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Vital Insurance Coverage for Landlords

Mar 24, 2008
If you're presently a landlord or planning to be one, you need to protect yourself against the damages that can potentially occur to your properties and your overall financial health. It isn't likely that you'll need all of the forms of insurance I'm going to cover in this article, but you should know what each one can do for you in the event you ever have need of them.

I can't stress enough the importance of having adequate insurance, especially if landlording is your entire livelihood. Compared to catastrophic losses (fire, floods, tornadoes, liability suits, etc.), insurance costs are definitely a bargain!

Insurance Types * Title insurance-this establishes who owns the title and prevents you from throwing away money on a property that might legally belong to someone else. * Fire insurance-always get maximum protection in this area! Recommendation: insure your properties for top value, or the insurance company may discount their payment. Here's an example: If you paid $100,000 for a house and it's worth $120,000, but you insure for only $100,000, then that hundred-thousand is all you'll get. * Liability insurance-never be without this insurance. My recommendation: read the policy closely and note any exclusions! If necessary, pay the extra money to have specific exceptions included in the policy. If you do any building, remodeling, or painting, you may also want to get a separate contractor's insurance policy * Extended coverage-this coverage is also called "comprehensive" coverage or a "package policy." Often, it's offered along with the standard fire insurance policy, and it's an investment well worth the price. This type of coverage can protect you from damage caused by a variety of events--hail, windstorms, smoke, rioting, falling trees, vandalism, freezing temperatures, landslides, accidental water discharge from burst pipes, etc. Tailor the coverage to your particular geographic area. * Earthquake coverage-this is always a separate policy. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you should never be without this policy. Nature's might can destroy your property in a matter of seconds! * Flood insurance-insurers consider flood damage different from water damage caused by burst pipes and such. So, if you live in a flood-prone area, ensure you have this coverage. * Vandalism/malicious mischief-this is cheap insurance and worth the price. It can pay for repairs necessitated by vandals who damage or destroy your property. * Property improvements insurance-a standard building policy doesn't cover damage to such items as swimming pools, fences, signs, parking lots, and other areas. Therefore, because weather can badly damage these items, it pays to have them covered as well. * Business interruption insurance-this is also called "loss of rent" coverage. Here's an example: if a fire damages one of your properties, making it unlivable for a while, then you'll lose rent until that damage is taken care of. In the meantime, fixed expenses keep piling up! With business interruption insurance, the insurance company compensates you for loss of rental income over a specified period. * Mortgage insurance-the aim of this insurance is pay off the balance of your outstanding mortgage if trouble strikes. Believe me, it's well worth the price. Check with a lender for the type you need. * Boiler/machinery insurance-this is essential coverage to have with larger properties. Boiler explosions can have devastating results. Needless to say, claims can be large for these awful accidents, and you definitely don't want to shoulder the expense. This insurance is also a good idea because the insurance company will inspect the equipment on a regular basis. In effect, the insurance company becomes your partner in maintenance and safety.

Other Forms of Insurance to Consider * Management insurance--if you manage properties, get management insurance so the insurance company handles any lawsuits for you. * Umbrella policy-this is called "umbrella" insurance because it's designed to give liability protection above and beyond the limits of other insurance policies. That is, it kicks in when the liability on other polices has been exhausted. Depending on the insurance company, you can get an umbrella policy with an additional one to five million in liability protection. * Workers compensation insurance--a definite necessity if you have employees and/or contractors working for you. Where accidents are concerned, it's better to be safe than sorry. This insurance also protects you against frivolous lawsuits. * Legal Protection--legal protection is a kind of insurance so it pays to have the services of an attorney for two reasons: to handle lawsuits and to handle insurance companies reluctant to pay in the event of covered damages. If you find a personal lawyer too expensive, an option is to use pre-paid legal services. They're cheap, charging a monthly fee in the range of $10-30 a month. Check out the American Prepaid Legal Services Institute for a partial listing of plans and services. Or try Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. for coverage of civil cases or work-related criminal cases.

Key Concept: Don't be "penny wise and pound foolish." In other words, never skimp on insurance coverage; your property investments are too valuable to worry about saving a few dollars on premiums.
About the Author
Jack Sternberg is the creator of the renowned "Buyers First Program". As the "gurus' guru", he is well known by the professional creative real estate community as "Obi-Won Kenobi". Having been a full time investor since 1977, Mr. Sternberg has been "at" the closing table more than 1,500 times. Mr. Sternberg has the depth of experience that lend value to his associations. Contact Mr. Sternberg at www.askjacksternberg.com
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