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Guide to Insuring a Florida Condo

A GUIDE TO INSURING YOUR FLORIDA CONDOMINIUM

 

Your condominium declarations and bylaws, along with certain Florida Statutes, set forth the responsibilities and risks assumes by the association, and those assumed by the individual unit owners.  Because there is no standardization of declarations and bylaws, there is no standard insurance product to fit all needs.  Instead, there are basic products with available options which permit the condominium unit owner, in consultation with their insurance agent, to adequately cover against risks of loss.

This information will help Florida condominium unit owners recognize hazards, and be aware of the kinds of insurance to consider.  This information is a general guide only and specific questions should be resolved by the terms of the specific policy contract.  Our agency will be happy to discuss your policy contract provisions with you at any time.

The Florida condominium Unit Owner's Policy is a variation of the homeowners 'package' protection utilized by most dwelling residence owners.  It provides protection against a wide range of hazards for personal property both at and away from the condominium unit, for building additions and alterations to the unit, and for liability protection against injuries or damage to others arising from the unit itself or personal activities away from the unit.  There is also a wide range of options available to expand these coverage's.

1.       COVERAGE FOR PERSONAL PROPERTY -

The condominium unit owners policy covers personal property (clothing, furniture, other property which is not 'additions and alterations') against many perils, including fire, windstorm, vandalism and theft anywhere in the world.  It is the unit owner's responsibility to establish the desired amount of coverage.  This amount may be based upon replacement value or actual cash value (the latter being replacement cost less allowance for depreciation).  For this purpose, it is recommended that a household inventory be prepared.  This will not only establish an appropriate amount of insurance, but also will assist materially in making any claim in the event of a serious loss.

The most common deductible applicable to each property loss is $500.  Higher deductibles may be selected.

Special limits apply to certain types of property such as money, securities,  jewelry, furs, silverware, boating equipment and guns.  The special amount vary in some company policy forms from $200 to $2,500 or more.  Often these limits can be increased, or the unit owner may desire 'all-risk floater' coverage on certain types of valuable property such as jewelry, furs, fine arts, boats, silverware, guns, golfers equipment, musical instruments, photographic equipment, stamp or coin collections, or other 'special' property.

Theft coverage in the basic unit owners policy is exclude upon rental of the unit to others.

 2.       UNIT OWNER'S ADDITIONS AND ALTERATIONS -

As distinguished from personal property, 'additions and alterations' are those types of property which comprise a permanent attachment to the unit, for example:  floor coverings, wall coverings, built-in cabinets and appliances, tile, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures.  This area of exposure demands the close attention of the unit owner.  Two important questions must be resolved: 

          (1)  What property is the responsibility of the unit owners, and

          (2)  What is a proper valuation of such property?

Part of the answer to the first question may be found in Section 718.111(11)(b) of the Florida Statutes which became effective October 1, 1979, and has been since modified by the Florida Legislature almost annually.

It states that insurance on condominium buildings must include 'fixtures”, installations or additions comprising that part of the building within the unfinished interior surfaces of the perimeter walls, floors and ceilings of the individual units initially installed, or replacements thereof of like kind or quality, in accordance with the original plans and specifications, or as existed at the time the unit was initially conveyed if the original plans and specifications are not available.  However, unless prior to October 1, 1986, the association is required by the declaration to provide coverage therefore, the word 'building' does not include floor coverings, wall coverings or ceiling coverings, and, as to contracts entered in to after July 1, 1992, does not include the following equipment if it is located within a unit and the unit owner is required to repair or replace such equipment:  electrical fixtures, appliances, air conditioner or heating equipment, water heaters, or built-in cabinets.', and, as to contracts entered into after January 1, 2004, does not include the following additional equipment whether located in the unit or not, for countertops, air conditioners outside the unit, if used to serve only one unit, window treatments, and water fixtures.   Unit owners are to be considered additional insured's under the policy.

