Massachusetts condominium insurance

“Walls In” Condo Unit Coverage Required By Many Lenders

A HO-6 policy is like a regular homeowner’s policy, but for a condominium unit, and with a lot more extras. HO-6 insurance policies cover the interior of the unit and personal property inside–commonly known as “studs in” or “walls in” coverage.

HO-6 Now Required By Lenders

Under the new Fannie Mae (FNMA) and FHA overhaul of condominium lending guidelines, lenders are now requiring HO-6 policies for new condo unit purchases. Sounds like common sense, but HO-6 policies weren’t always required by lenders, and many condominium unit owners were under the mistaken impression that the master condominium insurance policy covered all damage to the interior of their unit as well as damage to furniture, appliances, etc. That isn’t so. In most cases, that master insurance policy covers common areas such as the hallways, roof, basement, elevator, boiler, and common walkways, for both liability and physical damage–but not the inside of units.

Coverages

HO-6 policy benefits include:

  • Coverage for damage to personal property such as furniture, computer equipment and clothing
  • Fill in the gaps of the master insurance policy and cover losses under master policy deductibles
  • Personal liability coverage
  • Interior walls and floor coverings coverage
  • Coverage for improvements or upgrades (most master insurance policies only cover the original condition and value of the unit).
  • Usually has small deductible and fairly inexpensive

Under the new lending rules, an HO-6 insurance policy must provide coverage for no less than 20% of the condominium unit’s appraised value.

High Deductible Protection

Another benefit of obtaining an HO-6 policy is that in certain situations, it will provide gap coverage caused by the often high deductibles on a master insurance policy. These days, condominium associations have been cutting costs by increasing their deductibles, anywhere from $10,000 to even $50,000. What’s more, condominium documents often provide that the unit owner is responsible for losses falling below the deductible. A well-tailored HO-6 policy will protect you in this situation. Here is a good article about the tug-of-war on deductibles.

Loss Assessments

HO-6 policies can also provide coverage for assessments applied an individual unit due to a direct loss to the condominium. The loss must be a “peril” covered under the unit owner’s individual policy, not be levied by a governmental agency, and not be related to earthquake damage. A standard condo policy typically includes up to $1,000 in loss assessment coverage. Additional coverage can be covered for a nominal amount.

The HO-6 policy is a must have for every condominium owner!

If you need an HO-6 policy, please contact my good friend, Kate Kissane at Morrill Insurance in Sudbury, MA. Email: k.kissane@morillinsurance.com or tel: 978-443-9912. 

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Rona Fischman, a buyer’s agent and co-author of Boston.com’s Real Estate Now Blog asked me to answer a couple of questions regarding condominiums on her Boston.com blog which I’ve reprinted here:

Is an individual unit owner liable if someone gets hurt in the condominium’s common areas?

The answer is most likely not. This is good lead in to the concept of “common areas.” When someone buys a condominium unit, they also obtain an undivided share of the condominium’s common areas and facilities. Common areas typically include obvious things such as building entrances and exits, lobbies, interior stairways, pools and workout rooms. They also include not so obvious areas such as the space between adjoining units, telecommunication wires, and the roof. As outlined in the “master deed,” each unit owner “owns” an undivided share (expressed as a percentage) of all the common areas. But the condominium association has responsibility over managing and maintaining the common areas. Recognizing that unit owners have very little control over common areas, the Massachusetts Condominium Act provides that only the condominium association can be sued for claims related to common areas. The condominium association should have a master liability insurance policy in place in case anyone gets injured on common area property. If however, the claim is so substantial that all common funds, property and insurance proceeds have been exhausted to pay the claim, individual unit owners could be held liable for the balance due, if any, but only up to their respective percentage interest in the condominium. Now, if your unit has a private deck or porch (which is not a common area) with a faulty railing, you could be held responsible if someone fell. For all these reasons, unit owners should absolutely obtain an “HO-6” policy for their own liability and an umbrella policy on top of that.

I own a condominium unit and rent it out to students. Am I responsible for my tenant’s noise and disturbance problems?

The answer is yes. While a precise response would depend on the provisions of the condominium’s bylaws, typically, a unit owner is responsible for the actions of tenants. Most often, a condominium’s bylaws and house rules are binding on unit owners, resident family members and tenants. If a tenant violates a house rule — by making excessive noise — the unit owner is responsible for all consequences. The condominium association can require the unit owner to evict the tenant; if the unit owner fails or refuses, the condominium association may be able to take separate legal action against the owner and levy stiff fines. If the bylaws provide, the unit owner may be responsible for reimbursing the condo for legal fees and other expenses incurred in connection with his tenant’s eviction. Disgruntled unit owners can also pursue “nuisance” claims against unit owners who rent to noisy tenants. This is a tricky issue with an absentee unit owner who cannot verify the nature of the complaints. Surely, however, renting to noisy tenants will earn you no favors with your fellow unit owners.

Condominium Living 101

My advice to folks considering purchasing a condominium is to recognize that you are buying into a rather unique form of ownership and community. You will be giving up certain rights taken for granted in del bocasingle family dwelling life — the right to absolute silence, privacy, and control over all aspects of the property — in exchange for perhaps more amenities, convenience, less maintenance, and better location and price. In some cases, you will also be entering into the uniquely democratic (or in some condos, totalitarian) form of governance, rife with politics, fighting and name-calling–think that Seinfeld episode down at the Del Boca Vista Condos. But seriously, the majority of condominiums are well run. But before you buy, it’s imperative that you and your real estate attorney thoroughly review the condominium documents and budget to ensure you’re not buying into a Seinfeld-esque nightmare.

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