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What does condo insurance cover?

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When you buy a condo, the actual ownership breakdown is a little more complex than with buying a house. Because of this, condo insurance is understandably more complex as well. Similar to renting, when you buy a condo, your homeowners association (HOA) carries insurance to protect the land, common areas and the exterior structure of your condo. It is your responsibility to get insurance that picks up where the HOA’s policy — also called a master policy — leaves off. 

So what does condominium insurance cover? Let’s take a look.

What does condo insurance cover?

In a lot of ways, a condo insurance policy works just like a homeowners insurance policy. However, there’s one area where things can get a little complicated which we’ll examine first.

Dwelling coverage

When you buy condo insurance, it’s important that you obtain a policy with coverage that lines up with the extent of the master policy. In order to do that, it’s first helpful to understand the different types of master policies:

  • Bare walls coverage: This type of policy covers exactly what it describes — the bare walls of your condominium. Your HOA’s policy stops at your walls, so this part of your coverage protects the interior structural elements of your condo. The HOA master policy includes this coverage to protect any walls, built-in shelving, or other elements of your walls that are a part of the basic structure.
  • Single entity coverage: This broader coverage extends to fixtures and shared community features in your unit. This aspect of the master HOA policy doesn’t cover any improvements or upgrades you make in your condo, though.
  • All-in coverage: This master policy type covers everything single entity coverage does, plus any improvements you make. 

Once you figure out what type of master policy your HOA has, you need dwelling insurance to protect whatever your master policy doesn’t cover. For example, if your HOA carries single entity coverage, you’ll want to consider getting dwelling insurance that covers any improvements you make for your condo. 

Loss assessment

Because your HOA covers common grounds and the structure of your condo, you have to rely on their coverage. But your HOA might obtain funds from you to pay for issues in those areas. They can issue a special assessment, requiring you to contribute a sum of money to pay for repairs needed in shared spaces. For example, they might ask you to pay toward repairing a broken elevator or leaking roof. 

In these cases, the loss assessment coverage portion of your condo insurance policy can help with compensation. 

Other structures

If you have a shed or a garage that only you use at your condo, you can add your own protection for it. Your master policy only protects shared common spaces.

Personal belongings

This is the portion of your condo insurance policy that protects your personal property. Essentially, it insures anything you store in your condo such as your clothes, electronics, kitchen wares, etc. Most condo insurance policies place coverage limits on high-value personal property items (like art and jewelry), so review your policy to make sure you have enough protection for the things that matter most to you. 

Personal liability coverage

If someone gets accidentally injured at your condo, or their belongings sustain damage, this portion of your policy provides coverage. It is helpful in the event that an individual decides to sue you, covering the cost (up to your policy limits) of legal fees and, when applicable, the settlement. 

Medical payments

If a guest gets injured at your condo, this portion of your policy can help with the resulting medical bills. In most cases, medical payments coverage can step in even if you weren’t at-fault in the injury.

Additional living expenses

If you get displaced from your condo because of a peril covered by your policy (for example, a fire), this portion of your policy helps pay for any expenses you incur above your usual cost of living. This can include the cost of a hotel stay, eating at restaurants, a further commute to work and more. 

What does condo insurance not cover?

Shared grounds and exterior structure

Shared property, community facilities, and the actual structure of your condo are covered by your HOA’s master policy. Because of this, shared grounds and exterior structures are not offered as additional coverages for your condo insurance.

Floods or earthquakes

Like homeowners insurance, most condo insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for two natural disasters: floods and earthquakes. These are typically purchased separately by the HOA as an addition to their master policy.

Remember the basics

Your HOA’s master policy insures shared spaces and the exterior structure of your condo. You need your own policy to cover:

  • Any dwelling components of your condo (e.g., appliances, flooring, improvements) not covered by the master policy
  • Your personal property
  • Your liability
  • Guests’ medical expenses
  • Additional living expenses you incur if you’re displaced by a covered peril
  • Loss due to an assessment issued by your HOA

Can you add on to your condo insurance coverage?

Just like a homeowners insurance policy, you can customize your condo insurance coverage to best meet your specific needs. You can add optional coverages or purchase supplemental policies to better protect yourself and the things that matter most to you. 

Optional condo insurance coverage

Here are some of the optional coverages you can choose to add to your condo policy to build more robust protection for yourself:

  • Loss assessment: Although this coverage is optional, it is a popular addition to condo insurance as it provides a more comprehensive level of coverage. 
  • Endorsements: If your policy limits reimbursements on certain personal property limits, you can add an endorsement — also called a rider — to your policy to specifically name and fully cover any exposed high-value items. 

Here are some separate policies you may also want to consider:

  • Flood insurance: If you live in an area with flood risk, consider buying a separate flood insurance policy if your HOA has not already acquired this separately. Your condo policy likely excludes flood coverage, leaving you exposed to water damage and subsequent costs for repairs. 
  • Earthquake insurance: Similarly, if you’re concerned about earthquakes, select a separate earthquake insurance policy to protect your condo and your belongings. 
  • Umbrella insurance: While your condo policy does offer some personal liability coverage, your insurer sets a limit on how much they’ll pay out if you face a lawsuit. Buying an umbrella policy offers you significantly more liability coverage, which can be important if you live in a particularly litigious neighborhood or have a lot of assets you want to protect. 

Risks covered by condo insurance

Generally, condo insurance protects against the same named perils as homeowners and renters insurance. Review your policy for the specific risks against which it protects you. These often include:

  • Fire and smoke
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Lighting
  • Windstorms
  • Hail
  • Civil commotion
  • A vehicle or aircraft colliding with your condo
  • Explosions

The takeaway: your condo policy should cover what is excluded in your HOA’s master policy

What does condominium insurance cover? In short, your condo policy includes coverage for the things excluded in the Homeowner’s Association’s master policy. To determine the right coverage for your condo:

  • Take the time to understand how much protection your master policy offers, whether it’s bare walls, single entity or all-in coverage
  • Get dwelling insurance to protect anything that isn’t insured by your master policy, like appliances or improvements you make to your condo.
  • Consider additional coverages — like loss assessment coverage or an endorsement for your high-value personal property — to get more comprehensive protection from your policy

Review your master policy and your own condo insurance options to be sure you’re not exposed to any risks. Consider optional add-on coverages to compensate for gaps.

Kacie Goff

Kacie Goff is an insurance writer for Coverage.com. She loves taking complex concepts and distilling them down to make it easier for people to understand their coverage options. Over the last five years, she’s written about personal and commercial coverage for Bankrate, Freshome, The Simple Dollar, local insurance providers and more.

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