Renter’s, co-op, and condo insurance is not just about protecting yourself in case of fire or theft.
In fact, according to New York City apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage, vertical dwellers are far more vulnerable to other types of mishaps, including bathroom overflows, dog bites, and leaks from PTAC air conditioning units.
“Burglaries and fires happen,” says Schneider, who helps customers file around 500 claims a year, “but they are relatively rare in comparison.”
Here are the top three claims, including the average amount of each claim (or, if you don't have insurance, the amount you’ll pay out of your own pocket):
1. Sink, tub, and toilet overflows
Average claim size: $2,500-$4,500 (reaching all the way up to six figures)
“This is far and away the primary type of claim we see,” says Schneider. “Kids leave things in toilets or sinks that clogs them up or people just forget the water is running.”
One recurring scenario involves buildings that stop the water temporarily to do maintenance work on pipes.
Forgetting the water is off, "residents turn on a faucet, then turn it in the wrong direction to turn it off and go out all day,” says Schneider. “That happens pretty often. And if you leave the house at 9 a.m. and let steaming water run all day, it can warp floors, ruin artwork and more or less melt your bathroom walls.”
Overflows can damage the apartment below as well, and depending on where the water hits—an unused closet versus a custom painted wall hung with expensive artwork—claims frequently range from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars, says Schneider.
2. Dog bites
Average claim size: $10,000
If your dog bites and injures someone, and you are sued, apartment insurance will typically cover it. (Note: Some insurers will not cover you if you own certain supposedly aggressive-breed dogs.)
The risk that your dog will bite someone goes up in the close confines of vertical living like, say, an elevator.
“We see a number of claims involving children bitten while petting someone else’s dog in an elevator,” says Schneider.
The amount of a claim “might be a few hundred dollars for medical expenses like stitches or injections,” says Schneider—or much more.
“Wherever somebody is bitten, they always turn out to be a model for that part of their body—a hand model, a leg model, etc.,” he says, half-kidding. “A child who receives a facial scar, even if it’s not disfiguring, could be awarded several hundred thousand dollars.”
3. Leaky PTAC units and pipes
Average claim: $5,000, with a range between $2,500 and $150,000.
PTAC units (which stands for Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner) are heating and cooling units mounted radiator-style beneath windows.
“In the summer, when the a/c is turned on, these units use cool water and generate water flows from condensation. The water is supposed to be drained away but the drains often clog with dust or mold,” says Schneider. “Instead of being transported away, water will overflow for quite awhile before being noticed. Floors will start to buckle and water can be absorbed into your wall, ruining paint, wallpaper, and plaster--and water can run into the apartments beneath.”
If you’re a renter, the cost of repairing the floor usually falls on your landlord. If you own, you may be able to replace a part of the floor. Sometimes, in order to match it, the entire floor may need to come up, which could cost $5,000-$50,000, says Schneider.
During cold snaps, leaky or burst pipes can also be a concern: If water in your plumbing system freezes and expands, the resulting leak can cause substantial water damage to floors, furniture, and other belongings.
"Claims vary depending on how quickly you are aware of the issue," Schneider says, and tend to start at $2,500 and go up from there, depending on the extent of the damage.
Gotham Brokerage Co., Inc., an insurance brokerage, has been serving NYC renters, co-op and condo owners for over 45 years. For a free quote, click on over to Gotham Brokerage or give them a call at 212-406-7300.
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