This article is your very important and really complete guide to real estate insurance for residential and commercial properties as well as professionals like architects.
Real estate insurance is a really broad term that can refer to a bunch of different coverages. You may be looking to insure a commercial investment property like a retail shopping center near Main Street or perhaps a 10-unit apartment building in the suburbs. Alternatively, you may need coverage for your professional service business like architectural or engineering responsibilities.
Either way, it’s important to understand how insurance coverage works because those who structure it properly can avoid costly and unforeseen damages or losses to their investments or businesses.
We will take a close look at the different types of real estate coverage available to give you a good grasp of the insurance that is best suited for you so that you avoid big mistakes when it’s time to select your ideal policy!
At Notable Risk, we rely on our deep prior experience in real estate transactions (and MBA and law degrees) to fuel our independent agency. We provide some unmatched benefits to real estate investors and professionals.
If we may be able to assist you, call 888-897-4815 now or click here to schedule an intro meeting to talk about real estate!
Table Of Contents:
- Introduction to Real Estate Insurance
- Commercial Real Estate Insurance
- Residential Investment Property Insurance
- Real Estate Insurance for Professionals
Introduction to Real Estate Insurance
Real estate insurance encompasses various types of coverage designed specifically for professional service businesses or properties in the four-wall space.
Commercial Real Estate Insurance
Commercial real estate insurance provides coverage for property used for business purposes. It protects against risks such as hail damage to the building, theft, liability claims, and loss of rental income due to business interruption from displaced tenants. This insurance is essential for investors who lease commercial properties as it helps mitigate financial losses in case of unforeseen events or accidents.
What are the Key Commercial Asset Classes to Insure
Different types of commercial properties require insurance coverage to protect against potential risks and liabilities. Here are a few of the key real estate asset classes that require some form of commercial insurance.
- Office Buildings: Insurance for office buildings is essential as it safeguards against property damage, theft, liability claims, and business interruption.
- Retail Shopping Complexes/Malls: Insurance for shopping centers covers various aspects including structural damages due to weather events or accidents within the complex area; it can also extend coverage for public liability concerns involving shoppers visiting stores within the mall premises.
- Warehouses: Warehouse facilities need insurance coverage for protection against risks like theft or damage to stored goods due to natural disasters or accidents such as fires or floods.
- Hotels/Motels: The hospitality industry needs specific insurance coverage tailored towards protecting guests from injuries on the premises while also covering damages caused by incidents such as fires or natural disasters.
Typical Real Estate Insurance for Commercial Properties
While different commercial real estate classes require specific coverages, there are some overlapping areas that all investors need to focus on. Here are some of the key policy components that should be considered:
Property insurance for commercial real estate owners protects physical assets, such as buildings, fixtures and equipment. It helps mitigate risks and damages that result from events like fires, thefts and some natural disasters. Commercial property insurance policies typically include coverage for the building structure itself. This means that if the building is damaged or destroyed by a covered event like a fire or storm, the policy will provide funds to repair or rebuild it.
General Liability Insurance
This insurance coverage provides protection against claims or lawsuits arising from bodily injury, property damage, or personal injury that occurs on the owner’s property (often this is called on-premises liability insurance). Commercial real estate owners face various risks and potential liabilities due to their ownership and management responsibilities. The policy typically covers legal expenses, medical costs for injured parties, repair or replacement of damaged property, and settlements or judgments awarded in court. While this insurance protects the owner it also provides potential recourse to tenants who lease space within the commercial property. It assures them that if they suffer harm while on the premises due to negligence on behalf of the owner, there is a means for compensation.
Business Interruption Coverage
This insurance policy provides compensation for lost rental income and additional expenses incurred by the property owner due to events such as fires, natural disasters, or other unforeseen circumstances. Commercial real estate owners rely on rental income to cover their mortgage payments, maintenance costs, and other expenses associated with owning and managing properties. However, if a tenant’s business is interrupted or forced to close temporarily due to an unexpected event like a fire or flood, it can have a significant impact on the property owner’s cash flow. With business interruption insurance, commercial real estate owners can mitigate these financial risks.
