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Written by Joel Kranc

What is condo insurance?

If you’re spending a lot of money on any big-ticket purchase, you’ll likely want to protect it. A car, jewelry, art, and of course your home are those items that need insuring and protection.

If you are purchasing a condo, insurance is coverage that helps protect against losses and repair costs for a condominium unit.  While not mandatory, much like house insurance, you’ll need it, not only for your protection, but because most major lenders require home buyers to show proof of insurance before a mortgage is approved.

And like any insurance product, the insurance company assesses the likelihood of you needing to make a claim in the event of theft, property damage or personal injury, and they provide a quote based on that assessment.

Condo insurance typically extends coverage to your possessions, even when you are travelling with them, or they are being stored in your storage locker. It also considers that you are living in a shared building with multiple other people and the unique risks that accompany that.

You do not need insurance for the physical structure of your condo building or any common areas. These are covered by condominium corporation insurance (sometimes called strata insurance). You contribute to condo corporation insurance via a portion of your condo fees.

Condo insurance is cheaper than home insurance. On an average, condo insurance costs between $30 and $50 per month, depending upon your coverage requirements and assets covered.

Types of condo insurance coverages

There are many types of condo insurance you’ll want to consider depending on your specific circumstances:

  • Contents coverage for your possessions, from clothes to electronics, whether they are stolen or damaged. This coverage extends to items in your storage locker too. Limitations may apply if your possessions are particularly valuable (e.g. gemstones, art, antiques), but generally speaking, you tell the insurer the total value of your possessions and they provide a quote based on the replacement cost of everything you own. Most insurers insist on a minimum of $30,000 and most Canadians opt for around $50,000 in contents coverage. Don’t forget to include the cost of your kitchen appliances.
  • Improvements and upgrades you have made to the condo: If you have paid to install marble countertops or hardwood floors, your condo insurance policy can provide coverage for these expensive upgrades. Let your insurer know whenever you make improvements to your unit so you can ensure your renos are covered.
  • Personal liability insurance will help pay for a lawsuit if someone gets injured while visiting your unit and you are sued. It also protects you against lawsuits resulting from property damage to common areas or neighbouring condo units (e.g. you leave your bathtub running and flood the unit below).
  • Unexpected living expenses will provide financial assistance if there is insurable damage to your condo (like a flood or fire), which renders it uninhabitable for a period of time. You can use this coverage for temporary accommodation and storage until your condo is repaired.
  • Vehicle break-ins: Despite what many people assume, your auto insurance does not cover items you store inside your vehicle, but your condo policy does include coverage for personal belongings stolen from your vehicle.
  • Loss of unit: If your condo is deemed unlivable for a period of time, condo insurance will help you recover maintenance fees for the time you are out, or lost rent if you are renting out the unit.

Optional Coverages

There are also optional coverages if your basic insurance is lacking, or you want to boost your policy for ultimate protection:

  • Endorsements for high value items: Standard condo insurance provides blanket coverage for your possessions up to a maximum dollar amount, but it will not cover the loss of very expensive items. To insure these items, you need to provide an appraisal or receipt as proof of value, and pay for additional coverage, called an endorsement.
  • Sewer backup coverage: This coverage protects you against damage from a sewer getting blocked, and the waste water flooding your unit. It covers decontamination costs, and replacements for your fixtures and possessions. This coverage is especially important if you live on a lower floor, where the risk of sewer backup is greatest.
  • Identity theft: If you suffer a monetary loss because someone stole your personal information, you can seek compensation from your condo policy.
  • Overland water coverage: Overland water coverage protects you from damage caused by water getting into your condo from outside. If you live near the top of the building, you could be at risk of roof leaks from excessive rain or melting snow. If you live on a lower level, flooding is a serious threat.
  • Directors’ liability coverage: Directors’ liability coverage provides protection to unit owners who are elected members of the condominium board, specifically protecting you from lawsuits as a result of your corporate position.
  • Loss assessment: Loss assessment insurance is an important optional coverage. Your condo building is insured under the corporate policy, but sometimes the cost of repairs exceeds the corporate coverage. When this happens, the remaining cost is divided among the condo owners. Loss assessment insurance will step in and prevent you from having to pay out of pocket for these repairs.

Recent quotes for condo insurance

Shopper from Courtice, ON
Townhouse January 29, 2023
$ 308
Per year
Cheapest Rate
$ 541
Per year
Average Rate
$ 233
or
43 %
in savings
Shopper from Toronto, ON
High Rise January 28, 2023
$ 306
Per year
Cheapest Rate
$ 627
Per year
Average Rate
$ 321
or
51 %
in savings

Factors that affect your condo insurance premium  

The cost of insurance varies depending on the city and province you live in, but even “identical” units within the same building can yield different quotes. Your condo insurance rate is determined by the likelihood of you needing to make an insurance claim. Here are some factors that insurers consider when calculating your condo insurance premium:

