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Fire Damage Claims for Condominiums in Mixed-Use Structures

In recent years, many condominiums and apartment buildings in the Tampa Bay area have begun to show up in mixed-use structures. That is to say, there are many more areas where you can buy a condo that is part of a larger complex made up of restaurants, retail shops, and other consumer establishments. In other words, living space is mixed with commercial space. Throughout West Central Florida, communities like these are being more and more popular. For example, an article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported that a new mixed-use development still under construction in the SoHo neighborhood of Tampa had already been completely leased more than 6 months before its planned opening. That particular development, The Morrison, contains 46 residential units and a wide variety of commercial establishments, from a Pilates studio to a cafe.

But when you decide to buy a condominium or lease a unit in a mixed-use development, fire insurance (homeowners or rental coverage) cost you more? Given that you may be in a development with numerous restaurants and other commercial establishments where fires occur with more frequency than in residential only condos or apartments, will your condominium unit owner's insurance premiums be higher than those in a homeowner's insurance policy that covers fire damage? And in the event a fire from another unit-whether one of the commercial units or a neighboring residential unit-does result in damage to your home, will your claim need to be handled differently than that of a single-family homeowner?

Understanding Condominium Unit Owner's Insurance

We have compiled some information from Allstate and State Farm, two insurance companies that often provide condominium unit owner's insurance (sort of like homeowner's insurance for a condo owner). Generally speaking, condo unit owner's insurance is very similar to homeowner's insurance, and most policies generally provide coverage for:

● Fire damage;

● Windstorm damage;

● Hail damage; and

● Theft (sometimes).

As with homeowner's insurance policies, flood damage can be purchased separately. One of the primary differences from homeowner's insurance, however, is that condo unit owner's insurance is usually secondary to the insurance policy of the condominium association. What does that insurance cover? In most cases, the condominium association's insurance will cover damage to the exterior of the condo building, and sometimes to the physical structure of the condo itself (such as the walls or floor of the unit). All of these elements of your home, of course, can be damaged in a fire. Where does condo unit owner's insurance come into play?

In most cases, condo owners purchase insurance in order to cover the interior walls, flooring, and improvements, along with contents of their home in the event of a catastrophe such as a fire since the contents of a condo typically are not included in the association's coverage. In addition, some condo owners buy liability coverage in the event they cause damage to another unit through their own negligence-such as, for example, leaving the stove on and starting a large-scale fire. In most cases, insurance premiums are not necessarily higher with regard to fire damage protection if you live in a mixed-use development.

Filing a Fire Damage Claim: Whose Insurance?

If you owned a condominium unit, what insurance coverage should you rely on in the event of a fire caused by a restaurant below you, or an occupant of a different condo unit? In other words, through which insurance company do you file a fire damage claim? The answer to that question depends largely upon who may be responsible for the fire, as well as what insurance coverage might be best suited to cover the damage. Options can include:

● Condominium association insurance if the damage is to the exterior of your unit or to the structural elements of your condo;

● Your own condominium unit owner's policy if the fire caused damage to the contents of your home;

● Your neighbor's liability insurance if the neighbor started the fire that caused the damage; and/or

● The commercial establishment's insurance if that establishment, such as a restaurant or coffee shop, started the fire.

You may have the option to file through your own insurance, which will allow you to potentially obtain payment for your attorney fees and costs, if necessary. If you have ques tions, an experienced Tampa fire claims attorney can discuss your options with you, as well as the pros and cons of each approach. Contact the Wells Law Group, P.A. for more information.

https://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/news/2017/03/07/retail-space-in-new-south-tampa-mixed-use.html

https://www.allstate.com/tools-and-resources/condo-insurance/what-does-typical-condo-policy-cover.aspx

https://www.statefarm.com/insurance/home-and-property/condo-unit-owners

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