Property damage loss evaluation in Condominium units is especially complex as there is an interplay between two different policies.
The first policy is the master policy that protects the Association as a whole. It will have several coverage parts with one part being for structures. What structure or part thereof that the Association actually “owns” should be clearly written in the Bylaws. Any damage to areas from a covered loss the Association owns should be pursued with the Association’s property insurance carrier. Now the problem often is that, 1) management companies don’t know their own Bylaws; 2) these policies often have high deductibles.
The second policy is the unit owners policy. This policy almost always provides coverage for personal property (contents) and some liability coverage. However, Leslie Geary warns us…
as posted at money.cnn.com
By Leslie Haggin Geary, CNN/Money Staff Writer
June 12, 2003
Many renters and condo or co-op residents mistakenly believe they’re covered by someone else. Renters insurance covers only your possessions, so it’s relatively inexpensive-a…. In a condominium or co-op, master policies cover the structure, including your bare walls, floors and ceilings. But often you must insure anything on those surfaces, from rugs to chandeliers-even drywall and wallpaper.”
During the big freeze of winter 2014 and now again in 2015 here in the Mid-Atlantic states I can’t share the number of people that called about condo coverage issues. It seemed to me that a good portion of the Condo management personal are quite unaware of the provisions of the Bylaws and where master policy coverage should be applied. This created problems for unit owners ranging from having to repair damage that clearly should have been covered by master policies to fighting the management company to have them advise the Board of the loss. Although though Condo Boards have been found liable for a “breach of duty” for failing to properly investigate losses, even in this day it occasionally happens.
Chip Merlin, founder of the Merlin Law Group, has some suggestions for all unit owners…
A Few (four, and there are more) Suggestions From One In the Muck of 2009 Insurance Claims and Controversies
... you should listen to the following suggestions.
First, INSURE TO REPLACEMENT COST. Please call your agent. Have enough insurance. Many of our cases come about because this has not happened.
Second, INSURE TO THE RIGHT AND FULL AMOUNT OF COVERAGE WHICH HAS TO INCLUDE REPLACEMENT COST AND CODE UPGRADE COVERAGE.
Third, HIRE AN ATTORNEY OR A PUBLIC ADJUSTER. If your insurance company has not paid fully and promptly, an EXPERIENCED attorney in this field can help you more than anybody–including public adjusters, who cannot press your state’s consumer protection statutes or argue case law for you.
Fourth, STATUTORY NOTICES FOR EXTRA-CONTRACTUAL DAMAGES. Most states allow and provide extra remedies for filing such notices and may even prompt insurance investigations on claims similar to yours. File the notice. There is no downside to doing so if the insurer is not acting fairly and there is a legitimate reason for the damages.
These four tips might help keep you out of the insurance dispute muck..
We also found this post on Bankrate.com that lays it out for Condo owners who want to be properly insured
The condo insurance every unit owner needsDear Insurance Adviser,
I own a condominium, and I am finding it very hard to get clear answers about the amount and kind of insurance I need. The confusion comes in interpreting the condo documents and the master condo insurance policy for the complex. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s already covered. No one, not even the insurance company that writes our master policy, can give me a clear answer that I can feel comfortable with.
Can you help?
Your frustration is understandable. A unit owner’s condo insurance policy, often referred to as an “HO-6,” is flat out the most difficult personal policy in the market to set up correctly. Your policy must not only pick up coverage for your belongings and personal liability but also protect the interior structural parts of your unit not covered by the association master policy.
But you won’t find that information in the master policy. Rather, you will find it on a page in the condo association documents, usually called the declaration. It will define what the association is required to insure and what you, as a unit owner, are required to insure.
Here are five tips for correctly setting up a unit owner’s policy.
- Determine from the association documents — usually the declaration — exactly what part of the structural interior of your unit you are required to insure. It’s most common for the owner to have to insure everything beyond the bare walls and bare floor. If the documents aren’t clear, assume you are responsible for everything structural inside your unit. (That would include carpeting, hardwood flooring, any floor and wall tile, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets, countertops, built-in appliances, lighting fixtures, etc.)
- Make a list of the structural items you must insure, and then estimate the labor and materials cost to replace each. Total up the values, and add a 20 percent cushion. That adjusted total is the amount of structural coverage to buy, often $100,000 or more.
- Broaden the kinds of loss that would be covered on both the building and contents from “perils” to “special perils,” so that the policy covers all losses (including, for example, water and mud damage from roof leaks) that aren’t specifically excluded.
- Buy at least $50,000 worth of “loss assessment coverage” to cover assessments made by the association for coverage shortfalls in the master policy.
- Find out what the master policy deductible is (possibly $10,000), and buy deductible assessment coverage for that amount. Many associations make individual unit owners responsible for the entire master policy deductible if the loss is confined to their unit (for example, if a pipe breaks in a unit and floods that apartment).
Work with an agent with expertise in personal insurance who can help you design the condo insurance policy specs and address other coverage needs, such as for sewer backup coverage, earthquake, flood, etc.
I hope this gives you some peace of mind. Good luck.