage mirrors that of a homeowners or renters.
Loss of Use
In the event your condo is unlivable, loss of use coverage provides a monetary compensation for you to live elsewhere temporarily. The amount of compensation and duration of it is dependent on the coverage you set personally with your insurance company.
This coverage is unique to condo owners and works to help cover the master policy if their limits are exceeded by a claim. For example, if a fire causes multiple units to be damaged and the amount of the damage exceeds the coverage limit set in the master policy, your loss assessment steps up to assist in paying a portion of the fire damages.
Medical Payments to Others
This payment pays for medical coverage in the event someone injures themselves while on your property or injured by your activities. Unlike your liability coverage, this excludes anyone who is a resident of your condo. Hence, the medical payments “to others” aspect.
Additional Coverage Options
There are plenty of opportunities to insure your property through additional coverage options. Here are a few of the common ones:
Endorsements and Floaters
Something you may want to consider are what insurance companies refer to as “floaters,” “riders” or “endorsements.” Essentially, an endorsement is an additional coverage for a high-priced category of an item that exceeds the normal limits on your policy. For example, someone on your condo policy owns a very expensive ring that is valued at $15,000. Because most insurance companies cap their coverage for jewelry well below $15,000, you would need an endorsement or floater to make sure your jewelry is properly covered. While it varies by company, floaters extend to other items as well as jewelry—such as works of art, musical equipment, and even guns.
Scheduled Floater or Scheduled Endorsement
Continuing with the theme of an endorsement, a scheduled endorsement or floater is for one specific item that is of high value - rather than the above described unscheduled endorsement which is specific of a category of item. Within this type of coverage, you must take the item (jewelry, fine art, piece of equipment) to get appraised. Once appraised, your insurance company will determine a premium based on the appraisal.
Unlike car insurance, the damages resulting from floods are not covered in a condo policy or a master policy either. Typically, flood insurance is provided by FEMA, which is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Depending on your location, your mortgage company may require you to purchase flood insurance.
Identity Theft Coverage
Although a basic condo owners policy doesn’t offer any coverage nor would your HOA policy against identity theft, most companies offer an endorsement to make sure you are financially protected. While it varies per company, coverage ranges from $15,000 to $30,000 per occurrence and typically cost between $25 to $65 per year.
Coverage for Your Trees, Shrubs, and Other Plants
If your plants, trees, or shrubs suffer damage caused by a covered peril (see list in physical damage section), you can be covered up to 5% of your personal property limit and usually accompanied by a dollar limit for any one item. You should look into your HOA policy to see if they provide coverage for your plants prior to getting this coverage, however.
This coverage applies to the removal of debris from your property after a covered loss. Like the case with coverage for your trees, shrubs, and other plants, check with your master policy within your condo complex to see if they will cover this before you add it to your policy.
In the event of power loss or machine failure, this seemingly random coverage will reimburse you for the contents of your fridge. Like we said, there are plenty of coverage options to chose from when shopping around for condo insurance.
If you’re shopping for condo insurance or even if you already have it, you should consider some simple steps to make sure you’re both properly covered and not overpaying.
- Make an inventory of all your items:
By going through all your belongings, both big and small, you can adequately determine how much coverage you need. Plus, in the event of a claim, you can quickly determine what is missing.
- Double and triple check what your HOA master policy will cover
Because a condo policy has the additive of a master policy, you should thoroughly check it to make sure you are not under-insured or over-insured with your coverage. If you assume your master policy covers something it doesn't, you risk not being insured. Furthermore, you could save yourself some premium by reducing your personal coverage because your HOA already covers something.
- Update your policy with expensive purchases:
Pay attention to coverage limits for specific items. If you purchase a new jewelry item that exceeds your policy’s limit, you risk not having sufficient coverage. Consider additional endorsements and floaters with any newly purchased valuable item.
- Double check your policy for any potential discounts
While discounts vary per insurance company, typical condo policy discounts are multi-policy (condo and auto), claims free, non-smoker, and security discounts. Look closely within your policy to see if you or your condo qualifies for any possible discounts.
- Maintain your condo
Insurance companies see things like mold and general disrepair as liabilities and will charge you accordingly for them. It is important to maintain the structural integrity of your condo to ensure your premiums don’t climb unnecessarily.
Here are some of the top rated companies for condo insurance: