The Ultimate Guide to Condo Insurance in BC

Owning a condo is a great alternative to renting an apartment. Roughly one in two British Columbians live in multi-unit housing today (condos, townhouses and apartments). As prices are often lower than standalone homes, and condos can be more convenient in terms of location and maintenance, the demand for owning a condo is increasing. 

As a condo owner, you’ll need a condo insurance policy to protect the interior of your condominium unit and your personal belongings inside. Condo insurance also includes personal liability coverage, which covers you in the event you’re found legally responsible for property damage or bodily injury, like if a guest injures themselves in your home for example. 

But when you don’t know exactly what you need in your condo insurance, the buying process can become an overwhelming one. With a number of other responsibilities and tasks you need to do, how can you also efficiently get the best condo insurance policy? 

We’ve put together this guide about condo insurance to help you understand it and make a smart buying decision.

Table of contents

What is condo insurance?

Condo insurance is a type of residential insurance that helps protect against losses and repair costs for a condominium unit. Condo insurance most often provides protection for theft, vandalism, fire damage, water damage, and more.

It’s important to understand how condo insurance differs from other types of residential insurance, such as homeowners or renters insurance. 

Now let’s review what you can expect your condo insurance to cover.

 

1. Dwelling coverage

Dwelling coverage applies to the main building and pays to rebuild the interior of the condo if it is damaged by one of the covered items. If you add any additions to your condo, dwelling coverage should pay to repair damage to those upgrades as well. 

 

2. Personal property coverage 

Personal property coverage will pay to replace any personal items damaged or lost in a covered loss that damages your condo. Some of the items covered by personal property coverage include clothing, computers, and furniture, among other items. 

 

3. Personal liability coverage 

Personal liability coverage protects you if you are held legally liable for injury or property damage to a third-party, and that party  takes you to court to sue you for damages. Your personal liability insurance will pay for your legal expenses, including attorney’s fees, court costs, and any settlement reached.

 

4. Additional Living Expenses (ALE) 

Additional living expense insurance covers additional costs incurred if a condo owner is displaced and must pay out of pocket as a result. It covers expenses such as food and the cost of staying at a hotel until the primary property is livable.

Condo insurance vs. strata insurance

As we mentioned above, condo insurance covers your own personal property in case of damage. Condo insurance covers what your strata corporation won’t, like repairing the inside of your unit after a loss has occurred , replacing damaged or stolen belongings and paying liability costs if someone is injured as a result of your actions. 

Strata insurance, on the other hand, is intended to cover common property. This insurance is obtained by your Strata Corporation. It helps cover the structure of the building and the common areas. It makes provision for both property and liability coverage. 

After closing the sale on your condo unit, you should have received a “certificate of insurance” showing that the policies are in effect and by whom they’re underwritten.

What does strata insurance cover?

It’s also important to understand what is covered by your strata association’s insurance policy, often referred to as strata insurance.

Regardless of how limited or comprehensive your strata insurance policy is, you can expect the following to be covered by the strata insurance policy:

  • The exterior structure of the condominium building
  • The building’s common areas. Exercise rooms, hallways, lobbies, swimming pools, and outdoor pavilions are all covered by the association’s strata policy
  • The land surrounding the condo building 

As we touched on earlier, the amount of structural coverage you’ll need in your own condo insurance policy will likely depend on how much coverage is already included in the strata insurance policy. 

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How much does condo insurance cost?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to more than $1,000 a year. However, the average cost for this type of policy can vary greatly depending on where you live and the amount of coverage you will need. 

Your price of condo insurance could be more or less than that. The average cost of condo insurance depending on:

  • Your location
  • Property’s value and age 
  • The items you need to insure
  • Personal belongings you own
  • Completed renovations
  • Discounts you qualify for 

Renovations can increase your insurance premium. If you upgrade and install an expensive kitchen or new hardwood floors, it increases the value of your condo and therefore the replacement cost if something should go wrong. 

Your personal belongings and particularly those that have a higher value – such as jewelery or high-end bicycles , you can name them in your condo insurance policy. Scheduling items in your condo insurance is a great way to protect the values.

Optional condo insurance coverage

Condo insurance and strata insurance policies come with certain exclusions, meaning types of losses that are not covered by your policy. Therefore, you may want to consider purchasing additional optional policies or adding the below coverages to your condo policy. 

Earthquake insurance

Condo insurance generally doesn’t cover earthquake insurance. You may be able to add earthquake coverage as an optional coverage to your condo policy for an additional premium, or purchase a standalone earthquake insurance policy. 

Do we have any optional coverages? 

  • WaterProtection Coverage 
  • Strata Water Deductible Coverage
  • Earthquake Loss Assessment

How to save on condo insurance

Finding insurance for your most important asset is not easy. And when you finally find a reputable and knowledgeable broker to help you, you may be surprised at the cost associated with your insurance policy. 

There are many factors that go into calculating your condo insurance premium. Insurance companies have become data-driven institutions that know exactly what loss history is associated with each individual postal code within BC. As a result of all the data they collect, these insurers have gotten even more accurate in calculating the odds of further losses in certain specific areas, and therefore attaching the applicable premium to it. 

There are a number of other factors that determine your condo insurance premium. Some are actually within your control and will affect the rate you pay each year. Let’s have a closer look at factors that could help you lower your annual condo insurance premium.