  • Your location. If you live in a neighbourhood with a high crime rate, your condo insurance will cost more than it would in a safe area. Insurers will consider the odds of break-ins, theft and vandalism when deciding your rate.
  • Your coverage options. When requesting a condo insurance quote, you will have to decide what types of coverage you need. A basic condo insurance policy might provide enough coverage, but many condo owners opt to pay more for additional protection.
  • Your deductible. A deductible is the amount of money you pay, out-of-pocket, in the event of a claim. For example, if you make a claim for $2,000 worth of repairs to your condo, and your policy has a $500 deductible, your insurance company will pay $1,500 towards the repair cost. The higher the deductible you are willing to pay, the lower your premiums will be.
  • Limitations of your policy. Basic condo insurance has strict coverage limitations. For example, contents coverage should extend to your storage locker, but it might not include high-value items. You can pay a higher insurance rate for these limitations to be relaxed, or add a special rider to cover specific items.
  • Your possessions. Personal condo insurance provides a financial safety net in the event your possessions are lost, but there is always a limit. If you have expensive jewelry or state-of-the-art appliances, and the total value of your belongings exceeds the cap, you can ask for enhanced coverage and pay a higher premium.
  • Access in the event of a fire. It might sound dramatic, but your unit’s distance to the nearest fire station, even the nearest fire hydrant, is taken into consideration when calculating a condo insurance rate. The closer you are to help, the lower your premium will be.
  • Your heating system. Does your building offer central heating through electric baseboards, hot water radiators, air vents? Do you use additional heaters? Insurers ask these questions to gauge the likelihood of a fire breaking out. Generally speaking, the more modern your building, the better it will score here.
  • Your personal info. The insurance company will want to know your age, your marital status and your lifestyle habits (most commonly, whether or not you smoke). Again, this is used to determine risk. A young, single male who smokes will face higher premiums than a middle-aged couple who do not.
  • Your condo building. Insurers need to know the age of your building, how old the roof is, and the type of construction used to build it (e.g. brick veneer, concrete block). Older buildings and materials typically cost more to insure.
  • Your claims history. If you have made any property insurance claims in the last eight years, they will be taken into consideration when calculating your premium. If you are a first-time home buyer, you likely won’t have made any claims, but the lowest rates are reserved for those with a long history of property insurance, and still no claims.

How can I get the cheapest condo insurance in Canada?

Finding the cheapest condo insurance in Canada starts with comparison shopping. Sites like RATESDOTCA find and compare the best rates to save you time and hassle, all in one search. A few bits of information on your condo insurance needs and voila, a current list of quotes from providers offering the cheapest rates in the country.

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Why does condo insurance keep increasing in Canada?

Have you gone shopping lately? Everything is more expensive than it was a year ago – everything. Supply chain issues, wars, COVID lockdowns in Asia, and climate change are all affecting how much we pay for basic goods and services.

The same is true for condo insurance in Canada. Despite housing prices coming down somewhat as interest rates have risen, the amount to insure condos have been on the rise.

Let’s talk climate change. In Barrie, Ontario last summer, a tornado ripped through the area $100 million in insured costs. On the other side of the province, BC has experienced some of its worst weather in generations resulting in estimated costs of $450 million.

Over the past 15 years, insurance claims resulting from severe weather have more than quadrupled. The Insurance Bureay of Canada says yearly insured catastrophic losses in Canada is $2 billion – most of this due to water-related damage. In comparison, in the 15 years from 1983 and 2008, Canadian insurers paid out an average of about $422 million a year in losses related to severe weather.

These once in a lifetime (but not so much anymore) weather events are being looked at by insurers as riskier, more frequent events that need to be incorporated into the price of condo insurance in Canada. There are even cases where insurance companies denied insurance to condo owners, who have not experienced an event such as a flood, because they lived in a high-risk area.

According to an Eli Report, strata insurance premiums are on the rise anywhere from 50 per cent to 300 per cent.

During the pandemic, and even now, many homeowners, including those living in condos began looking at their surroundings and making changes. According to Statistics Canada, in 2021, Canadians applied for almost 213,000 residential alteration and improvements permits. As renovations increase and the value of your home increases, so do your condo insurance premiums.

Fining rates that work for you, even as prices have gone up, starts here at RATESDOTCA where we can show you the cheapest condo rates insurance rates in Canada.

Frequently asked questions about condo insurance

Here’s what else you need to know about condo insurance

How much does condo insurance cost in Canada?

If you live in one of Canada’s large cities, you can get annual coverage starting around $25 per month with a basic policy providing $50,000 worth of contents coverage. Increasing your contents coverage, or adding optional endorsements will cause your premiums to rise.

Is the average condo insurance cost higher if I live in a big city like Toronto or Vancouver?

Not necessarily. In fact, Ontarians living near Toronto have the lowest home insurance premiums in the province while those in the Northern and Southern regions are paying the most.

These are the core findings from the RATESDOTCA interactive map tool, Home Insuramap, which generates estimated annual home, condo and tenant insurance premiums for each postal code zone in Ontario.

In fact, the average condo premium in Ontario in 2022 was $297/year.

