Landlords, Beware

Experienced landlords will agree that there is nothing quite as comforting as a good tenant; especially if the tenant spends his own money making improvements to your building during the lease term.

But if a tenant plans to spend big bucks on improving your property, you’ll want to consult your Trusted Choice® insurance professional first. That’s because improvements that become part of the building are calculated into the building owner’s property insurance limit for the purposes of determining adequate insurance. So a building owner must amend his insurance to reflect the value of the improvements or he could be in for an unpleasant surprise at claim time.

Business insurance policies determine how much of a loss is paid by using the value of “covered property” at the time of the loss, not when the policy was purchased. The building insurance limit must at least equal a certain percentage of value, typically 80%, 90%, or 100%.

Consider this example: A landlord leases his retail building to a tenant who sells custom floor coverings. The current value of this building is $2 million and the landlord’s insurance policy has a limit equal to 100% of that amount, as required by his policy. With the landlord’s permission, the tenant installs a new floor in the showroom valued at $1 million. A fire damages part of the building. The showroom and custom flooring are not directly damaged. However, while processing the claim, the insurance adjuster determines that at the time of the fire, the value of the building includes the new floor, thus bringing it to $3 million: $1 million greater than the limit on the landlord’s policy. The landlord is severely underinsured and therefore will not receive the full amount of the loss.

So what if the lease makes the tenant responsible for providing insurance for the betterment? Realty laws in most states say that once an improvement is made to a building it becomes part of the building and is therefore included in that building’s overall value. While it is common for landlords to require that tenants insure the betterment itself, that may not be sufficient. In this example, it was not the damage to the floor that caused his problem, but rather that the value of the new floor increased the overall value of his building and the landlord did not amend his insurance for the spike.

Claim time is no time to discover that you are underinsured. You have already suffered a loss, so the last thing you want is an insurance adjuster explaining why a larger portion of the claim cost will come from your own pocket. If improvements are being considered for your building, call your Trusted Choice® insurance professional immediately. The good news is that most insurance policies can be easily amended to reflect the change in value. Such a change will ensure that your building’s new value does what it’s supposed to do: Put money in your pocket.

Trusted Choice can also help you choose the best insurance agent for your needs.

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