Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Motus Insurance Services?
Why is Special Assessment Coverage So Important?
Why Should I Buy Insurance If My Neighbor Doesn't?
Motus is a wholesale insurance broker. We sell our products through appointed retail insurance brokers who specialize in the needs of common interest developments (Condominiums & Townhomes). As a broker, Motus is legally obligated to work in the consumer’s best interests rather than the insurance company’s best interest. Motus can also sell the program directly to associations that qualify. There is no discount for working directly with Motus; we simply need to serve associations that our appointed retail agents do not represent.
Motus created the Opt-In Master Earthquake Program to meet the specific needs of California condominium owners. Our underwriting partners are Insurance Company of the West, Aegis Security Insurance Company, and Palomar — all are rated “A- / Excellent” or better by AM Best (go to www.ambest.com for more information on ratings).
How does it benefit the Board? How does it benefit the unit owners?
1) For the HOA, the corporation, having as many people buy full coverage earthquake insurance is critical. The more people that buy increases the association’s ability to rebuild and generally decreases the time it takes to rebuild. Most importantly, it gives the association a much better chance to secure a Small Business Association (SBA) disaster loan of up to $2,000,000. The savings in interest on this loan alone, over 30 years, can be well over $1,500,000. The SBA disaster loan is interest-free for the first 12 months and currently 2.5% after that. The Motus program can also help secure and collateralize a private loan if that is needed.
2) For the board, this helps reduce its largest D&O exposure: failure to maintain insurance. Some D&O policies cover this, but most do not protect the individual directors from lawsuits after an earthquake. By enrolling, the board is clearly documenting its consideration of earthquake insurance (the legal minimum). The Motus Program allows the board to claim even more: “We not only considered earthquake insurance, we offered it to all unit owners.” The Motus Program demonstrates this proactive step that will give boards great legal protection.
3) As for the unit owners, they can all access earthquake insurance, which is a big deal. In the absence of a master earthquake policy, roughly 70% of condo owners cannot access earthquake insurance. It also finally allows unit owners to fully protect the equity in their home – buying coverage for foundations, underground pipes, common areas, residential buildings and the interior of their units. It saves the unit owners a lot of money since they can access actuarially sound underwriting and pricing. The policy also has a guaranteed cash value if the association decides to not rebuild.
Motus Earthquake Insurance Programs are backed by the largest, most financially-sound earthquake insurance companies that provide insurance for Homeowners Associations in California. Specifically, Motus works with Insurance Company of the West (“ICW”), Aegis Security Insurance Company (“Aegis”) and Palomar Group (“Palomar”). All three carriers are rated at least “A- / Excellent” or better by AM Best. If you are a Motus client, consult your Motus Program materials to see which of our carriers backs your association’s program. If you would like to read more about the financial strength of our insurers, go to the AM Best website (www.ambest.com).
The first step toward eligibility for the Motus Earthquake Insurance Program is for a homeowners’ association to enroll in the program. Motus representatives or our appointed retail insurance agencies will first work with the HOA board to design a policy around the specific needs of the homeowners’ association, factoring in the total insurable value, soil conditions, parking structures, proximity to faults and other relevant data so that we can properly underwrite and price the program.
Once a policy has been designed for an HOA and approved by the board, unit owners will receive emails and mailers alerting them that their association is now enrolled in Motus.Owners have 30-45 days to decide whether they would like to purchase custom-built earthquake insurance. During that enrollment period, Motus will host several webinars and potentially a townhall to educate the association on the earthquake program, and answer the many questions that come with earthquake insurance.
First and foremost, we guarantee the cash value of the policy if your association does not rebuild. Therefore, if your association does not rebuild, you get the cash value from our policy plus your pro-rated share of the entitled land when your association sells it to a developer.
