Owning real estate is expensive, especially in Canada. For that reason, you may be looking for any way to cut costs. While reducing your expenses is normally a smart financial choice, you should think twice before deciding not to spend on condo insurance. Without proper coverage, you could wind up in a challenging financial position which would cost you more than a small premium. Learn more about condo insurance in Canada below.
Condo insurance protects the homeowner from external incidents that cause damage to their property or personal belongings. The coverage has two components.
First, there’s the commercial condo insurance policy purchased by the condo board, also known as condo syndicate insurance. The commercial policy protects the overall building structure, such as the roof or exterior. Common areas, like a lobby or party room, are also protected.
Second, there’s the personal condo insurance policy that an individual condo owner purchases on their own. This insurance protects you from everything that isn’t covered in the commercial condo policy. Things like your personal belongings or structures inside your unit are protected. In addition, the personal condo insurance protects you from liability if someone sues you for damages that occurred inside your home.
Personal condo insurance policies are not mandatory by law. However, some lenders might require some form of insurance coverage as a condition of your mortgage, including condo insurance. Even if you’ve paid off your mortgage, it’s in your best interest to purchase condo insurance anyway. Otherwise, you may end up paying for damages out of pocket which can be immensely expensive.
The perception that a condo board’s commercial insurance policy offers enough individual protection is common, but inaccurate. Commercial condo policies do not act the same as home insurance policies. Every condo owner should purchase condo insurance to protect their belongings and improvements within the unit, and to protect themselves if someone claims that they are liable for damages. There are many scenarios where a commercial policy won’t protect an individual condo owner.
Commercial condo insurance policies cover the building structure and common areas. More specifically, this includes (but is not limited to):
- Green space
- Party rooms
- Common areas
- Electric & Plumbing
Your personal condo insurance policy covers everything within your own unit including structures and personal belongings. More details can be found below.
When you purchase a condo insurance policy, it’s important to list all improvements to your unit, regardless of whether or not you paid for their construction. Otherwise, they may not be covered by your policy if damages occur. Things like new hardwood floors, granite countertops, upgraded shower heads, and surround sound speakers all count as home improvements that condo insurance can cover.
Belongings (within your unit and your locker)
Note all valuable property that you keep in your unit and locker when purchasing a condo insurance policy. You should mention any expensive jewelry, paintings, antiques, electronics, furniture, and other belongings. Your policy will protect your personal belongings from physical damage and theft.
Always look for conditions in your insurance policy. While belongings are usually protected, there could be exceptions if you rent out your property, as the risk might be perceived as higher to an insurance provider.
If someone sues you for damages that occurred inside your condo, personal condo insurance can protect you. For example, if you have a dispute with your neighbor and they claim you were responsible for damages done to their property, they can sue you. Or, if a guest hurts themselves in your unit, they could take out a lawsuit against you as well. You obviously have the option to pay for legal fees out of pocket, but this can be pricey and you’re still at risk of losing the case. Condo insurance protects you from this kind of liability.
Overall, condo insurance is quite affordable in Canada. Most condo insurance policies cost between $400 to $600 per year, or between $33 and $50 per month. Your policy might be more or less expensive, depending on the building’s characteristics, what you’re insuring, and perceived risk. For example, if you insured the value of approximately $500,000 in personal belongings, that might cost you more money than if you were to only insure $100,000 in personal belongings.
Most condo insurance policies cover appliances as these are considered a part of your unit. In some cases, you might need to purchase a more robust policy to insure everything, including appliances. Remember to read the fine print and shop around for different policies from various providers to get the best insurance for your needs.
Special assessments entail the costs of unexpected incidents that a commercial policy doesn’t cover, or that a condo board simply doesn’t want to pay for, provided they have the necessary paperwork to allow for that. The condo board can pass individual unit owners a bill to cover a shared cost for a big incident, such as replacing windows. These special assessments can cost you thousands of dollars.
Not all personal condo insurance policies cover special insurance assessments. You might need to pay a higher premium to have this covered, but it’s usually worth it. Talk to your insurance broker to learn more about how you can get coverage for special assessments.
Owning a condo can sometimes be more desirable than a house since they’re often cheaper. Condos also offer amenities, and there’s less responsibility to unit owners with respect to dealing with maintaining the property. However, insurance is a bit trickier for condos than for houses. Make sure you are aware of the limitations of commercial condo policies, and shop around for personal condo insurance that fit your needs.