Do I Have Enough Condo Insurance?

Since we moved in we have completely remodeled the kitchen, replaced the flooring(already replaced once due to a burst water pipe), redone the master bath, and replaced some furniture. Will my Condo insurance policy cover my improved home?

And exactly what does a typical policy cover and is the coverage enough?

An HO6 homeowner’s policy has 5 basic areas of coverage:

Dwelling Coverage- covers your unit’s walls, ceilings, and floors. Some building master policies cover your unit as well, so you might not need to insure for the full replacement cost. There is a larger deductible on the master policy, however, and most unit owners do carry around $10,000 of dwelling coverage.

Dwelling Coverage Insurance companies offer Dwelling Coverage, which generally insures the interior walls, drywall, wallpaper, paneling, flooring, carpeting, or built-in cabinets. This is the coverage you need to cover your part of the building; the unit you own.

As a condo association, you all take responsibility and ownership for the common areas, the exterior of the building, and energy equipment. The interior of your unit, however, is your responsibility, and it is important to make sure your real estate investment is protected.

Note: Some condo “Master Policies” provide all-in coverage. This means the entire building, including your unit, are covered. Check your condos Master Policy and find our if it covers your individual unit. If the Master Policy doesn’t cover your unit, you need individual Dwelling Coverage.

Dwelling Coverage usually covers damage resulting from:

* Freezing of plumbing * Accidental discharge or overflow of water from your plumbing * Fire and lightning * Explosions * Theft, vandalism and malicious mischief * Sudden, accidental damage from smoke * Weight of snow, ice and sleet * Sudden, accidental tearing, cracking, burning or bulging of a steam pipe or hot water heating system

Dwelling does not cover damage caused by:

* Earthquakes, floods, and in many states, hurricanes. If you want to insure your Condo against these risks, you may be able to buy an additional policy or endorsement for each of these. * Theft by someone named on your Condo policy as an insured party.

Do I need dwelling coverage for my unit?

* As noted above, your condo building Master Policy might have coverage for your unit. Find out if you have coverage and, if so, how much coverage and at what deductible.

Important note on condo docs: In some rare cases, your condo documents might say something different than your Master Policy. If your Master Policy says your unit is insured for dwelling, but your condo docs say otherwise, the condo docs win. A claim adjuster would default to what the condo docs say, and you wouldn’t have coverage. Make sure your condo docs state the same coverage as your Master Policy.

* If you have no coverage with your building policy, you should purchase dwelling coverage for the full replacement amount.

Even if your building Master Policy provides some coverage for your unit, most condo owners still like to take out dwelling coverage for their specific unit, often around $10,000 with a $500 deductible. This is due to master policy limits, high deductibles, and condo document discrepancies (see above).

Personal Property- covers your personal property such as clothing, electronics, furniture, fixtures, books, artwork, etc. The building master policy does not cover this. A home inventory is very important to prove ownership of personal property

Personal Property Personal Property Coverage typically protects your personal belongings against the same list of risks and perils mentioned in Dwelling Coverage of Condo Policies Part 1.

Your personal property is not covered by a condo master policy, and you should protect it. Unlike dwelling coverage, where the building policy might provide some coverage, your personal property is at risk.

Personal property includes everything you own in your home. Furniture, TVs, computers, rugs, clothing, books, cookware, etc. Everything that is not attached to your condo is personal property and it should be insured. See our home inventory page for details about documenting your personal property.

How Much Coverage Is Enough?

There are a couple ways to determine how much coverage you need. The question is difficult: what is the replacement cost of everything you own? Most often, homeowners undervalue their property which results in them under-insuring their property.

One method is to individually value each item in your home. This means taking an entire inventory of your home, and assigning a value to each item. Many homeowners also like to take pictures, or even a video, of their home to keep on file in case of a loss.

Another method of determining your personal property value is to use a simple multiplier. As a rule of thumb, for the first 1,000 square feet of your condo, assume $40,000 in personal property. For each additional 500 square feet, add approximately $5,000 in coverage.

Example: If your unit were 1,500 square feet you would want to consider purchasing $45,000 in personal property coverage.

Unless otherwise specified, Coverage C – Personal Property Coverage is for actual cash value at the time of loss, which is the replacement cost of the item, minus depreciation. Buying an endorsement can increase this coverage.

Do you need more than actual cash value coverage for your personal belongings?

We recommend replacement coverage for your personal property, rather than actual cash value. If you purchased most of your belongings a few years ago, their current depreciated value may be a lot less than what it would take to replace them.

Example: If your television is damaged in a fire, actual cash value coverage pays out the amount of money your 10-year-old TV would be worth today, which may only be a few dollars. Replacement cost coverage would pay for a new TV of the same size and functions. This is why replacement cost coverage is always better than actual cash value.