With that said, statistically speaking, associations almost always rebuild after a catastrophic event. If your association is enrolled in Motus, roughly 10-30% of unit owners will have full earthquake coverage. For the other 70-90% of units that do not have earthquake insurance, they will need to pay their pro-rated share of damages to common areas, residential buildings and unit interiors (this will be done through an assessment), through their savings or by securing a secondary loan. If they can’t do this, their lender will step in, foreclose on their unit, and pay for the damages on their behalf. The HOA can also pay on behalf of delinquent owners and put a lien on their unit. HOAs can apply for a $2,000,000 SBA loan from the federal government to help offset any shortfalls.In short, if other members of the association decide not to purchase earthquake insurance, that is not wise on their part, however it should never affect your decision.
Prior to the Motus Opt-in Master Earthquake Program, earthquake insurance for Californians living in condos had been offered through the California Earthquake Authority (“CEA”) through their HO-6 companion policy.
CEA, while well suited for single-family homeowners, does not provide comprehensive coverage for condos. For example, CEA insurance does not provide any insurance for foundations, underground pipes, detached garages or other common areas. Furthermore, CEA only offers up to $100,000 for building coverage, despite most condo owners needing well in excess of $350,000 of coverage.
Because CEA’s policy is an HO-6 companion policy (like other individual options available), a condo owner must have an HO-6 policy in order to be eligible to purchase coverage. And here is a major problem: fewer than 1 million condo owners in California have an HO-6 policy, leaving over 1.5 million owners without access to earthquake insurance!
The Motus Opt-in Master Earthquake Program, by allowing condo owners to access coverages under a traditional master policy, can now buy coverage for damages to foundations, underground pipes, pools, other common areas, residential buildings and unit interiors. Unit owners can also buy full coverage even if that means you need $5,000,000 – as is needed for large units in new high-rise buildings – or as little as $200,000 for small studios in older garden-style associations. Lastly, the pricing is based on the underwriting precision of a master policy meaning Motus is usually a fraction of the cost for this superior coverage.In short, CEA was meant to supplement a master policy, not replace one. Only Motus can cover those critical coverages that protect the equity in your home.
The Federal government safety net for individual condominium owners affected by earthquakes is essentially non-existent. The only federal assistance available to them is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster loan program. These loans have a cap of $30,000, but that amount can only be claimed for health and safety. An owner must apply for the loan in order to be eligible.
The association can apply for a $2,000,000 loan from the Small business association (SBA) to help pay for damages to common areas and residential buildings that were not covered by a master insurance policy. These loans are very competitive and roughly 50% of condos that apply for them, receive them. These loans have a 30-year term, are interest free for the first 12 months and a rate of 2.5% after that. These are incredible terms on a loan, so whether or not your association decides to rebuild, it is critical that your boards quickly apply for an SBA loan after a disaster. The association does not have to take the loan but getting an SBA loan approval is a MUST. If your association enrolls into Motus, this will help your association qualify for this SBA loan.
Yes, this often a shock to many unit owners. The legal minds and courts have told us that since the entire association benefits from not having to buy a full coverage master earthquake policy (lower dues for everyone), that all unit owners would be equally responsible for all damages from an earthquake.Even if that damage is not to your unit or building
It always depends on your particular association and your unit’s particular exposure. However, if your home is worth $700,000, much of that value stems from the land and land is not insurable. Therefore, in this case, $350,000 of coverage would likely be adequate. The reconstruction costs for most garden-style condo associations range from $180 – $250 price per square foot. If your unit is 1,400 square feet, your exposure will most likely fall between $250,000 – $350,000.Your Motus representative will look at the construction costs of your association along with the requirements set forth in your association’s CC&Rs when recommending the proper coverage for the individual unit owners in your association.
Well, here is what the world’s top seismologist concluded in their recent 2015 US Geological Survey report:
- Both the Bay Area and Greater LA are expected to experience an earthquake as powerful as the 1994 Northridge Earthquake by 2043
- Northridge was the most powerful earthquake to hit Greater Los Angeles since records have been kept, at a magnitude of 6.7
- Northridge caused more than $40 billion of damage. This is 2X the damage caused by all the wildfires in California from 2017-2019
Motus’s primary carriers take a conservative approach to reinsurance. Their reinsurance is based on a 1-in-250-year probability event. This means that our reinsurance is better-suited to cover the damages that a large earthquake would incur. This is why our carriers have and keep their “A” ratings.