How many different types of insurance should a home owner have?

Asked by Vicky Gkiza, San Francisco, CA Fri Dec 14, 2007

I have content insurance and HOA for my apartment. I recently had a water leak and it seems that neither HOA nor my content insurance cover it, and i have to upgrade to homeowner insurance. How many different types of insurance should i have to feel 'covered'?

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Fri Dec 14, 2007
Water damage exclusions are a common theme in homeowners insurance policies, as many found out from Hurricaine Katrina. You might want to consult an insurance agent,. We would need more information to suggest specific types of coverage. I assume you live in San Francisco?
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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Fri Dec 14, 2007
As Gail advised, if you're a homeowner, you should have homeowner's insurance, not renters (or content) insurance. There are a variety of additional liabilities you're exposed to/responsible for, and you need coverage for that.

Water leaks (and electrical problems, too) can be tricky in condos. Note: I'm not a lawyer, and as a Realtor I can't provide legal advice. However, as a former condo owner who successfully sued the HOA when it failed to cover a repair, I do have some first-hand experience. First, your condo documents specify what will be covered by the HOA and what is your responsibility. It can vary. Generally, as Sally notes, you're responsible for anything/everything within the walls of your specific unit. Generally, again, the condo association is responsible for anything occurring in the common elements, which usually includes anything within the walls...even if it exclusively serves your unit. That was the problem I had; it was an electrical problem in the main circuit breaker box (clearly a common element); however, the circuit breaker that failed exclusively provided power to my unit. Condo refused to pay; I sued in small claims court arguing that the circuit breaker and circuit breaker box were common elements and should be maintained by the association. I won.

Water damage can get even tricker, since sometimes one owner leaves the water running; it overflows, goes through the floor to the unit below, and damages that unit. Again, I'm not a lawyer. Generally, though, the individual owner who left the water running is liable; although the water may have passed through the common elements on its way to your unit, the condo association isn't responsible.

OK, enough of that. you get the idea. Read the condo documents. Have homeowner's insurance. Also, not suggested by the others, get yourself an umbrella liability policy. It may cost $150-$200 for $1 million. It'll cover both your condo and your car (if written properly). And it's well worth it. Suppose, for instance, the condo is having the windows cleaned. The window cleaner is injured, sues for $5 million, and wins. Your condo association may not have the reserves to cover it. Worse: The window cleaner is cleaning your window when he falls. He sues you and the association for $5 million. The condo association has its own insurance, but you're named, as well. You want your own coverage. Or a planter on your balcony is blown off by the wind and injures someone on the ground below. You're sued. There are an infinite number of variations. Point is: Get at least $1 million of liability insurance.

Hope that helps.

Don Tepper
Solutions 3D LLC
Realtor with Long & Foster
0 votes
Sally Rosenm…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Fri Dec 14, 2007
Hi Vicky,

You need to have your contents insured (just like renter's insurance) for fire, theft and replacement costs. You HOA should cover fire and the shell of the building cost + the walls of each unit. Your own personal insurance should cover everything else..... be sure to note refrigerators and washers & dryers are considered personal property and should be listed with your contents.

If the leak is from another unit, their personal insurance should cover the costs to repair your unit. Hope that helps. I will be happy to give you names of insurance companies we deal with at Hill & Co.
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K Feat, , San Francisco, CA
Fri Dec 14, 2007
Hi Vicky,

I live in a condo too. The insurance for our building covers reconstruction costs and liability, but there isn't additional coverage for water leaks. We asked our State Farm agent about the water issue and we are covered via a home-owner's policy for both the content of our unit and any damage resulting from leaks, fires, etc. to other units. In our case, we have the building insurance via the HOA, homeowners (for content and liability). We felt after lots of research and discussion that those 2 policies were enough coverage. To reduce some of the monthly expense we went with a higher deductible amount. Here's a link to the insurance institute that might be of some help to you.
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Gail Hiebert, , KCMO
Fri Dec 14, 2007
Vicky, if you're a homeowner, you should definitely carry homeowners insurance. With homeowners insurance, there is usually a 'content' rider that covers your belonging (except for the deductible), and depending on where you live, you might also consider wind, hurricane, water, and tornado insurance riders, all of which are attachments to your policy. Your HOA is not an insurance per se. It is more of a maitenance agreement that also includes (in most parts of the country) a liability insurance in case you get hurt on the property. You may, as an option, also get a Home Warranty for the approx. cost of $450 per year that provides funds in the event your appliances, electric furnace, water couplings, fridge, washer, and other selected items (you can select the coverate) are damaged. This is separate policy. Hope this helps..
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