If you have personal property such as firearms, jewelry, furs, antiques, collectibles, fine artwork, musical instruments or office equipment, you may need additional coverage. A standard condo policy usually has specific dollar limits for items like these. You can add or increase coverage amounts with an endorsement or additional policy.

Loss of Use- if you home is damaged and needs repair, you will need someplace to live. Loss of use coverage pays for living expenses while your home is being repaired.

Loss of Use If a loss occurs and your home is damaged, it will take some time to renovate your home. During this time, you will probably need somewhere else to live while the work is being done. How will you pay for additional living expenses while your condo is being fixed?

Loss of Use Coverage will insure you for temporary housing expenses such as an apartment rental. Loss of use coverage will also cover things like furniture, car and boat storage, and even pet kennel expenses.

The Loss of Use coverage usually has a limit based on a percentage of the Personal Property limit, often around 40%. For example: if you insure Personal Property for $30,000, your Loss of Use coverage limit would be $12,000 (40% of $30,000).

Personal Liability- covers you from personal liability claims. The classic example is a “slip & fall” in your home, and you get sued. The list goes on and on, which shows how important it is to have enough liability coverage.

Personal Liability One of the most important parts of a condo insurance policy is the Personal Liability Coverage. This will cover you against lawsuits, legal expenses, and medical costs if you are legally responsible for injury or property damage to others. The coverage here is variable, but most insurance professionals recommend $500,000.

Medical Payments- if a person is injured in your home, and is not named on your policy, this would pay for minor medical payments.

Medical Payments If a person is injured in your condo, and they are not named on your policy, this coverage would pay for some minor medical treatment, such as exams or X-rays. Generally, this coverage is fairly low, but provides the insured with means to cover minor medical expenses without filing a claim against the Personal Liability Coverage portion of the HO6.

Do I have enough coverage? I will discuss this with my insurance company soon.


Universal Design Makes Life Easier at The Cloister

Universal_Design_Floorplan_LGOne of the greatest advantages of home ownership at The Cloister is the Universal Design features built into every Cloister home. Universal design creates an attractive, stylish space that everyone, regardless of age, size, or ability, can live in or visit. A home with Universal Design makes it easier for us to live in, and for guests to visit now and in the future, even as everybody’s needs and abilities change.

Home Features and Products Using Universal Design

Downsizing to a universal design home is usually much cheaper than remodeling a house with traditional design features although I have seen a ranch style home on Brook Hollow Road in West Meade where the entire front yard was landscaped to change a four step entry porch to a stepless entry front entrance.

Having Universal Design features and products in a home makes good sense and can be so attractive that no one notices them — except for how easy they are to use.

Essential Universal Design features include:

  1. No-step entry: At least one step-free entrance into your home — either through the front, back, or garage door—lets everyone, even those who use a wheelchair, enter the home easily and safely.
  2. Single-floor living: Having a bedroom, kitchen, full bathroom with plenty of maneuvering room, and an entertainment area on the same floor makes life convenient for all families.
  3. Wide doorways and hallways: With your home’s doorways at least 36 inches wide, you can easily move large pieces of furniture or appliances through your home. Similarly, hallways that are 42 inches wide and free of hazards or steps let everyone and everything move in, out, and around easily.
  4. Reachable controls and switches: Anyone — even a person in a wheelchair — can reach light switches that are from 42-48 inches above the floor, thermostats no higher than 48 inches off the floor, and electrical outlets 18-24 inches off the floor.
  5. Easy-to-use handles and switches: Lever-style door handles and faucets, and rocker light switches, make opening doors, turning on water, and lighting a room easier for people of every age and ability.

There are many other universal design features and products that many people put into their homes, including:

  1. Raised front-loading clothes washers, dryers, and dishwashers
  2. Side-by-side refrigerators
  3. Easy-access kitchen storage (adjustable-height cupboards and lazy Susans)
  4. Low or no-threshold stall showers with built-in benches or seats
  5. Non-slip floors, bathtubs, and showers
  6. Raised, comfort-level toilets
  7. Multi-level kitchen countertops with open space underneath, so the cook can work while seated
  8. Windows that require minimal effort to open and close
  9. A covered entryway to protect you and your visitors from rain and snow
  10. Task lighting directed to specific surfaces or areas
  11. Easy-to-grasp D-shaped cabinet pulls
Before and After Bath Remodel

Before and After Bath Remodel

Low-Cost Options for Aging in Place Improvements

RemodelAAccording to the SRES Council (Seniors Real Estate Specialist), here are some low-cost options for your current home for aging in place.

Safety Improvements

Flooring: carpeting is better than area rugs because it is continuous and reduces tripping hazards. It also provides a cushion if a fall occurs.

Handrails: many stairways have a handrail on only one side. Adding a second handrail on the opposite wall improves stability.

Footwear: non-slip shoes, as opposed to slippers or socks, help prevent falls.