Commercial Auto Insurance
If your real estate business owns vehicles used for work purposes (e.g., maintenance vans), commercial vehicle insurance provides liability protection in case of accidents involving these vehicles. It covers medical expenses and damages resulting from collisions with other vehicles or objects.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Required in most states, workers’ compensation provides benefits to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses. It covers medical costs, rehabilitation expenses, disability payments, and lost wages while protecting employers from potential lawsuits related to workplace injuries.
Typical Endorsements or Policies To Expand Commercial Coverage
Beyond standard provisions, there are various optional coverages to add to a commercial real estate policy through endorsements – these are modifications that provide extra protection tailored toward specific assets and the owner’s circumstances. Common coverage add-ons typically include:
1. Commercial Umbrella Insurance: Also known as excess liability insurance, umbrella policies provide additional liability coverage beyond what is offered by general liability policies—helping protect businesses against catastrophic events that could exceed their primary policy limits.
2. Equipment Breakdown Coverage: This endorsement covers the repair or replacement costs of essential equipment, such as HVAC systems, boilers, and electrical panels, in case of mechanical breakdowns or failures.
3. Ordinance or Law Coverage: This endorsement helps cover the additional costs associated with complying with building codes and regulations when repairing or rebuilding damaged property after a covered loss.
4. Sewer and Water Backup Coverage: This endorsement provides coverage for damages caused by sewer backups or other water-related issues from drains and sump pumps that may occur on the property.
5. Tenant Discrimination Liability Insurance: Designed specifically for landlords who lease their commercial spaces to tenants, this endorsement protects against claims arising from alleged discrimination based on factors like race, gender identity/expression, disability status etc., during tenant selection processes.
6. Cyber Liability Insurance: As cyber threats continue to increase across industries including real estate investment firms; this endorsement helps protect against losses resulting from data breaches/security incidents involving sensitive client information stored electronically.
7. Crime Insurance: Commercial real estate owners often elect to obtain this coverage to protect against losses resulting from theft, employee dishonesty, forgery, or fraud-related incidents.
8. Vacancy Endorsement: If a property will be vacant for an extended period (typically more than 30-60 consecutive days), this coverage allows continued protection during vacancies, while also addressing any specific requirements imposed by insurers regarding maintenance and security measures.
9. Environmental Liability Coverage: For properties that may have environmental risks due to previous use (such as manufacturing facilities), this endorsement protects against claims related to pollution cleanup costs and third-party bodily injury or property damage caused by pollutants on-site.
10. Flood Insurance: While not typically included in standard policies, flood insurance is an important endorsement for properties located in flood-prone areas. It provides coverage against damages caused by widespread flooding from rivers, violent storms, etc.
11. Earthquake Insurance: Similar to flood insurance, earthquake coverage is typically not included in standard policies and must be added separately to protect against damages resulting from damaging seismic activities.
12. Tenant Improvements and Betterments Coverage: This endorsement protects any improvements made by tenants within the rented space, ensuring they are adequately insured in case of damage or destruction.
13. Terrorism Insurance: In light of potential threats and attacks on commercial properties, this endorsement offers coverage for damages resulting from acts of terrorism.
14. Workers’ Compensation Insurance: If you have employees working in your office space, workers’ compensation insurance is essential. It provides coverage for medical expenses and lost wages if an employee gets injured or falls ill while performing work-related duties.
15. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI): This covers claims related to employment practices issues like wrongful termination allegations, discrimination lawsuits, and sexual harassment claims filed by current or former employees.
Potential Exclusions from Commercial Coverage
about typical exclusions from commercial real estate insurance for investors
Exclusions from commercial real estate insurance for investors often include certain types of damages or events that are not covered by the policy. These exclusions vary depending on the specific insurance provider and policy, but some common examples include:
1. Acts of terrorism: Many commercial real estate insurance policies exclude coverage for damages caused by acts of terrorism, as these events can result in significant financial losses.
