If you live in a condominium building, you should have insurance coverage for your personal property and for the interior of your condominium. Requirements are usually set by the board of your condominium association.

Q: We live in Virginia and our condo board has advised us that they plan to begin charging unit owners for damages in individual units, even when said damages are caused by a common element failure (roof leakage into unit).

I checked the Virginia Condominium Act and it specifies that these sorts of damages should be the association’s responsibility to repair. But the section of the Act starts with “Except to the extent otherwise provided by the condominium instruments….” The question then becomes if the condo bylaws say that this is a unit owner responsibility, does this then override the Virginia Condominium Act?

A: These days everyone is trying to cut costs and save money. When a condominium association has to be responsible for damages caused inside condominium units, the association either has to have more extensive insurance coverage on the building or it has to pay from money it has in reserves or in its operating fund.

Usually homeowners obtain condominium insurance and this insurance policy will cover damage to their personal property and any damage to the interior of their unit, subject to whatever deductible is specified.

So we don’t find it unusual that a condominium association would want to say to its owners that the association will remain responsible for damage to the common elements (interior walls, floors and other structural portions of the building) but that they don’t want to remain responsible for damages to the units and its contents.

While we are not familiar with the specifics of the Virginia Condominium Act, many state condominium laws provide for exceptions to this sort of rule when they are specifically spelled out in the declaration and by-laws for the condominium association. Given the ability of most homeowners to obtain insurance for their household contents in a condominium and the interior of their condominium, it might be more the norm across the country to have each homeowner be responsible for any damage in their units than have the condo building insure the interior and contents of each unit.

You might say that the homeowner was not at fault when a pipe bursts in a common area and causes damage to the walls in his condominium unit along with damage to his clothing and other items. But it may also be that the condominium association was not at fault either and those repairs cost all of the homeowners plenty of money and increase the insurance expenses on the condominium association. With that in mind, many condominium associations will require each homeowner to insure his own unit along with his own personal effects.

When you buy a condominium insurance policy, you most likely will see an HO6 policy. That policy designation is one that is generally given by insurance companies for coverage they furnish to homeowner’s in condominium buildings. The condominium insurance coverage you obtain should cover everything that is inside your condominium, including cabinets, interior doors and walls, bathrooms and all your personal effects. Some insurance agents will describe the condominium insurance as covering everything in the condominium from the paint on the perimeter walls in.

Given this required coverage, each condominium owner needs to make sure he has sufficient coverage for everything that is considered by the property to be inside a unit, along with the furniture, clothing and other personal items.