Non-skid safety strips: non-skid strips that are adhered to the floor of a tub / shower are preferred to removable bath mats.

Bathroom grab bars: locating them in places where bending and sitting occur (i.e. by a toilet; on a tub wall) provides stability. It’s best to anchor them into the wall.

Quality step ladder: a broad-based heavy-duty step ladder for items stored out of reach. A hand-hold bar across the top improves stability and safety.

Lighting: better lighting helps prevent falls.  Motion-activated lights improve visibility in pass-thru areas such as hallways. Brighter lighting makes reading or doing tasks more enjoyable.

Convenience Factors

Hand shower: install a hand-held system with a flexible hose where a fixed shower head currently exists.

Raised toilet seats: a removable seat fits most toilets. No need to replace that expensive toilet with a taller one.

Knobs: lever-style handles are easier to turn than round handles.

Cooking utensils: many light-weight and ergonomically designed utensils are now available. Many have non-slip handles, some are even oven-proof..

Often-used items: keep them handy in easy to access locations.

Eliminate excess: having fewer items to store and sort through makes most-often items easy to find and retrieve.


A Subject We Usually Don’t Talk About

Last month I had my right shoulder joint replaced. A serious but a somewhat routine surgery,  except for a complication I faced, I am right handed and additional arthritis prevents me from reaching behind myself with my left arm. Toileting becomes difficult when the only arm I can use is locked in an immobilizer sling tied to my body.UltraSlingII3

I made test trials with various options prior to surgery and was unhappy with the results.  There simply had to be a better, cleaner way. My travels throughout the world proved that there is more than one way to skin a cat….or clean a behind!

Homes and hotels in most countries in Europe, Latin America and Japan have bathrooms equipped with either a bidet, or in Japan, specially equipped toilets and seats.%UseBidetaByCountry

Bidets are hardly used at all in the U.S. while most hotel rooms in Europe had a bidet and commode like this:Bidet and CommodeSome hotel bathrooms even post instructions for use:BidetCorrectUse

My visits to Japan surprised me with the many variations of toilet equipment which allowed cleaning with a water stream and even air drying after a water cleanse, they include electronic controls….. BidetJapanControls

So….I was left with the question; what can I do to retain my dignity and take care of my own toileting? I discussed this problem with an Occupational Therapist. The Occupational Therapist equipped me with two choices, both required I attach toilet paper to a stick to poke between my legs and wipe with a scrubbing motion. Each device held the toilet paper differently but both had a release mechanism to drop the soiled paper into the toilet. The routine was; attach clean paper, scrub, release, attach fresh paper, etc. etc. etc…no better choices were offered.



I was not happy with any of these options. Unfortunately there was not enough room to install an additional bidet unit, or time and money enough to buy and have a plumber install a Japanese Deluxe toilet.

Just what could I do?

After a great deal of searching on the internet I found a number of portable products, most attached to the cold water supply to the toilet tank, all had spray attachments suitable for female hygiene use but not good for use for toileting. Finally I found something  that looked like it would do the job….it is called HydraWand.



I ordered it, installed it in five minutes. It was a portable device that worked as well as any bidet I used in hotels throughout Europe, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. The faucet attachment allows me to control the water temperature for total comfort. I will use this even after my arm is out of the sling because it is far superior to toilet paper and every bit as good, if not better, than the bidets found outside the United States.

I sure wish we had something like this in the outhouses we used in Vietnam.BidetOuthouseVietNam

A Flooding at The Cloister

water1 001I woke up Saturday morning and as I walked toward the bathroom, water squirted up from between the floor boards of the bedroom. We had trouble!

We could not find the source of the flooding. Up from under the slab? Inside a wall? Down from overhead? There is just one smart thing to do….call Charles!

You can see evidence of Charles Hinton’s presence by his older model turquoise pick up truck. His truck is usually somewhere in the Cloister complex. He oversees much of the activity related to maintaining our complex.

water1 010After nearly an hour of troubleshooting Charles advised us that the source of the water was either under the concrete slab floor or inside a wall, most likely, there was a water pipe leak inside the bathroom wall, he was absolutely right. If the leak was from under the slab floor, the HOA must pay to fix and repair water damage. If a pipe was leaking inside the wall our insurance should cover.

water1 012Charles shut off the water, we spent the weekend with no water.  Meanwhile our insurance company advised me that insurance covered the water damage but we must pay the plumber to fix the leak. On Monday the plumber cut into the wall and repaired the leaky pipe. That was just the start of a long week.

1. A water mitigation team came in and tore out almost every square foot of floor in the house.

2. They ran 8 turbine fans and 4 huge dehumidifiers for 2 1/2 days to dry out our home.

3. We spent two days in a motel.

4. We are now living on mostly bare concrete floors until a new floor is installed, after the holidays.

This has been a new experience for us which I hope we will never repeat.