There are some great benefits living in a condo, such as the convenience of amenities, less maintenance work, sense of community, and my personal favorite, no yard work! Many people also choose a condo for closer proximity to city life and the simplicity of turn-key living.
If you are buying a condo for the first time, you may be surprised that your home owner association (HOA) dues already include insurance premium.
But did you know? Most condo association insurance policies only cover the structure of the building and shared public spaces, and do not extend coverage into your individual unit.
Do I need my own personal condo insurance?
In many cases, to cover your own personal items and insure the structures inside of your unit, the answer is yes.
A condo insurance policy, also commonly known as HO6 insurance, is the property and liability insurance that supplements the condo association insurance and focuses solely to protect you, the unit owner.
Water damage scenario
Your upstairs neighbors went on vacation and the water pipes connected to their washer had burst. Water flooded their unit, the public hallway areas, and your unit right below it.
In this scenario, your condo association insurance will only cover the repair to the public hallway areas, and you will need to make a claim with your personal condo insurance to cover the damages to your unit.
What is a condo association (master) insurance and what does it cover?
Condo association insurance, or more commonly known as condo master insurance, is the policy that your condo association has in place to cover the building, all of the common areas, and other shared spaces.
Most condo master insurance policies break down into two types:
This policy provides coverage for the building structures such as roofing, framing, and insulation. It also insures common areas such as walkways, parking lots, gym, and other shared spaces. This is one of the more common types of condo master insurance.
This policy extends the coverage of bare walls-in policy to include individual unit fixtures and built-in appliances. Common examples of kitchen cabinets, countertops, dishwasher, etc., are included as part of the coverage.
There is also a much less common type of condo master policy that does not include coverage for structure of the building. This type of master insurance only includes coverage for the common areas such as walkways, parking lots, and other shared spaces.
If you found out that your condo association carries this type of master policy, you would actually need to talk to your insurance agent about getting a homeowners policy to cover the entire structure of your home.
What does personal condo insurance cover?
There are six main coverages:
Unit interior coverage encompasses the flooring, electrical fixtures, built-in cabinets, appliances, and any part of your unit that is attached to the wall. This coverage along with the condo master insurance will essentially cover everything you see that first day before you moved in.
Exactly like its name, personal property coverage provides financial protection for all of your personal belongings. Here is a list of the most common examples:
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Note: High value personal items such as jewelry, guns, cash, and business properties have coverage limits and may require additional endorsement to be adequately insured for their value.
Learn more about personal property coverage.
Personal liability coverage protects you, the homeowner, in the event of an accident inside or outside of your home. The coverage provides financial protection for:
- Lawsuits relating to the accident
- Injury to the individual(s)
- Property damage as result of the accident
This coverage even extends to your pets and will cover costs of injuries or damages caused by your pets including dog bites.
Learn more about personal liability coverage.
Medical Payment for Your Guests
Simply known as "Med Pay," this coverage is designed specifically to cover the cost of medical expenses for any injuries your guests sustained while they are visiting your home.
Med pay offers some distinctive benefits that are different than other types of liability insurance:
- There is no deductible.
- Does not require determination of responsibility.
- Will make payout right away.
Learn more about medical payment coverage.
Additional Living Expense
Also known as loss of use coverage, this coverage can help you and your family with temporary housing costs and extra meal expenses in a covered claim.
Here is a list of the most common applications for this coverage:
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The amount of coverage is typically between 20% to 30% of your homeowners dwelling coverage, and most insurance companies do not have deductible for this coverage.
Learn more about additional living expense coverage.
Loss assessment coverage most commonly applies to situations where the damages to public space within your condo community are not covered by the condo master policy or if the coverage has been exhausted.
This coverage will pay for the rebuild or repair costs that are assessed to you as an individual unit condo owner.
What are the factors that determine condo insurance premium?
Location of Your Home
Zip code - Insurance companies use data from various sources including their own claims record history to evaluate risk levels for each zip code. Areas with consistently higher number of claims are more likely to have higher insurance premium.
Wildfire zone - If your home is located in an area prone to wildfires, your insurance premium may increase to reflect that level of exposure.
Fire protection - Your home’s access and proximity to nearby fire stations will also have an impact to your homeowners insurance premium. Being closer to a fully staffed and adequately equipped fire station allows a higher chance of mitigating further damages to your home in case of fire, and it also lowers the potential cost to repair or even rebuild your home.
Coverages - Depending on your choice of coverage limits on your dwelling, other structures, and other available coverage options such as liability coverage, your insurance premium will adjust accordingly. The higher the coverage, the higher your insurance premium will be, and vice-versa.
Deductibles - The amount you choose as your deductible, which is your out-of-pocket expense after a claim, will reflect in the cost of your premium. Your insurance policy may have different deductible options for different coverages. Rule of thumb: the higher the deductible you choose, the lower your premium will be, and vice-versa.
Marital status - In general, a married couple has a lower rate than non-married individuals.
Insurance score - It is a metric that insurance companies use to assess individual insurance risk based on the consumer report of a customer and the spouse. Each insurance company uses its own formulas to evaluate a consumer report and generate an insurance score. You may request a copy of the consumer report from your insurance agent.
Credit history - Credit history is one of the metrics used by insurance companies to assess your insurance risk. However, most insurance companies do not consider credit score as a rating factor.
Claim history - Insurance companies will always evaluate your history of claim records to assess the probability of future claims. If there has been a high frequency of claims in your past, the insurance premium will likely be higher to reflect a greater chance of future claims.
Prior insurance history - The presence of prior property insurance will always result in a more favorable rating on a homeowners policy. Certain insurance companies may even require their new customers to have a minimum length of continuous prior insurance to qualify.
How is the premium of condo insurance compared to homeowners insurance?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2016, the average premium for homeowners insurance was $1,192, whereas the average premium for condo insurance was significantly lower at $471:
The major difference in premium is in the coverage for the building structure versus the building interior structures.
Under a homeowners policy, the dwelling coverage covers the entire structure of the home including any interior structures attached to the wall. In comparison, under a condo policy, only the interior structures are covered, and the structure of the condo building is insured under the condo master policy.
In our experience, the annual premium for a condo policy in Washington State generally ranges from $300 to $500 depending on the coverage limits and endorsements selected for the policy.