2. Environmental hazards: Insurance providers may exclude coverage for damages related to environmental hazards such as pollution or contamination, as these issues can be costly to remediate and pose a high risk to property value.
3. Wear and tear: Normal wear and tear is typically not covered by commercial real estate insurance policies, as it is considered a part of regular maintenance that should be handled by the property owner.
4. War or civil unrest: Damages resulting from war or civil unrest are commonly excluded from coverage due to their unpredictable nature and potential for widespread destruction.
5. Intentional acts: Deliberate actions taken by the investors or their employees that lead to damage or loss are almost always excluded from coverage under commercial real estate insurance policies.
6. Certain natural disasters: Some policies may exclude coverage for specific natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or wildfires unless additional endorsements are purchased separately.
7. Neglect or lack of maintenance: Damages resulting from neglecting regular property maintenance are generally excluded from coverage.
8. Tenant actions: Insurance might not cover damages caused by tenants’ actions, including illegal activities or unauthorized alterations to the property.
9. Loss of income due to vacancy: Policies often do not provide coverage for loss of rental income during periods when a property is vacant.
10, Employee injuries: While workers’ compensation insurance covers employee injuries sustained during work hours, commercial property insurance does not typically provide coverage for these types of claims.
It’s important for commercial property owners to carefully review their insurance policy terms and conditions to understand what is included and excluded in their coverage before making any assumptions about protection against potential risks.
Residential Investment Property Insurance
Residential investment property insurance refers to a type of coverage specifically designed for properties that are owned by individuals or entities to generate income through renting or leasing. It provides important protection against potential risks and damages that may occur to the property, such as fires or certain natural disasters.
What are the key residential categories to insure?
Residential investment assets encompass several different property types all of which require some form of insurance coverage to protect their rental properties. While investors have their own industry segmentation for investment purposes, when insurance companies analyze risks, residential properties are typically delineated by the following categories.
- Single-family homes are standalone dwellings occupied by a single household. When you own a single-family residential property that you use as an investment, it is important to have the right insurance coverage. This type of property requires specific coverage because it is not your primary residence. One common option for insuring these types of properties is landlord or rental dwelling insurance.
- 2-4 unit properties which include duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes which are rented to tenants. These units require protection against potential risks and damages that may occur to the property or its occupants. Given the increased number of units compared to single-family properties, there is a higher likelihood of accidents or incidents happening on the premises.
- Apartment building insurance for investors who own single properties comprised of many individual units is an essential aspect of protecting their investment. As property owners, they face various risks and liabilities that can potentially lead to significant financial losses given the density of the property. Apartment building insurance typically includes coverage for property damage caused by events like fires or hail storms. It also provides liability protection in case someone gets injured on the premises and sues the owner. This coverage extends to both tenants and visitors.
- Multi-property portfolios present added risks and require comprehensive insurance policies tailored to the specific needs of a large number of properties. One option for insuring real estate portfolios is to consider a commercial property insurance program where all investments are included under one master policy. This type of coverage is designed specifically for business owners who own multiple properties and it creates flexibility when adding and removing properties while decreasing administrative burdens associated with payments and renewals. Others find that obtaining coverage on a separate residential policy form for each property is a better approach. This ensures that any damages or losses incurred by one property do not affect the entire portfolio while offering investors the opportunity to customize coverage for each location.
Typical Real Estate Insurance for Residential Properties
Below is a list of core coverages that are typically included in real estate investor insurance for residential properties:
This type of insurance provides financial protection in case of damage or loss to the building itself, including walls, roof, floors, and other structural components. It typically includes coverage for perils such as fire, lightning strikes, windstorms, hailstorms and burglary. In addition to covering the physical structure of the property itself, this type of insurance may also provide coverage for additional structures on the premises like garages or sheds.
