Condo Owners Need More Coverage Than the Master Policy

Although most new condo owners are added to the property’s master policy upon purchase of the unit, the claim that this policy is all owners need is misleading. You may have been told that your unit’s coverage under the master policy prevents you from having to purchase separate coverage, but the policy is only meant to protect the property, not your personal possessions. If your condo is only covered under the master policy, now is a good time to purchase additional coverage that meets your needs. 

couple researching condo insurance as they move into a new condo

What Is a Master Policy? 

A master policy is the most basic type of insurance used by condo owners. It typically covers damage to the building itself, as well as common areas and liability for the condominium association. However, unlike other policies, your master policy does not cover your belongings or personal liability. The master policy provides the necessary protection for your condominium association. But only being covered under the master policy is not sufficient to protect yourself. 

How Should I Cover My Condo?

Every condo owner’s coverage should be comprised of both the master policy and individual condo insurance. Condo insurance is similar to regular homeowners insurance, but it is designed to meet the unique needs of shared property ownership. It covers owners’ belongings and personal liability, as well as additional coverage for the building itself. Upgraded features may also be covered only by condo insurance, as many master policies only cover standard features.    

What Happens If a Claim Is Made?

If a claim is made for something that happens within your unit, you will generally be defended by your private insurance company, not the master policy. Your insurance company will cover the necessary funds, minus the deductible. If you are only covered by the master policy, you will likely be responsible for the claim.  

Your master policy should work together with private condo insurance to provide the best possible protection, rather than being considered the only insurance you need. In order to adequately protect yourself and your belongings, select a condo insurance policy that effectively fills in the gaps of your master policy.  At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’re here to help you find the right coverage.

How Much Condo Insurance Do You Need?

In order to determine how much condo insurance you need in Dorchester MA, you should plan to look at your condo’s association master policy.

How Much Dwelling Coverage Do You Need?

There are two types of master policies that affect how much dwelling coverage you need. All-inclusive means that the policy insures the exterior and interior surfaces of the unit and you would just need to worry about the stuff you own. Fixtures attached to the wall, such as the shower, cupboards, and toilets, also fall under this master policy. However, improvements are considered a gray area. A bare wall in policy means that everything inside the condo’s four walls needs insurance. This means fixtures and appliances have to be covered by your individual policy. If your condo association has bare walls in the policy then you will need more dwelling coverage. 

Once you have figured out what type of dwelling coverage you need you to evaluate your options with an agent at Vargas & Vargas Insurance and discuss what it would cost to recreate your condo in the event a major accident happens. You can use an estimate from your mortgage lender or an estimate from a contractor or architect. Sometimes a mortgage lender will have a requirement for the specific amount of dwelling coverage you should have. It’s important to keep your dwelling coverage updated as you make improvements to your condos, such as a bathroom or kitchen renovation since it would be a higher cost to replace these new items.  

How Much Property Coverage Do You Need?

The easiest way to determine how coverage you need for your personal property in Dorchester, MA is by doing an inventory. Be sure that all your valuable items, such as jewelry, are covered. 

Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance to get a quote on condo insurance. 

What’s the Difference Between Condo Insurance and Home Insurance?

Insurance is vital, regardless of whether you own a home or a condo. It can help offset damages to your property, so you don’t have to worry about paying for those damages out of your pocket.

happy young couple buying a condo and talking to the property manager
Protect your new condo by learning how condo insurance is different from home insurance.

However, the type of insurance you choose will dictate how any damages to your property will be handled. While both home and condo insurance might cover your property, there are some subtle differences between the two. Here is how home and condo insurance differ:

Condo Insurance

Condo insurance covers any non-communal property that you use as a property owner. Ideally, it should cover certain ‘walls-in’ losses, replacements, and repairs, as well as your personal property. For any damages that happen outside your unit walls, the condo association’s master insurance policy should offset them. But you should always verify the details before you purchase a condo or change your insurance policy.

Condo insurance also comes with loss assessment coverage. In situations where the condo association levies condo damage fees on all unit owners, this will cover the ad hoc fees. Condo associations will typically do this if the cost of offsetting damages to the communal assets is more than what their master insurance policy covers.

Home Insurance

Traditional home insurance tends to be for single-family dwellings, and it can be as simple or complex as mortgage lenders allow it to be. It should cover your entire home structure, including construction materials and other permanent elements. Most insurance policies also cover any personal property that is valued at 50% or greater of the insured home itself. The insurance can also cover other structures within the vicinity, such as detached garages and sheds.

