Owning a condominium is a cross between being a homeowner and being a renter. The unit you purchased belongs to you, but you are still subject to the by-laws of the association that runs the entire complex. That puts you smack dab in the middle when it comes to insurance coverage.
Generally speaking, the condo association will have a master insurance policy that covers general liability for the physical structure and physical damage to the common areas that you share with all of the other unit owners. Keep in mind that while you are covered under the master policy, it is only for these specific instances. It is important that you determine which structural parts of your condo are covered by the association’s master policy and which are not.
You also need your own coverage to protect you in the event you lose your possessions. You may also want to obtain coverage for third party injury liability within your unit, property damage to another unit that is caused by you, the loss of structural improvements that you have made to the unit, and additional living expenses that result from having to move out of your unit temporarily.
When you purchase individual coverage, keep in mind that premiums, types of coverage, and limits are affected by factors such as your geographic region and credit score. Talk to your insurance agent about what discounts the company offers for such items as installing smoke detectors and dead bolt locks, purchasing insurance for both your condo and your car with same company, and maintaining your home as a non-smoking environment. Also, if you want to lower your annual premium, you may consider raising your deductible; however, if you choose a higher deductible, you will pay for smaller claims out-of-pocket. Handling smaller claims yourself is a good practice under any circumstances because too many small claims can raise your rates significantly.
Make sure your personal policy includes liability coverage even though you are covered under the general liability coverage in the master policy. You need liability coverage to protect yourself in the event of accidents to guests that occur within the confines of your dwelling. You could also be liable if an action of yours inadvertently causes damage to the physical structure or to common areas. The condo association may have insurance coverage, but if you were negligent, they can and will seek redress from you.
When you are reviewing the actual coverage, keep in mind two important considerations. When given the option of replacement coverage or actual cash value coverage, choose the former. Cash value is cheaper, but you will pay for that savings down the road if something happens to your possessions. Actual cash value policies reimburse you for what you paid for the items, minus depreciation. With replacement insurance, you are reimbursed for what it will cost to replace your possessions at today’s market value.
The second consideration is coverage for loss of use. This reimburses you for the expense of a hotel room or other temporary accommodation if you’re temporarily forced out of your home. Loss of use coverage is usually limited to 20% of the personal property limits on your policy.