It is important to note that the policy carried by the condominium association will apply only to those interior items 'initially installed, or replacements thereof of like kind or quality, in accordance with the original plans and specifications or as existed at the time the unit was initially conveyed.'  Any such interior items additionally installed by the unit owner after acquisition of the unit, or any increase in value created in upgrading the existing interior items, would have to be protected by the unit owner unless responsibility is assumed by the condominium association under its declarations and/or bylaws, and covered by the association insurance.  To avoid under or over insurance, the unit owner should clearly identify the

 property for which there is personal responsibility.  If in doubt, or in the event the condominium documents are unclear as to the particular areas of responsibility between unit owners and the association, the best recommendation would be to increase the amount of coverage the unit owner maintains for the additions and alterations.  It is also important to determine whether or not the condominium association carries a high deductible which may preclude the payment of minor damages on interior unit items under the association policy.  If so, coverage should be provided by the unit owner.

The reference to floor, wall and ceiling coverings means that the law no longer requires that these items in a unit owner's condominium be covered by a condominium association policy.  Consequently, unit owners should protect these items by increasing the amount of additions and alterations insurance on their unit owners policy.

When an association obtains or renews its property insurance policy effective after July 1, 1992, the law no longer requires that the association policy cover electrical fixtures, appliances, air conditioner or heating equipment, water heaters, or built-in cabinets which are in the unit and the unit owner is required by the association documents to repair or replace.  Again, these properties should be protected by increasing the amounts of additions and alterations insurance.

The second questions is more difficult to resolve.  The unit owners should know the cost of additions and alterations made at personal expense.  However, property installed by the builder or a previous owner may have to be evaluated with the help of the association, suppliers, contractors and others.  Establishing  an amount of insurance deemed adequate for a serious or total loss to the additions and alterations is most important because quality and quantity varies so greatly among unit owners.

The basic unit owners policy automatically provides $1,000 additional coverage on alterations and additions and covers for the same perils which apply to personal property.  However, while personal property may be covered for its actual cash value or replacement value, additions and alterations are covered for their replacement value, with no deduction for depreciation, if actually replaced (subject to the basic policy deductible).  This fact should be taken into consideration when determining the valuation of additions and alterations for insurance purposes.

The $1,000 limit on additions and alterations may be increased to any desired amount, and the perils may be broadened to 'all risk' (subject to certain exclusions).  With so many items specifically eliminated from coverage under the condominium association policy, special considerations should be given to these coverage improvements.

3.       OTHER PROPERTY -

If the condominium unit owner personally owns a separate, detached structure on the association  premises  (such  as a storage building or cabana), it may be covered under a unit owners policy for the same perils as apply to additions and alterations (as long as the structure is not rented to others nor used for business purposes).

If the condominium unit owner personally owns a part of the building which is not within the individual apartment's inner walls (an enclosed balcony, for example) it, too, may be covered for the same additions and alterations perils under a unit owners policy.

4.       LOSS OF USE -

The condominium unit owners policy covers the additional (above normal) living costs incurred during a period of time when the unit is untenable because of damage to the unit or to the building from a peril insured against.  The basic limit of coverage which is automatically included can be 10%, 20% or 40% of the limit selected to cover personal property

When the unit owner purchases the option to broaden coverage for rental of the unit to others, as described under 'Coverage on Personal Property,' that option also provides for application of the Additional Living Expense coverage to loss of rents which would have been realized during the period of untenability.

 

5.       PERSONAL LIABILITY AND MEDICAL PAYMENTS -

The condominium unit owners policy includes protection against claims for bodily injuries and damage to property of others arising from within the unit, or personal activities away from the unit.  In addition, and without regard to whether or not the unit owner is legally liable, the policy pays for medical or related bills incurred by a member of the public accidentally injured in the unit or arising from personal activities or the unit owners.