Filing Claims

Filing claims is typically easy for home insurance, as it can be made directly with the insurers. On the flip side, there are some complexities in filing claims through condo insurance, and the specifics will depend on the situation.

For instance, the condo association insurance should take care of water damages as long as they are as a result of burst pipes outside your condo walls. Your condo insurance will, however, take care of damages arising from burst kitchen sink pipes, as they are within the unit’s walls.

Insurance policies tend to have rules that property owners have to adhere to for an easy claiming process. Regardless of the insurance policy you have, it pays to follow these rules. Be sure to read through the fine print of your insurance policy documents to choose the right coverage. If you have any questions about condo insurance or you’re looking for a new policy, we’re here to help. Contact us online or at 617-298-0655 to talk to our team.

3 Reasons You Need Condo Insurance

Whether you live in a condo year round or you own one that you vacation in from time to time, it’s important to protect it with condo insurance. Owning a condo is much different from owning your own home. Chances are, your condo is connected to other condos owned by other people. When something happens to a piece of the property that is connected to someone else’s condo, this makes things very confusing. Here at Vargas & Vargas Insurance serving the Dorchester, MA area, we’d like to share with you the top three reasons you need condo insurance.

It Might Be Mandatory

The first reason you may need to get a condo insurance policy is that it might be mandatory. If you have a mortgage on your condo, then your lender likely requires that you have condo insurance. You should check with the lender to determine the exact type of insurance policy that you need. Just like a regular home with a mortgage has to have homeowners insurance, a condo with a mortgage needs condo insurance. This protects both you and the lender.

Protect the Inside of Your Condo

Much of the time, the exterior of a condo receives protection through a condo association’s insurance policy, also known as a master insurance policy. This type of policy protects the exterior and any common areas, but it doesn’t protect the inside of your condo. You will need a condo insurance policy to protect your condo’s walls, ceiling, floors, fixtures, plumbing, and electrical wiring.

Protect Yourself From Lawsuits

If someone is injured inside of your condo, a master policy won’t provide coverage. The master policy only provides coverage if someone is injured in a common area. To protect yourself if someone is injured inside your property, you need your own condo insurance policy.

Different condo policies vary in the types of coverage they provide. It’s important to speak with an agent at Vargas & Vargas Insurance serving the Dorchester, MA area to learn about the different types of coverage you can gain through a condo insurance policy.

What Happens When the Main Condo Furnace Fails and There is Damage To Your Unit

If your Condominium unit gets its heat from a main furnace controlled and maintained by the Condominium Management, but it’s not part of your unit for which you are responsible, you may have some interesting insurance challenges should the furnace fail during the cold winter months; and you experience damage inside your unit.

When you own a Condo you are covered by two different Insurance policies.  The “Master Policy” for the Condo Building, generally covers all the common areas of the Condo.  It does not cover the inside of your Condo unit.

You insure the interior of your unit with your own insurance policy, typically called a HO-6 policy.  This insurance very much resembles renters’ insurance for apartment-dwellers. The premiums for an HO-6 policy are typically reasonably affordable.  These policies insure you for any claims you may have inside your Condominium unit.

But what happens when the main condo furnace goes out and you have damage in your unit?

We recommend the following as your logical course of action:

1.       Immediately contact the Managing Agent and inquire about filing a claim against the Master Insurance Policy for the Condo.  You should expect that you’ll run into some resistance here from the Insurance carrier for that Master Policy. They’ll attempt to direct you to your own HO-6 Insurance policy since the damage is inside your unit.

Remember, that damage was caused by the main furnace failing.  Stand your ground.

2.       Assuming you are successful in filing a claim against the Master Policy, you still may need to file a claim against your HO-6 policy for the finer points of items that would not covered at all, or not covered to the full extent of value for your precious belongings inside your Condo.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late.

We’re happy to provide a free consultation to review your existing Master Policy and your HO-6 policy.  We want you to know the extent of your existing coverages for your protection and to help assure you of any additional coverages you may need.

The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

What Happens In The Event of a Water Leak in Your Condo?

If you own a Condominium (Condo), you may have equipment both inside and outside your unit for which you are responsible. In a closet inside your unit would be your water tank. There is also an HVAC unit that may be just outside your unit, to heat and cool your home.  Most of the time, you ignore these two quiet workhorses that keep you in comfort all year round.