Also, while location is one of the key factors that home insurance carriers consider when determining a premium, a high crime rate and increasing incidents of severe weather also account for why home insurance is more expensive in smaller cities throughout, Ontario, for example.

Who offers the cheapest condo insurance in Canada?

Nobody can claim to offer the cheapest condo insurance without first knowing a few details about you and your home. We ask the same questions as the insurance companies, and show you accurate quotes based on the information you have provided. Simply pick the cheapest rate and we will connect you with the provider. For additional savings, consider bundling your condo insurance with your car insurance.

How do I make a condo insurance claim?

Filing a condo insurance claim is similar to filing a homeowners’ insurance claim, but with one key difference: you must determine whether the damage is covered by your personal policy or the policy of your condo association. If your property has been damaged or feel you need to speak with your insurance company take the following steps to file a condo insurance claim:

  • Document the incident. Mark down the date and time of the damage as well as any other information available. Take pictures of the damage and collect any other evidence that is available.
  • Read your policy closely. It is important to have a good understanding of the contract you have with your insurance company before you call. 
  • Call your insurance company. Let them know what has happened and what the perceived damage is. 
  • Call your condo association. Let them know what has happened and determine whether the damage may be covered under the condo association’s insurance policy.

Will my condo insurance cover appliances?

Yes, condo insurance will cover appliances because they are considered personal property.

How much insurance coverage do I need for a condo?

It’s important to do an assessment of your assets within your condo and decide how much coverage is necessary to protect your belongings, including interiors and fixtures etc.

Some real estate agencies feel a good estimation is to assume $40,000 in personal property for the first 1,000 square feet of your condo and then add $5,000 for each additional 500 square feet.

Is it a legal requirement to have condo insurance in Canada?

There is no legal requirement for condo insurance. However, if you have a mortgage, the lender will often require that you have it. Even if you are mortgage-free, condo insurance is strongly recommended to protect you and your possessions.

What is residential title insurance?

Residential title insurance protects the buyer (and mortgage lender) against problems that may arise during the transfer of property ownership, including title fraud and losses associated with survey issues. You might need this when buying a new residence, but it is not the same as condo insurance.

Are condominium and strata coverage the same?

There are two types of condominium insurance, and people often get confused:

1. Corporate condo insurance is the same as strata insurance. This type of policy is taken out by your condo board to protect the physical structure of the building, and any communal areas.

2. Condo or condominium insurance (without the “corporate” bit) is designed for individual condo owners, and it fills in the gaps where your condo’s corporate insurance falls short. It protects you, your personal unit, and the possessions within it.

My condo building has condo insurance; do I need more?

Condo insurance in Canada will cover those things that reside within your condo – personal belongings, fixtures etc. It is for those things that you need personal condo insurance.

However, you do not need insurance for the physical structure of your condo building or any common areas. These are covered by condominium corporation insurance. Your condo maintenance fees pay for that.

What is owner's increased improvement coverage?

Owner’s increased improvement coverage is designed to cover any upgrades you have made to your condo, whether that is installing nicer light fixtures, upgrading the flooring, or anything else that costs money and adds value. Some of these upgrades will be covered by a standard policy, but if you make a lot of expensive improvements or renovations, it is advisable to increase this coverage..

Do I need sewer backup coverage as a condo unit owner?

If you live on the ground floor, or below ground level, sewer backup coverage is extremely important. It only takes one careless unit owner to flush a diaper down the toilet, and suddenly your unit is flooded with sewage and waste.

While strata insurance will cover the cost of clearing the blockage (assuming the pipes are outside of your condo unit), they won’t cover expenses associated with cleaning sewage water from your apartment, or replacing your soiled belongings.

If you live on a high floor, the likelihood of sewage water reaching your unit is small (all drains below your unit would have to be blocked in order for the sewage to reach you), but you are still at risk. Firstly, your storage locker is probably at ground level. Additionally, if the lobby gets flooded with sewage, you will not be able to access your unit, and if you don’t have sewer backup coverage, you would not be eligible for help with temporary living expenses.

Do I need overland water/flood coverage as a condo unit owner?

Overland water is any water that comes into your condo from outside of the building, typically a result of rainfall. If you live on a low floor, especially if you are near a river that could flood, it is advisable to have this coverage. Condo corporation insurance should cover structural repairs following a flood, but it won’t cover flood damage to your furniture, electronics, or anything else in your unit, which is where overland flood protection comes in.

Do I need earthquake coverage as a condo unit owner?

Ontario has never experienced a catastrophic earthquake, and it is not included in standard condo insurance policies for that reason. Periodic tremors, especially in eastern Ontario, have caused some damage in the past, but modern buildings are designed to absorb the shocks without damaging the interior units.

However, if you live on the west coast, earthquakes are a very real threat and you should consider adding this coverage to your policy. In the lower mainland of British Columbia, all property insurance companies require significant earthquake deductibles.

I am renting a condo from the owner. Am I protected by their personal condo insurance policy?

The owner’s personal insurance policy does not extend to you or your belongings. You need tenant insurance, also called renter’s insurance. The good news is you do not need a lease to get tenant insurance, and it is very affordable.

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