Like a home, typically, your condominium is your most valuable possession, as are your often priceless personal belongings. Like standard homeowners insurance, condominium insurance can protect you from financial hardship if your condo and its contents are damaged. Additionally, condominium insurance protects from claims by others who may be injured in your condo.
Purchasing a condo insurance policy is a relatively modest investment that can help complete your overall insurance plan and provide affordable and abundant peace of mind.
What is condo insurance?
Condo insurance, or an HO-6 policy, helps cover repair costs and financial losses arising from damages to the condo or claims against the owner. Condo insurance works in conjunction with a policy purchased by the condominium complex’s management, typically called HOA insurance or a master policy.
The insurance industry refers to condo insurance as an HO-6 policy. There are several types of HOA insurance policies that provide different levels of protection for unit owners. Since HOA policies generally only cover the complex’s common elements or shared structures, you will want to purchase an HO-6 policy to provide coverage for your specific condo and the personal belongings within it.
The difference between an HO-3 and HO-6 policy?
The key difference between HO-3 and HO-6 policies is that HO-3 policies cover homes and HO-6 policies cover condominiums. As such, an HO-3 policy covers damage to the entire home, including internal and external structures of the home as well as personal belongings and owner liability.
Whereas an HO-6 policy also covers the condo from the “walls in” and personal belongings inside the condo. The exterior elements of the building, like the roof, are covered by the HOA master policy.
What does condo insurance cover?
HO-6 policies cover the same types of perils as homeowners policies, such as fire, windstorms, hail, explosions and theft. Typically, condo insurance policies include four or five types of coverage:
- Building property: This protects the interior of your condo, including damage to elements like sheetrock and flooring.
- Personal liability: Personal liability coverage helps cover damages to an injured person and legal fees if someone sues you over an incident that occurs in your condominium, including attorney fees, court costs and a court settlement.
- Personal property: This helps pay to replace personal belongings, such as furniture, clothing and electronics, if a covered peril, like a fallen tree, damages them.
- Guest medical payments: When a guest sustains an injury in your condo, guest medical payments coverage can help pay the medical bills, such as the emergency room fee, doctor bill and rehabilitation costs.
- Loss of use: When a covered loss requires you to move out of your condo temporarily, your loss of use coverage can help pay accommodation and meals costs. If included in your policy, loss of use coverage usually pays the difference between your normal expenses and relocation costs.
It is important to know whether your policy covers the actual cash value or replacement cost of the items damaged by a covered peril. Typically a condo policy provides coverage for the replacement cost of damaged items and the cost to repair damaged interior structure elements or offers the option to acquire this level of protection. Replacement cost coverage is the broader protection as it pays the entire amount necessary to replace items. On the other hand, actual cash value only pays the depreciated value since the original purchase.
Inclusions and exclusions
While most condo insurance policies include the coverage listed above, there are typically specific exclusions from standard coverage. Although separate policies and riders can often be purchased to offer the necessary coverage, standard condo insurance policies typically exclude:
- Earthquake and flood insurance
- Outdated systems or equipment that need to be brought up to code
- Damage from leaks or sewer backup
To provide the most protection, you may want to consider these additional coverage options:
- Unit assessment coverage – If the HOA charges an additional assessment to condo owners to pay for a covered loss, this add-on can cover a condo owner’s share of the assessment.
- Umbrella policy – This coverage can increase your overall limit of liability protection.
- Additional coverage for itemized expensive items such as jewelry, furs, art, fine wine or collectibles. This is often referred to as a “floater”.
HOA insurance vs. condo insurance
HOA insurance includes two types of coverages, liability and property. The liability coverage of a master policy can help pay medical costs and legal expenses if someone sustains an injury in a common area, like a clubhouse, lobby or swimming pool, but does not cover injuries sustained by guests within the walls of your condominium.
Condo management can choose between three types of property coverage:
- All-in: All-in coverage provides the most protection for unit owners, as it covers the condo’s structure and any shared property. Additionally, it typically covers improvements you have made to your condo, like custom tile and wall coverings.
- Bare walls: This type of coverage provides the least protection for unit owners, as it only covers common areas and the building structure and its systems, like electrical wiring and plumbing. Your condo’s interior is not included.
- Single entity: Single entity coverage provides slightly more protection than a bare walls policy. It covers the building structure and systems, along with built-in features within units, like kitchen cabinets and recessed bookcases.
Before purchasing an HO-6 condo policy, it helps to know how much coverage the HOA policy already provides. If your complex carries an all-in policy, you may not need to carry much dwelling coverage. However, HOA policy exclusions are also important. For example, a master policy may cover the interior structure of your condo, but exclude non-standard fixtures that you add, like expensive imported tile or a custom stained-glass window.