Shockingly, every once in a while, and sometimes suddenly, the equipment may fail and need repair.  Most often and most inconveniently, the HVAC will fail when the temperatures outside are the hottest or coldest, depending on the time of the year. Thus, only your comfort is compromised.

However, every once in a while, these machines break down and leak.  With water. Lots of water.

If your HVAC unit is outside your Condo, this may not be as terrible of an event, unless you own a Townhouse and the unit is in the basement and there’s a danger of the water seeping into your basement.

But it can be really bad if you’re on an upper floor and one or several of your Condo neighbors lives below you.  Water loves to follow the powerful attraction of gravity: downward. Downward towards your neighbors’ Condo unit!

Yes, your first step is to call the emergency number for your equipment repair tech. If you’re not sure, call the property manager so they can dispatch someone immediately to mitigate the damage. If the property manager is not available, call your local insurance agent who will have access to reputable Restoration Services companies. They all have emergency lines so you’re covered seven days a week.

In the event of a leak which could lead to a potential claim, mitigating the loss is critical and required under your insurance contract. You’ll want the restoration company onsite as quickly as possible to dry out all the water and repair the water damage.  Do not forget to take photos of the damage before the restoration company arrives. It’s key that you document the extent of the damage at the time of the event. This also mitigates any confusion or misunderstanding of the extent of the loss when the claim is settled. The key word here is “mitigate”.  

You don’t want to be caught by surprise when a leak happens all over your downstairs neighbors’ precious Star Wars toy collection.  Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Review Condominium Financials Before You Purchase

Condominium (Condo) Buyers should obtain and review the financial statement of the Condo as part of your purchase process.  Have the statement reviewed by a professional such as an Attorney or CPA.  The financial health of the Condo can affect you in the future as you settle into ownership of your Condo unit.  The financial statements can also give you a good indication of the competence of the Condo Board and Managing Agent.

Condo Complexes on the smaller size may be exempt from having their financials audited. The ByLaws will identify if an audit is required.  Audited financials means the CPA firm has verified the numbers presented in the statement rather than compiling from information provided by the Condominium Board Members and/or Managing Agent.

The financial statement should cover the previous two years (three is preferable) and often a Year-to-Date statement.  A Financial Statement includes:

  • Income and Expenses for the entire Condominium.  This is also known as “Operating Statement.”
  • Balance Sheet demonstrating Assets and Liabilities.
  • Cash Flow Statement.

Some key areas you want to focus on include:

  • Reserve Fund (for major capital repairs and improvements),
  • Cash Flow to determine if the building is taking in as much money as it is paying out monthly, Maintenance Fees owed (an indicator of the financial responsibility of your soon-to-be-neighbors),
  • Footnotes.

The financial well-being of your future home is as important to the transaction as every other aspect of your purchase.  Request the Financial Statement as early as possible in the negotiating process, even before you’ve presented your Offer, if possible.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Home Inspection for Your Condominium Purchase

Condominium Buyers often ask:

Should I have an inspection done by a Certified Home Inspection service? 

The answer is a definitive YES!

While a Condominium (Condo) typically features construction and/or maintenance features addressed by Condominium Management, the Buyer should conduct an inspection for two main reasons.

First, the interior of the Condo. This area is not the responsibility of Condo Management. A Buyer needs to be aware of concerns such as deferred maintenance for appliances, windows, bathroom fixtures and interior plumbing.  You want to avoid a costly repair in the first 3-5 years after your purchase.  Likewise, the Condo Buyer needs to be aware of potentially catastrophic issues that could cause reconsideration of the purchase.  Lastly, the inspection may reveal items that are of immediate concern, leading to a request for a repair or pricing credit from the Seller.

The second reason you want to complete an inspection is to determine the overall “physical health” of the Condo.  A roof in need of a future repair is as much of a concern to a Condominium Buyer as to a Home Buyer.  Any repairs to the common areas of a Condominium are paid for from the “Capital Expense Reserve” fund.  Should there be a major repair on the near horizon, such as a roof replacement, the Condo Buyer wants to determine there are sufficient funds in the Reserve Fund to cover the cost of repair.  Otherwise that Buyer, once they are an Owner, could be subject to an assessment or multiple assessments as well as an increase in the maintenance fee, resulting in an increase in their monthly payment.