This specific form of insurance is designed to protect in cases where tenants, visitors, or even trespassers suffer bodily harm or property damage while on the insured property. The main objective of on-premises liability insurance is to safeguard property owners against lawsuits and claims filed by injured parties seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages due to disability, pain and suffering, and other related damages. In addition to covering legal defense costs in such situations, this insurance may also offer coverage for settlements or judgments awarded against the insured party.
Owners of residential investment properties need to have adequate liability coverage as accidents can happen unexpectedly at any time. Slip-and-fall incidents caused by uneven flooring surfaces or poorly maintained common areas are common examples that could result in injury claims. Other scenarios might involve dog bites if tenants are allowed pets on the premises without proper precautions being taken.
Loss of Rental Income Insurance
This type of insurance is designed to protect landlords from financial losses when their tenants are unable to pay rent or when the property becomes uninhabitable due to damage caused by events such as fire or natural disasters. If any of these incidents occur and render the property unsuitable for habitation or temporarily unoccupied due to repairs or renovations, loss of rental income insurance will compensate the owner for the amount they would have earned through renting out their property. The compensation is important because it allows landlords to cover ongoing operating and financing expenses like utilities, taxes and mortgage payments even though the property is uninhabitable.
Endorsements or Policies to Expand Residential Rental Coverage
Depending on the size, location and operations of the investment property owner, here is a list of many important additional coverages to enhance the standard landlord insurance policy.
1. Umbrella Policy: An umbrella policy provides additional liability coverage beyond what is offered by standard liability insurance policies. It offers extra protection in case of significant lawsuits where damages exceed regular policy limits.
2. Flood Insurance: Depending on the location of your investment property, it may be wise to consider flood insurance since most standard policies do not cover flood-related damages caused by natural disasters like hurricanes or heavy rainstorms.
3. Earthquake Insurance: Similar to flood insurance, earthquake coverage is crucial if your investment property is located in an area prone to seismic activity since it typically isn’t included in standard policies.
4. Builder’s Risk Insurance (during renovations): If you’re renovating or making substantial improvements to your residential investment property, builder’s risk insurance can protect against damages during construction work.
5. Tenant Discrimination Coverage (Fair Housing Act): If you are involved in tenant selection processes as a landlord, this coverage can provide financial assistance with defense costs related to allegations of discrimination based on protected classes under federal law.
6. Sewer Backup Coverage: This optional add-on protects against damage caused by sewer backups that could lead to costly repairs or replacement of damaged items within the premises.
7. Equipment Breakdown Coverage: This option protects against unexpected breakdowns of essential equipment within the rental property, such as HVAC systems or appliances used by tenants.
8. Landlord Contents Insurance: This coverage protects your personal belongings within the rental property that belong to you as the landlord (e.g., appliances or furniture provided). It does not cover tenants’ personal belongings which need to be insured under a tenant’s renters insurance policy.
9. Workers’ Compensation Insurance (if applicable). Similar to commercial properties, if you have employees working on maintaining or managing your residential investment properties, workers’ compensation insurance is legally necessary (depending on your state and number of employees) to provide them with medical benefits and wage replacement if they suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.
Real Estate Insurance for Professionals
On the other end of the spectrum, we have insurance coverage for non-physical assets. In this context, insurance is designed to protect real estate professionals who provide services to property owners and investors. These professionals play vital roles in property transactions and management which expose them to a wide range of potential liabilities which require appropriate insurance solutions.
Coverage for Real Estate Agents, Architects, Engineers, and Property Managers
There are some key differences in terms of the insurance policies required for real estate agents compared with property managers, engineers or architects. Some of the distinctions are due to the structure of their business, the location of their operations and the unique services provided. As a result, some of these professionals may require commercial property, general liability, commercial auto and workers compensation. In all cases, however, these real estate professionals all require some form of professional liability or errors and omissions (E&O) insurance.