Even similar losses are likely to result in different coverages. Here are a few examples of how HOA and HO-6 policies cover losses:
|Guest injury||What’s covered: Medical expenses
For: Injuries that take place in a common area, like the building elevator
|What’s covered: Medical expenses
For: Injuries that take place within the condo, like a kitchen
|Break-in and burglary||What’s covered: Repair and replacement costs
For: A building structure, like a door, was damaged
|What’s covered: Repair and replacement costs
For: Personal property, like jewelry, was stolen from within your unit
|Building fire||What’s covered: Replacement costs
For: Structural losses to building
|What’s covered: Replacement costs, loss of use
For: Damage to your personal belongings and temporary living expenses resulting from being displaced
Who needs condo insurance?
Anyone who owns a condominium or townhouse may want to consider purchasing a condo policy, and if you have a mortgage on the property, the lender usually requires it. The coverage you purchase is important, and most standard condo policies include $100,000 to $300,000 in personal liability, which you can usually increase to fit your needs. If you think you need more liability protection than a standard policy can provide, you could purchase an umbrella policy, which kicks in after you reach the liability limit of your condo insurance policy.
Most insurance companies will help you determine the dwelling coverage amount you need, based on the square footage of the condo and finishes to rooms like the kitchen and bathrooms. If you want to get a ballpark idea about the coverage level you need, research the cost of construction in your area to calculate roughly how much it would cost to completely rebuild your condo, including materials, fixtures and labor. Condo owners covered by an all-in master policy may only need enough dwelling coverage to pay for losses the HOA policy excludes.
The replacement cost of your personal items should be considered as well. Standard policies usually provide actual cash value personal property coverage, which only pays the depreciated value for your belongings. But most condo insurance carriers also offer optional replacement cost coverage, which could replace your belongings at current market prices.
The best condo insurance
When shopping for condo insurance, you may want to consider providers that offer building property, loss of use, medical payments, personal liability and personal property coverages in their standard policies. Since cost is an important factor for many condominium owners, good discount programs may cause certain providers to stand out. To maximize your protection, also consider looking for insurers that offer optional coverages for your specific needs. All our top condo insurance picks ranked among the top 10 in the 2020 J.D. Power Home Insurance Study.
Amica ranked second in customer satisfaction for home insurers with 853 out of 1,000 points. In addition to standard coverages, Amica offers coverage for debris removal, which is often needed after a covered loss, like a fire. There are also optional coverages for your electronics, identity fraud that impacts your credit card and extended coverage for expensive items like jewelry, fine art and furs.
Erie’s standard condo policies cover all the bases, and have options for debris removal coverage and lock replacement coverage, which pays to rekey or replace locks after a burglary. Following a covered loss, your Erie policy could also pay for temporary repairs needed to prevent further damage. Erie policies also have a unique feature that pays the cost of emergency first aid rendered to people or pets.
State Farm’s standard condo policies provide all the basic coverages that many folks need, but it also provides an impressive selection of optional coverages. Counterfeit money and forgery expense protection pays up to $1,000 if a thief makes a fraudulent transfer from your account or if you unwittingly receive a counterfeit bill. In the event of equipment failure or a power outage, refrigerated products coverage can help pay to replace spoiled food in your refrigerator or freezer.
You can also add a rider to your State Farm condo insurance to help pay for damage to plants, shrubs and trees destroyed in your condo by a covered loss.
How much does condo insurance cost?
Although costs vary significantly according to state and local factors, the average annual cost of condo insurance in the United States in 2018 was $506, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Condo insurance providers set rates based on several factors, including:
- Age and type of construction
- Coverage types and amounts
- Deductible level
- Policyholder’s age
- Policyholder’s credit history
- Policyholder’s marital status
- Proximity to a fire station and fire hydrant
Other factors, like whether you have a hot tub, could also increase your rates due to higher liability risks. Insurers usually charge higher rates for condos located in areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires.
How can I save on condo insurance?
Requesting quotes from several financially strong insurers could help you find the best coverage for your budget and needs. As part of this process be sure to ask about potential savings strategies such as:
- Available discounts – Many discounts vary from insurer to insurer based on age, loyalty to a current carrier and bundling your condo insurance with auto coverage.
- Increasing the amount of your deductible.
- Investing in safety, home security, and disaster-resistant improvements to your condo.
Frequently asked questions
Will condo insurance pay for structural damage to my condo?
It depends. The building property coverage of a condo policy will pay for structural losses to the interior of your unit, and the complex’s master policy should cover any exterior wall damage.
Is condo insurance required?
Unlike car insurance, state laws do not require condo insurance, but other institutions may. If you have a mortgage on your condo, nearly all lenders will require that you have condo insurance. Your HOA may also impose certain insurance requirements and, most importantly, for the relatively modest cost of annual coverage it is almost always the wise choice to be protected with insurance.
If I fall and sustain an injury in my condominium, will my condo policy cover my medical expenses?
Whereas medical payments coverage is typically included to cover potential medical expenses of guests injured in your condo, standard condo policies will not pay your medical bills if you sustain an injury at home.
If my building has an all-in HOA policy, do I need condo insurance?
Since HOA policies only protect the condo’s primary and shared structures, you may want to consider buying a condo insurance policy to protect your personal property and obtain coverage for loss of use and guest liability. It could also help protect home improvements made to your unit.