The bottom line answer to the question posed by Condominium Buyers is a resounding yes when it comes to obtaining an inspection by a Certified Home Inspection service as part of the purchasing process.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Recap: Surviving Winter for Bostonians

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” – Aristotle

There are only a few weeks left in the year, and as snowfall becomes a more regular occurrence here in Massachusetts, we want to make sure that our clients stay warm, healthy, and happy throughout the cold winter months. Here is a quick recap of our full blog post with ideas on how to make this winter the best one yet:

  • Be Warm – Keep the freezing temperatures outside of your home by making sure that your windows and doors aren’t drafty. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees for optimal heating and energy consumption, according to ready.gov.
  • Be Healthy – Colds and flus run rampant in the winter, so get a flu shot and wash your hands often. Exercise at your local gym or try a winter sport to stay in shape.
  • Be Happy – Don’t let the cold get you down – there are plenty of wintertime activities in the Boston area! Or, if you would rather stay inside, now is the perfect time to binge watch a new show, read a book, have a family game night, or try a new recipe that you’ve been craving!

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance policies with a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent? Call 617-298-0655 and we can chat about your home, renters, or condo insurance policy to make sure that it is providing full coverage for you and your loved ones.

Surviving Winter in Your Boston Home or Condominium

Winter is in full swing once again here in the Boston area. What are your favorite winter activities? We want to share some tips for staying warm, healthy and happy this winter in your home, apartment or condo. Choose one or try them all! Hopefully they can make your winter a little more joyous.

How to Stay Warm

The average low temperature in Boston for winter months is easily below freezing, so staying warm can be a challenge. Before you crank up the heat, check to ensure that the cold air is staying outside where it should be. This is best done with energy efficient (and non-draft-prone) windows and doors. See about refitting your home’s windows and doors if you are falling victim to drafts – these will cost you money year-round, cooling your home in the winter and heating it in the summer.

Do you have a programmable thermostat? Setting it to 68 degrees will heat your home while also conserving energy, according to ready.gov. Make sure to lower it by 10 or more degrees at night, though, to save approximately 10% on your heating bill. Also see if you can close the heat vent and shut the door to any unused rooms in your home or condo to cut your heating costs even further. It is also prudent to ensure that you have a back-up heat source in case of a power loss.

How to Stay Healthy

During the winter, more people stay indoors, and this means an increased number of germs in your home, apartment, or condo. Stay healthy by getting a flu shot if you can, and by washing your hands often. Also, regularly disinfect the surfaces of your home that are touched often. Just in case someone in your household falls ill, have the necessary medical supplies on hand so that you don’t have to make a rushed trip to the pharmacy.

Staying healthy in the winter also means finding the opportunity to exercise. Not many people want to go for an outdoor jog in the middle of winter in Boston, but there are plenty of alternatives that will keep you fit until the warm weather returns. Many people will choose to exercise at their local gym, where cardio and weight equipment are available year-round. Some gyms in the area also offer indoor pools and/or fitness classes that can keep your exercise routine fresh and new. There are also plenty of options available for people that would rather exercise at home, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive equipment.

If you would rather continue to get your exercise out in the fresh air, choose an appropriate wintertime activity. Ice skating can be a great cardio workout, you can also try something more off-the-wall, like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Just make sure that you are dressed appropriately, and that you take plenty of breaks from the cold and that you stay hydrated as you work out outside.

How to Stay Happy

As we mentioned, the cold weather of the winter often means spending more time indoors. For some people this can lead to wintertime blues and boredom. Instead of being unhappy that you must spend so much time inside, try to be thankful for the extra time in your cozy home. Get your family together to play a board game, binge watch a tv show that looks interesting, cook up a new recipe, or check something off your reading list.

Need to get out of the house? You’re in luck! There are lots of activities in the Boston area in the winter, so you don’t need to feel like you’re cooped up – even when the city is blanketed in snow! Family activities are especially popular this time of year, including the Holiday Bricktacular at Legoland Discovery Center, Santa Saturdays at the Franklin Park Zoo, and Snowmazing! at the Boston Children’s Museum, among many others.

A few more favorites from the agents here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency include seeing The Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet, catching a Holiday Pops performance at the Boston Symphony Hall, and seeing the Christmas trees at Faneuil Hall and the Boston Common. There are plenty of events happening in the area, so bundle up and have some fun out in the city to ward off the boredom often brought by the cold weather.

We also want to make sure that you know that Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is here for all your home, renters, and condo insurance needs this winter (and all year-round). If you want to have a chat about your current insurance policies, or if you have an insurance question, all you have to do is call us at 617-298-0655. One of our friendly and knowledgeable agents will be happy to take care of you!