Real Estate Agents
The main insurance insurance required for agents is E&O insurance. This coverage, often a state licensing pre-requisite, protects against claims made by clients or third parties alleging negligence, errors, or omissions in the agent’s professional services. Real estate agents are often involved in various transactions and interactions with clients, such as property sales and providing advice on market trends and analysis. However, the real estate investing process is complicated and mistakes can happen even to the most experienced professionals.
In such cases, E&O insurance acts as a safety net by covering legal expenses and potential damages resulting from these claims. Claims covered under E&O insurance may include failure to disclose property defects or liens, misrepresentation of property information or pricing, breach of fiduciary duty towards clients’ interests, errors in contracts or documentation preparation, and other similar allegations related to professional services provided by real estate agents. Having E&O insurance is not only beneficial for individual real estate agents but also helps protect their reputation and financial stability.
Of course, for those agents that work from leased or owned retail outlets, drive company vehicles or employ a team that introduces additional coverages that are discussed below.
Architects and Engineers
Similar to other real estate professional services, one type of insurance that architects and engineers typically need is professional liability insurance or E&O coverage. This policy helps protect these professionals in case they make mistakes or fail to deliver services up to the expected standards. Professional liability insurance can cover legal expenses, settlements, or judgments if a client files a lawsuit claiming financial loss due to an architect or engineer’s negligence or errors.
Another essential form of loss protection for architects or engineers is general liability insurance. This policy protects against claims related to bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, or advertising injury that may occur during their work. General liability coverage can help pay for medical expenses, legal fees, and damages resulting from accidents or incidents on job sites.
In addition to these primary types of business insurance, architectural and engineering firms may also consider other forms of specialized policies depending on their specific needs. These may include:
- Business Personal Property Insurance: These professionals often have valuable equipment like computers and drafting tools that need protection against theft or damage.
- Commercial Auto Coverage: Architects and engineers often rely on transportation to visit project sites, meet with clients, attend meetings, and transport equipment or materials. Commercial auto coverage ensures that they have financial protection in case of accidents, damage to their vehicles, theft, or other unforeseen events. This specialized insurance typically includes liability coverage which protects against bodily injury or property damage caused by the insured vehicle. It also covers medical expenses for injuries sustained by passengers in the vehicle at the time of an accident. In addition to liability coverage, commercial auto policies can offer comprehensive and collision coverage. Comprehensive coverage protects against non-collision incidents such as theft, vandalism, fire or natural disasters. Collision coverage covers damages resulting from collisions with other vehicles or objects.
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance: If an architecture or engineering firm has employees working under them, this policy can provide benefits such as medical expenses and lost wages in case an employee gets injured while performing job duties.
- Cyber Liability Insurance: As technology plays an increasingly significant role in architecture and engineering firms’ operations, protecting sensitive data from cyber threats becomes crucial. This policy helps cover costs associated with data breaches such as notification expenses to affected parties and credit monitoring services.
- Business Interruption Insurance: If a disaster strikes—such as a fire at a firm’s office—it could lead to temporary closure and loss of income during the recovery period. Business interruption insurance compensates for lost revenue during this time so that architects and engineers can continue paying bills and keep their business running smoothly until normal operations resume.
Here are some important types of insurance that property managers should consider whether they work with small investors or large real estate investment trusts:
1. General Liability Insurance: This type of insurance provides coverage for property damage or bodily injury caused by negligence or accidents on the managed property. It protects against claims made by tenants, visitors, or third parties.
2. Professional Liability Insurance: Similar to the policies obtained by real estate agents, architects and engineers, this coverage is specifically designed to protect property managers from claims related to professional mistakes or negligence in their services. Property management professional liability covers legal expenses and damages resulting from errors such as failure to perform duties correctly or breaches of contract.