Your Age

Many insurance companies offer a ‘mature aged discount’ as part of their insurance application. Depending on the company, this could provide savings of 10% to those who are 65 years of age, or older.

Your Deductible

The overall policy deductible you select has an inverse relationship with your premium. If you select a higher than average deductible (i.e. $5,000), you will notice a lower annual premium. But do keep in mind that should you experience a claim, you will be responsible for the higher deductible amount. 

Credit Score

In recent years, almost all insurance companies have started using Credit Score as an additional factor to help calculate premiums. There appears to be a strong correlation between one’s credit score and the likelihood of filing a claim. Depending on the insurer, those individuals who are willing to consent to a soft credit check may save up to 15% on their annual premium, should they have a solid credit score. Not to worry, however, insurance companies will never surcharge your premium if you have a lower credit score.

Claims History

Every insurance company likes to have clients who do not file claims, and in order to increase the number of these clients, they will often offer a “Claims-Free Discount” to attract them to buy their policy. If you happen to be someone who has had property insurance for years and years, without ever filing a claim, nearly every insurance company will be offering you a discount (5-15%) to reflect that, and attract you to be their customer. 

Mortgage

Most people who own property in BC carry a mortgage. But, for those who are fortunate enough to be mortgage-free, many insurance companies will offer a mortgage-free discount in the range of 10% off the base premium. For decades, insurers have determined that individuals without a mortgage have a greater likelihood to be financially responsible, which they believe translates into more responsible homeownership.  

Location

Yes, the location of your condo will affect the premium the insurance company charges. With the increased focus on the use of data, the insurers know exactly which postal codes are prone to burglaries (or other crimes), which postal codes are subject to increased odds of flooding or even earthquake damage. Before you put an offer on your next home, you may want to reach out to us to see if your property is insurable and how insurance companies rate your likely new home. 

Coverage Options

Another way to lower the annual premium of your condo policy is to remove coverage options that you don’t believe you need. For example, if you live in a part of BC that is far removed from an Earthquake faultline, you can select to remove Earthquake coverage from your policy. A similar decision can be made for overland water coverage if people feel that their home is really not at risk to be affected by this peril.  Before removing any coverages from your policy to save yourself a few bucks, make sure you talk to one of our insurance advisors to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk.   

The pros and cons of condo insurance

Purchasing insurance is rather unique. You pay for it annually, only receive a piece of paper in return and hope never to have to use the product you just bought. There are very few other products that operate in a similar manner.  

That begs the question—is condo insurance worth it and what exactly are its pros and cons?

The pros of condo insurance:

1. Peace of Mind

Arguably the single most important benefit of an insurance policy is that it gives you peace of mind that your home is protected should it (or you) experience a loss. This could be anything from a fire to burglary and many things in between. Knowing your home and your possessions are protected by a solid insurance policy should put your mind at ease. Trying to rebuild your entire home, and replace all your possessions following a fire or other disaster without insurance is unthinkable. 

2. Property Protection

Closely associated with peace of mind is the mere protection you receive with an active condo policy in place. Your most valued possession will be protected from the following perils: 

•  Fire or lightning

•  Windstorm or hail

•  Explosion

•  Smoke

•  Theft

•  Vandalism or malicious mischief

•  Riot or civil commotion

•  And more

3. Liability Protection

If you or a family member are found legally responsible for accidentally damaging someone else’s property or injuring someone, the liability coverage portion of your policy may help pay for related repair costs and legal fees. This would be in addition to helping with medical bills, should there be any. The Liability portion of an insurance policy can save you hundreds of thousands in medical, legal and repair costs. 

4. Minimal Financial Burden

A standard condo policy typically includes a $1,000 deductible. This amount can be categorized as the payment the homeowner is responsible for should you experience a loss to the property or liability. If the claim is covered by the policy in place, the insurance company will then take care of the rest of the payment to get you (your property) back into the same financial position as they were in immediately before the loss. This is the principle of indemnity, which is at the core of every insurance policy. 

5. Mortgage Financing

Many financial institutions no longer offer mortgages for properties that do not carry an active insurance policy. Without a condo policy in place, the banks would not be protected in the event the property they have secured a loan for experiences a major claim. 

In contrast, some of the drawbacks of a home and contents insurance policy are:

1. It does not cover everything

Even though a typical condo insurance premium may be a few hundred dollars per year, there is a false assumption among insured that their policy should cover ‘everything.’ Unfortunately, there is no policy that exists that covers you for absolutely everything that could happen to you or your condo. Furthermore, you may need to buy optional additional coverage or exclusive coverage for some high-value items, or risk being underinsured.

2. Cost

Yes, having condo insurance does add an additional payment to your monthly (or annual) finances. The payment could be quite significant, depending on your condo and the different coverage options you select. If you choose not to purchase insurance, but rather to ‘self-insure’ the home, your belongings and your liability exposure, you would save yourself a monthly bill. 

Ready, Set, Action!

I’m guessing you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed right now. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Understanding condo insurance and the details of it can seem daunting at first, but once you understand the concept of it, you’ll find the coverage that meets your unique needs. 

InsureBC’s licensed experts can help you from start to finish so you can feel confident and comfortable with your condo insurance decisions.