A wide range of limits is available for these coverage's.  While not available under the homeowners policy, many persons buy a separate 'personal umbrella policy' to provide protection against a catastrophic judgment.  For example, a limit of $300,000 per occurrence might be selected for the condominium unit owners policy, with a personal umbrella policy increasing the protection to $1,000,000 or more.

If any business pursuits are conducted in the unit, or if the unit is rented to others, the agent should be fully informed to assure proper amendments to the policy.

One of the more important limitations of the liability and medical payments coverage relates to boats.  If the unit owner owns an outboard motor of 25 horsepower or less, or a sailboat less than 26 feet in length, liability protection is automatically included.  Some policies provide coverage for inboard or inboard/outboard boats of limited horsepower.  Where liability and medical payments protection for boats is not included, coverage may, as an option to some policies, be extended to provide the necessary protection.

Liability for golf carts, when used to play golf on a golf course, is basically covered.  Special arrangements are necessary for golf carts if used for other purposes.

Unit owners are advised to be aware of and satisfied with the liability insurance carried by the condominium association.  Be sure that  (1) an adequate limit is carried by the association, and  (2) the association policy provides that unit owners are individually protected in the event of a claim directly against them.

6.       LOSS ASSESSMENT COVERAGE -

If the condominium association suffers a loss or claim which is not insured by the association, then of course, the unit owners may be assessed for the necessary funds which must be raised.  This again makes it incumbent on all unit owners to be aware of and satisfied with the insurance program of the association.

Unit owners may, however, take steps to avoid assessment losses by purchasing 'Loss Assessment Coverage' as an option under their own condominium unit owners policies.  This coverage reimburses unit owners for assessments arising from  (1) property losses, if covered by a peril insured against under their own  unit owners policies;  (2) liability losses covered under their own unit owners policies; and  (3) Directors and Officers claims arising from acts of elected directors, officers or trustees serving without income.

Examples of the need for this coverage would include  (1) a large liability claim exceeding the limit of the association coverage;  (2) loss to the association's property by a peril not insured against in the association's policy but covered by the unit owners policy;  (3) a property loss wherein the association's amount of insurance was inadequate;  (4) a property loss wherein the association's insurance did not respond because of a high deductible.  In the case of a Loss Assessment payment as a result of the association's deductible, no more than $1,000 will be paid under each  unit owners policy.

It is emphasized that this option does not cover assessments from every cause.  For example, if the association does not carry flood insurance, any assessment for such a loss is not covered by Loss Assessment Coverage, because the condominium unit owners policy also does not cover flood or rising water.

If this optional coverage is desired, the difficulty in proper purchasing is the decision on  what would be an appropriate amount of coverage.  While the decision must be made by the unit owner, and should be based on his knowledge of and degree of satisfaction with the insurance carried by the association, this agency will gladly provide counsel and advice.

7.       RENTAL OF UNIT TO OTHERS -

Special policy provisions should be made whenever your unit is rented to others, whether it be on a short-term or a long-term basis.  A separate insurance contract may be necessary if the unit has been purchased for investment purposes and is rented to others continuously.  Please note some of the rental limitations referred to under:  1.  Coverage on Personal Property,  2.  Other Property,  3.  Loss of Use, and  4.  Personal Liability and Medical Payments.

8.      OTHER FORMS OF INSURANCE -

The foregoing information briefly describes the condominium unit owners policy and principal options, which is the sole purpose of this booklet.  Other kinds of coverage not unique to condominium unit owners' needs, such as automobile, life and health insurance, may be appropriate.

We trust this information will be of assistance in helping you determine the type of coverage and limits necessary to protect the valuable investment you have made.

Ref: Florida Association of Insurance Agents     #106RP11-9225M

 
 
Innovative Community Management Solutions, Inc.
905 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
Suite 460
Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689.4829
Voice 727.938.3700 | Facsimile 727.938.3755 | Toll Free 866.337.2107
http://innovativecms.com