3. Property Insurance: While not a direct responsibility often as it falls on the investor, property managers nonetheless often help ensure they have adequate coverage for the physical structure(s) they manage against perils like fire, vandalism, theft, natural disasters, and other potential risks. This includes both residential and commercial properties under their management.
4. Workers’ Compensation Insurance: If a property manager has employees or contractors working under them, workers’ compensation insurance is necessary to cover medical expenses and lost wages if an employee gets injured while performing work-related tasks.
5. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI): This coverage protects property management companies against claims made by employees regarding employment-related issues. It typically includes claims related to wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, and other similar workplace disputes. The policy covers legal defense costs, settlements or judgments awarded to the claimant(s).
6. Cyber Security Insurance: Given that data is regularly exchanged digitally between tenants and property managers, having cyber liability insurance can help protect against financial losses due to cyber-attacks on sensitive tenant information stored electronically.
7. Commercial Umbrella Insurance: This insurance liability coverage provides extra protection beyond the limits set by other primary policies like general liability or auto insurance policies held by the property manager.
The above lists are a good starting point only. Real estate agents, property managers, architects and engineers need to assess their needs carefully (with the help of a licensed real estate agent!) when making any decisions about the appropriate insurance coverage for their operations and level of risk exposure.
Typical E&O Insurance Exclusions for Real Estate Agents, Property Managers, Architects and Engineers
We noted that one thing that most real estate professionals have in common is that each requires some form of professional liability or E&O insurance. It’s very important, however, to know what is typically excluded in each company’s policy to avoid a costly coverage gap in the event of an unexpected claim from a real estate client. The analysis upfront will help you decide on additional endorsements or coverages that may be necessary to avoid exposure.
Exclusions from Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance policies can vary, but some common exclusions are typically found in these policies. These exclusions may include:
1. Intentional misconduct: E&O insurance generally does not cover intentional acts or fraudulent behavior by the insured party.
2. Criminal activities: Any claims arising from criminal activities or illegal actions will be excluded from coverage.
3. Prior knowledge: If the insured party had prior knowledge of a potential claim before obtaining the policy, it will typically excluded from coverage absent disclosure and express acceptance by the insurer who underwrites the risk.
4. Bodily injury and property damage: E&O insurance is specifically designed to cover financial losses resulting from professional errors or negligence, so bodily injury and property damage claims are typically excluded as they fall under general liability insurance.
5. Employment-related claims: Claims related to employment practices such as wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, or wage disputes are often excluded as they would be covered under separate employment practices liability insurance (EPLI).
6. Intellectual property infringement: Many E&O policies automatically exclude claims related to intellectual property infringement such as copyright or trademark violations.
7. Breach of contract: Claims arising from a breach of contract will also likely be excluded since the risk transfer to the insurance company is typically denied across most forms of insurance.
It’s important for real estate professionals to carefully review their specific E&O policy documents and all of the exclusions that may apply. Work with an insurance professional to identify policy changes and exclusions to determine whether any endorsements or additional policies are needed to close the gaps.
You probably realize now just how many different coverage types can be included under the broad definition of real estate insurance. It is important to recognize that different policies are necessary for commercial properties such as offices, retail spaces, and hotels compared with residential rentals like single-family homes or apartment buildings.
Additionally, real estate professionals such as architects, engineers, agents, and property managers need specific insurance coverage like errors and omissions (E&O) protection to mitigate potential risks they may encounter when providing services to real estate owners and investors.
While the term real estate insurance does cast a wide net that includes both physical assets and professionals, this thorough guide has given you the know-how to make smart decisions when you work with your insurance agent to find the right coverage for your business or properties.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for general educational purposes only and no other purpose whatsoever and it is not regularly updated. Neither this blog nor any of its contents (express or implied) should be considered legal, financial, health, or other professional advice. It is essential to consult with your own advisors regarding any matters discussed in this blog post or elsewhere. Notable Risk LLC and its owners, members, managers, directors, officers, partners, consultants and similar entities do not make any representation or warranty regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in this blog post or elsewhere.