At Curcio Law, one thing we always try to do at the outset is explain insurance coverage to all potential clients. Unfortunately, we see situations all of the time where individuals do not purchase insurance coverage or do not purchase enough coverage to protect themselves adequately. Insurance coverage is extremely important as it helps protect those that cause injury and helps properly compensate those injured due to no fault of their own.
If you own or are looking to own a condominium unit, you will find a requirement by the lender for you to purchase condominium insurance. Condominium insurance, or condo insurance, is required by the lender. It ensures that the inside of your unit will remain in the same condition as it is when the lender approves the loan for you to purchase the unit.
Any condominium owner will also have to pay condo fees, and one thing that will be bought with those condo fees is a master insurance policy. This may seem like an excess of insurance coverage, but it is not. Both the master policy and an individual policy are necessary.
The purpose of insurance coverage is to protect the policyholder. Individual condo insurance protects the condo owner in several ways. First, if there is any damage to your personal property inside the condo, the individual policy will help replace or repair the damaged personal property. Second, suppose there is any damage to your individual unit due to the building (i.e., water damage from a burst pipe). In that case, the individual policy will pay for any betterments and improvements that you have made to your unit. When there is damage to your individual unit from something such as a burst pipe, the master policy of the condo association will only pay to restore the unit to its original build-out condition. If you recently had your flooring replaced or repaired, your individual policy will pay the difference between the original build-out condition and the replacement value of your improved unit.
The other protection that condo insurance gives you is liability protection. Your individual condo policy will defend and pay any claims for bodily injuries from someone injured due to your negligence. Some common situations where this coverage will protect you are if your dog injures another, a danger on your property that you should have known about causes injury to another, or if you commit an intentional act where the harm was unintentional. This is essential protection that every condo owner needs, as most cannot afford litigation costs out of pocket. Most importantly, if you do not have an insurance policy protecting you, you may ultimately be personally liable for the injured party’s damages. This means that you could ultimately be forced to sell your condo unit if you are personally liable for a personal injury verdict or judgment.
The master insurance policy from the condo association is also essential protection that you need. As mentioned above, the master insurance policy will pay to repair your unit to its original build-out condition if it is damaged. The master insurance policy also provides liability protection for all common areas of the condominium building. In Virginia, a property owner has a nondelegable duty to keep its premises reasonably safe (Love v. Smith, 239 Va. 357, 361 (1990)). This means that the condo association has a duty to ensure that all common areas, such as parking lots, hallways, and elevators are reasonably safe. Common situations where the master policy coverage comes into play to protect the association is when individuals, often unit owners or tenants, are injured due to black ice on the parking lot or slippery conditions on stairs and hallways within the building. As a condo unit owner, you may be thinking those situations are the association’s responsibility, and you should not have to pay for the master policy to protect the association. However, just like an individual, a condo association would be personally liable for paying any verdict levied against it or any verdict in excess of the coverage. If the association has to pay a verdict levied against it, those costs will be recouped by increasing the condo association fees on individual owners. In fact, if there is any lawsuit filed against a condo association for an amount in excess of coverage in the master policy, the association will usually send out notices to all condo owners for that reason.
If you have any questions about your condo insurance, we are happy to answer those questions. Anyone injured on the premises of a condo building may need to consult an experienced Virginia premises lawyer to determine how to proceed. If you are injured on the premises, including the parking lots or garages of a condo building, and have questions about recovering compensation from an insurance policy, call or text us at 703-836-3366, or contact us at our website to discuss your legal options.
Rakin Hamad joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018 after graduating from George Mason Law School. During law school, Rakin demonstrated his dedication to client advocacy and was a member of the trial advocacy association, the pro bono society, and the George Mason Law Review. His approach to the law mirrors the firm’s philosophy of treating each client with commitment, compassion and character. Contact Rakin at email@example.com.