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What should you do if there’s water damage in your condo?


Overflowing toilets, leaky dishwashers, and burst pipes are three common things that can cause water damage in your home. But what happens if you live in a condo? How do you know what your building is responsible for and what your own insurance covers? And how should you handle this insurance claim?

Before we get started, it's important to understand the two types of condo insurance policies that generally work together to cover water damage: one for the condominium building itself and one for the individual unit owner. The specifics should be clearly laid out in your condo's declaration and bylaws, but the breakdown of coverage often looks like this:

  • The condominium policy, or master policy, tends to cover what's known as common elements. Common elements generally include
    • The building's infrastructure,
    • Roadways,
    • Pathways,
    • 'As built' interiors of units, unless otherwise stated in the condominium's bylaws.
  • The unit owner's policy insures upgrades made to the standard unit, like new laminate flooring, upgraded kitchen countertops, or appliances. It also covers the owner's belongings and finishes in the units that aren't covered by the master policy.

Essentially, the condominium's master policy generally covers the unit as it was built, whereas the unit owner's policy covers enhancements or "betterments" made to the unit, plus the owner's belongings, as well as third-party liability.

Who do you contact if there's water damage in your condo?
If there's water damage in your condo unit, you need to take two steps right away:

  • Notify your property manager or the building's superintendent so they can identify the water source and work to resolve the issue immediately.
  • Notify your own insurance company to report any damage done to your belongings or to improvements you've made to your own condo unit.

If you live in a townhouse (rather than a high-rise condominium), the steps are similar. Immediately let your property manager know about the water damage, and then get in touch with your own insurer.

Does my condo insurance cover all types of water damage?
Not necessarily. Most condo insurance policies do not automatically cover damage caused by sewer backups or overland water (including overflow from lakes and rivers, heavy rain, and spring run-off). That said, sewer backup and overland water coverage are often available as add-ons to your standard condo insurance policy.

What do I need to tell my insurance company when there's water damage in my condo?
Gathering the right information to share with your insurer can help make the claims process go more smoothly. If you're making a water damage claim, you might be asked to provide any of this information:

  • Details about the incident: describe what happened in your own words, and whether or not the incident might have been caused by a faulty product, such as a leaky washing machine or faulty plumbing parts. If the faulty item is in your unit, keep it for the adjuster to inspect.
  • Damage to your home: report the type of materials that were damaged, like drywall, doors, hardwood flooring, etc., and the dimensions of the area that was damaged. Also, be able to identify where the water damage started.
  • Damage to your belongings: list the type of damage the water caused and whether the damaged items need to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced. Share details about these items, including brand names, model numbers, original purchase price, and where and when the item was purchased. A home inventory sheet or app would help in this process.
  • Any steps you've already taken to reduce the damage: describe any work you've already done to fix the problem to prevent further damage, like trying to patch a leaking pipe to prevent further flooding.
  • Whether you have a contractor you'd like to hire to complete repairs to your unit: provide contact details for the contractor.
  • If you need to make alternate living arrangements while waiting for repairs to your home: many home, condo, and tenant insurance policies include additional living expenses coverage for out-of-pocket expenses when you're forced to leave home because of an insured event.

Have questions about how your condo insurance policy would protect you in the event of water damage in your unit? Reach out to your licensed broker today. Your broker can help you review your policy and make sure you have the coverage you need.

To review your current OTIP policy, please contact our Auto and Home Service Centre at 1-833-615-9329. To get a quote for tenant insurance from an OTIP insurance broker today, speak with an OTIP Broker at 1-833-494-0085.

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