Bricktionary

What's a Certificate of Insurance—and when do you need one?

A COI is proof of insurance—it means that your movers, or any other company doing a major delivery or work in your apartment, has an insurance policy that covers liability and loss.

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If you are moving in or out of your apartment, having furniture delivered, or getting some work done to your apartment, your building may require your contractor or vendor to submit a Certificate of Insurance (COI) before they can even set foot inside your building. Don't know what means? Don't panic! A COI is just proof that the business you are dealing with has insurance in case something goes wrong.

The COI confirms that a company has an insurance policy that covers liability and loss up to the insurance limits required by your building, so if anything happens while they are doing work in your building—such as damage or an injury—the cost of repairs or the accident is covered. 

Although the onus is on you to make sure your contractor or vendor submits a COI  to your management company (more on that below), you may be able to use the same one again if you buy another big piece of furniture from the same company or your repairman returns for follow-up work with a certain period of time.

How do you get a COI?

Typically, your building will have a form that is already filled out with the insurance coverage limits required. Your contractor or vendor can contact your management company directly to get the form. It's also wise to keep a digital copy handy so you can email it directly to the person or department responsible for completing the COI. The completed COI form then needs to be sent to your building manager or management company at least a day before scheduled work or delivery. Word to the wise: Stay on top of this very important last step and confirm with your property manager that the completed COI has arrived before the big day.

So for example, the white glove delivery of your new couch from West Elm is finally happening. The person scheduling your West Elm delivery should ask you if your building requires a certificate of insurance. If you say yes, they will ask their COI team to contact your property manager and take care of the COI formalities. If you're working with a smaller company, you may want to be the proactive party and email your sample COI to the appropriate person. In either case, to avoid having the delivery turned away by your doorman or super, it's advisable to follow up with your management the day before your big day to make sure your COI is in the right hands.

A sample of a Certificate of Insurance form.

What's the worst that can happen if I don't get a COI? 

It depends. If you live in a building with a doorman or a hands-on super, it's very likely your move/delivery/repair will not happen. Are there buildings with more lax management and less oversight where you can forgo getting a COI? Sure, and only you can make the call as to how by-the-book (or not) your building is. Just know that it's a potential risk. 

If you're moving or renovating, the stakes are even higher. "Most buildings will often require you to submit your mover's COI before your move is even approved," says  Lior Rachmany, CEO and founder of Dumbo Moving + Storage. "Your building may not allow you to hire them and use their services otherwise."

Why getting a COI is a good move

But even if you aren't moving to or from a building that requires a COI, you'd be very foolish to hire a company that doesn't have one—i.e., one that isn't insured. Why? Accidents happen—with your stuff, with other people's stuff, with other people and the movers themselves. 

"Aside from being fully registered and accredited, all legitimate moving companies are legally obliged to carry a minimum amount of insurance. COI also provides insurance workers compensation for the movers, shipping insurance and general coverage," says Rachmany, who notes that the insurance policy should be for at least $1 million. "That is how you know it isn’t fishy."

You might be wondering if you have to go through this if you already have apartment insurance. The answer is yes, you do—and here's why.
 
Your own policy doesn't cover the scope, or dollar amount, of what a mover's or contractor's policy would cover. "The [business] coverage gives the building protections when it is listed as an additional insured that it cannot get on a personal policy. It covers damaging the elevator in a move or breaking a pipe during renovation that wrecks common areas or the apartment below," says Jeffrey Schneider, president of Gotham Brokerage (a Brick Underground sponsor).
 
"The certificate will also show workers compensation coverage, and the unit owner cannot get this," Schneider explains. An employee of the mover or contractor will need workers comp if they are injured on the job. "Otherwise, they will look to sue the building or unit owner," he says.

Do these building requirements add one more thing to an already stressful experience like moving or renovating? Absolutely. But it's important to remember who, in the end, benefits from these rules the most. 

"Many owners get upset because they want to get their work done and all the required information slows the process, but the truth is that the confirmation of coverage of a contractor protects the unit owner most of all," says Peter von Simson, CEO of New Bedford Management