Anyone who lives in a condo or townhome has a home owners association (HOA) that collects fees to cover general city services and maintain shared spaces, including amenities and utilities.
But what happens if a disaster strikes your condo or townhome? When you live in a condo, keeping track of what the HOA is responsible for fixing versus what you must pay for can be confusing.
First you need to know that not all condo fees cover insurance. Many states don’t require condo HOA fees to cover insurance, and if they do, the insurance typically only covers exterior damage to the building and the property around it.
You are responsible for filing a claim with your own homeowners insurance to receive funds to cover your individual unit, or to pay for the repairs out of pocket, if the damage is limited to your unit.
If damage extends beyond the interior of your unit, things can get complicated. If your condo association includes insurance, the two companies may work together. But, if your association fees don’t include insurance, you may have to work directly with board members to determine the best course of action for the entire community.
Check the Bylaws
Now, the majority of condo HOAs carry insurance voluntarily, even if state laws don’t require it. These additional bylaws protect the association and the homeowners in the event of a disaster. Each association has their own set of bylaws, so it’s important to check what yours covers.
Once you learn if your condo association carries insurance, the next step is to understand what the policy covers. Homeowners must buy individual insurance to cover everything within the walls of their condo, applied in the event of a disaster. If you know the parts of the unit you need to insure, you can figure out how much coverage you need personally.
Even if your association fee covers insurance, and the policy is extensive, the board may not have a formal plan in the event of a disaster. Many associations don’t have any members with specialized training or expertise in dealing with disasters that impact property. In fact, there are no mandates for associations to develop disaster response plans at all.
Developing an emergency plan begins with knowing exactly what is expected of each member. Good questions to ask your HOA when creating a community-wide disaster plan include:
- Is there someone designated to be available to homeowners?
- What resources will be available after a disaster and how quickly will those resources be accessible?
- Who is responsible for fixing damage to shared spaces and how will that information be communicated to homeowners?
- How soon are responsible parties required to asses and begin fixing the damage?
Even without a formal plan in place, it’s a good idea to explore these ideas with your association.
Disasters have a huge impact on not just your property, but also your life. Being informed will help you prepare for any unforeseen circumstances and give you a lot less to worry about in the rare event that something actually happens.
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.