Contents vs strata insurance: A guide to understanding the cover for your brand-new apartment

Contents vs strata insurance: A guide to understanding the cover for your brand-new apartment
Contents vs strata insurance: A guide to understanding the cover for your brand-new apartment

From searching for the right property to applying for a home loan and choosing your furniture schemes and decor, there’s a lot to plan before moving into your new home. Insurance is another important consideration, as it can help provide a level of financial cover for the contents inside your apartment, or the building itself, in the event of a worst-case scenario.

Here’s a guide to understanding insurance cover for your apartment, and four things to keep in mind when considering a contents policy to suit your requirements.

What insurance is available for an apartment?

For most new apartments, financial protection for the building structure is generally managed through a strata insurance policy. This type of insurance generally does not often include cover for your possessions inside the apartment, which is where contents insurance becomes important to acquire.

1. Building - strata insurance

Strata insurance, also called body corporate insurance, covers the apartment building itself, together with common property and shared areas like pools, lifts, driveways, balconies and garages, as well as permanent fixtures inside the apartment, which may include shared water pipes, toilets, and built-in wardrobes.

Depending on the policy, you might also have coverage for public liability in the event someone (such as a tradesperson) is injured while on common property.

This building insurance is mandatory for strata title apartments and is therefore arranged and managed by the body corporate. The cost of the insurance is shared between all owners and included in your body corporate levies.

2. Contents insurance

Contents insurance provides some financial protection against damage, theft or loss of personal possessions in your home. It is designed to cover everything inside your apartment that’s not permanently fixed, meaning you may be able to use it to claim items such as carpets, curtains, light fittings and appliances, as well as personal possessions including furniture, jewellery, phones and laptops.

When comparing insurance policies, it is a good idea to look at factors such as claim limits and the natural events included (such as damage from power surges during storms) because insurance providers can have varying policy definitions, inclusions and exclusions.

How much can contents insurance cost?

The exact premium you pay on your contents insurance can depend on a range of factors – such as the location of your apartment and the value of the contents you need cover for – but to give you a ballpark estimate, here is the market average annual contents insurance premiums listed on Canstar’s database. 

CONTENTS INSURANCE PREMIUM STATISTICS
                    STATE                     
     AVERAGE ANNUAL MARKET PREMIUMS
NORTH QLD
$756.49
NSW
$409.59
QLD
$398.46
SA
$330.29
TAS
$303.24
WA
$383.61

*Source: Canstar - 17/09/2019. Based on the average annual premium for general contents insurance policies rated in Canstar's September 2019 Home & Contents Insurance Star Ratings for the sum insured of $50,000. North QLD is the portion of Queensland north of Rockhampton. QLD includes Rockhampton and all areas south. Market includes all rated products on Canstar’s database.

When should you take out contents insurance?

The stage where you become responsible for any damage to the property differs from state-to-state. Generally, the buyer becomes responsible for damage to the property either on the exchange of contracts or at settlement. 

Another consideration is that the strata insurance might not cover internal fixtures, such as floorboards or top-of-the-range light fittings. I would suggest confirming with your lawyer as to what is covered by your apartment's strata insurance and what you may require additional insurance for.

Insurance and your new apartment: 4 things to keep in mind

When buying an off-the-plan apartment, you may be looking to protect your assets financially, but it’s important to bear in mind that not all insurance policies are created equal.

Here are four things to keep in mind when considering insurance for a new apartment:

1. Understand what your strata insurance covers

Check the specifics of what the strata insurance policy considers part of the building structure, common property, common areas and common contents. For example, some policies might cover hardwood flooring inside apartments but not timber laminate or carpet, which you may choose to cover in your contents insurance policy.

2. Comparing contents insurance policies

Different insurance providers have different policies, and premium prices will vary. Shopping around to compare the offers provided by contents insurance providers is a great way to find out which company's policy is best suited to your needs.

When comparing policies, it is also a good idea to check the extent of coverage offered, including the definitions for clauses including "accidental damage" and other defined events, like fire and theft. You could also check whether your cover extends to personal property, including smartphones and bicycles, when they are in use remotely from your home.

If you’re intending on making your new apartment an investment property, you may instead wish to consider landlord insurance, as contents cover might not apply to you in this situation.

3. Accurately valuing your possessions

When taking out contents insurance, your insurance provider will generally ask you to give an estimated total value for your possessions. If you would like cover for certain high-value items such as jewellery, computers or electric guitars, you may need to list each of them specifically, and check with your provider about the value they may payout if you need to claim. Documenting and taking a photo of the items and receipts could also assist in providing evidence of ownership in case you need to make a claim.

4. Home warranty insurance

Something extra to keep in mind for newly built or off-the-plan apartments, in particular, is home warranty insurance which could be included as part of the building contract and is typically underwritten by the state government where the apartment is located. If you find any defects covered under the policy within a set period after development and you inform your body corporate immediately, you may be able to lodge a claim for breach of statutory warranty. Note that eligibility, timelines and deadlines for making claims may vary between different states and territories.

Mitch Watson

Mitch Watson

Mitch Watson is the Group Manager of Research and Ratings at Canstar. He has worked in finance research for over 10 years. Over this time, he has developed a deep understanding of the financial sector and what makes a high-value product for both consumers and businesses.

Tags: 
Insurance Australia Canstar

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