The Complexities of Filing a Condo Insurance Claim
As a condo owner, protecting your personal property and investment in your unit with insurance is more complicated than someone who owns a house because your unit is a mix of materials and structures owned by you and by the condo association. Before we break down how to make different types of insurance claims as a condo owner, here’s a brief refresher on condo insurance coverage and how it works.
There are two insurance policies that cover your investment in your unit, including your personal belongings: the master policy and your own personal insurance.
The master policy is held and managed by the condo association, condo company, or homeowners association (HOA). This master policy is typically responsible for insuring the residential structure as a whole against damage and covering injury sustained in shared or common areas. Beyond these basics, there are two kinds of master policies as they pertain to coverage of individual units: All In and Bare Walls.
An “All In” or “Walls In” policy covers the original structure, walls, floors, ceilings, and fixtures as they were delivered when the building was originally built—it does not cover alterations, improvements, appliances, or fixtures added by you or any previous owner.
A “Bare Walls” policy is less inclusive and only covers the uncovered drywall and subfloor. That means costs to repair or replace wall paint, wallpaper, carpeting, fixtures, cabinets, toilets, and countertops aren’t covered, even if they’re original to the condo.
Although damage to shared areas is covered by the condo’s master policy, there can be special assessments within the policy that could make you liable for part of the medical costs incurred by an injured guest in a common area or a claim arising from injuries in common areas.
As you can see, even with the more inclusive All In policy, you would still want an additional personal policy! Your own policy would cover personal property against theft, vandalism, and damage from fire and smoke; personal and umbrella liability; repair of any improvements or changes to the condo; and loss assessment.
Loss assessment is important because it protects you from unexpected expenses you might have to pay as a result of damages related to the building your condo is in, including if you must live elsewhere, like a hotel, while repairs are conducted. It also protects you in case damage covered under the HOA’s master policy exceeds their policy limit. If this happens, and you don’t have a loss assessment under your personal policy, you might be forced to pay out of pocket to make up the difference between the cost and the HOA’s policy limit.
If you need to file a claim as a condo owner
Sometimes, it may be hard to determine which policy should cover damages to your living space, but here are some basic rules that can give you an idea of how to proceed with a claim.
If you have a claim that involves your unit and the building it’s in, you’ll need to rely on and work with both the building master policy and your personal policy. If you believe another unit owner was negligent and responsible for the damage, you may also need to involve their insurance company. From there, the insurers will need to determine each party’s loss and who is responsible. As you might have already guessed, this is a multi-step claims process.
Here’s a basic format of how a claim might proceed:
- Note the time and date of the incident or when you discovered the damage.
- Document damage with photographs and video.
- Make a detailed list of property that was damaged or stolen, as well as each item’s estimated value.
- Contact your HOA if the damages are wholly or partially covered by their master policy.
- Contact your insurance agent to file a claim.
- If repairs need to be made, be sure to get several estimates from different contractors. Check to see if your insurance agent recommends any contractors as this may offer an additional work guarantee or at least cut down on paperwork.
- When the claims adjuster arrives to assess the damage—or multiple adjusters if the master policy’s insurance company is involved—ask a contractor to be present. This can help keep all parties honest.
- Depending on your policy coverage and the type of loss, you may be given a check right away to cover the cost of repairs or property replacement, or the insurance company may reimburse you after you have work done by a qualified contractor.
How to prepare so any future claims go smoothly
Now that you know any future insurance claim you make regarding your condo could involve up to three insurance companies and a stack of paperwork, here’s what you can do to help shorten and ease that process, should it ever happen to you.
- Create and maintain a detailed list of all personal belongings as well as their values. Keep receipts for expensive purchases and condo upgrades. Have items you’ve inherited appraised so you know what they’re worth.
- Take photos and video of your belongings and the condition of your condo. Update this regularly. Having this kind of documentation will help you be properly reimbursed should a fire or flood damage your living space.
- Keep important papers and personal inventory documents in a safe deposit box or fire-proof safe. Or, scan all documents and keep them in cloud-based storage so you can access them anytime, anywhere, even if your home computer, laptop, tablet, and/or phone are destroyed.