When many investors look at insurance, they simply see it as an expense item, something to drive down cash flow. While we are all looking to maximize cash flow, insurance protects the cash flow that can be obtained during the time you hold the investment.
The first thing insurance protects is the house itself, the dwelling as it is often referred. What is covered? The truth is that it varies based on what you buy. In short there are several levels of coverage. The most commonly purchased coverage for rental investment properties is the DP-3. This policy is similar to an owner occupied HO-3 policy in that it is a special form which means unless the loss was excluded, it will be covered. It is the broadest coverage you can purchase for your investment property. Typical losses like fire, theft, wind and explosion are covered under this policy. There are always some exclusions, and some of the more worrisome exclusions include flood, earthquake and landslide. In most cases, this coverage can be procured, but with a separate policy.
So you have the primary cash producing asset covered. Next are the adjacent structures. These include detached garages, sheds, fences, retaining walls, pools and anything that is that attached to the structure itself. For a lot of rental properties, your desire to insure these items may be limited; however, most DP-3 policies include a limit equal to 10% of the value of the dwelling as coverage for adjacent or “other” structures.
The next piece of coverage for landlord properties is the landlord furnishings. This includes appliances such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, microwaves, ranges or ovens, dishwashers, etc. It also includes any furniture provided to the tenants such as couches, beds, etc.
One of the most important coverage for investors is the fair rental value. If your investment property burns to the ground and you then build a new house, you are out the cash flow that you would have had otherwise received while the home is being built. Yet you are still on the hook for the mortgage. How do you protect yourself? With coverage for the fair rental value, this will pay you as if you had a renter occupying the property.
Liability coverage is a must in today’s society. As an investor you have assets you must protect. Many have learned that separating properties from personal assets in the form of LLCs is a great risk management tactic, but it’s not enough. When sued you will want liability coverage that will not only pay for damages you are legally held liable for, but will also pay for your defense costs. Both the damages and defense costs can be extremely high. As such, it is always a good idea to purchase an umbrella policy, which not only increases your limits of coverage, but also provides coverage in situations where the primary policy will not.
Finally there is medical payments coverage. What happens when someone gets hurt and incurs medical bills? Oftentimes the insurance company will actually pay for the medical damages, so as to say, “we have taken care of you, don’t sue us.””
When it comes down to it, insurance is an expense item, but an important one. When done right it can ensure you can enjoy the cash flow from your investment for a long time to come, regardless of what mishaps occur.