[This article has been updated to reflect the new tax law that went into effect on January 1, 2018]
As the actress Helen Mirren has said, “I don’t believe that if you do good, good things will happen. Everything is completely accidental and random. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people.”
Whether you’re a good person or not, bad things can potentially happen to you … and to your commercial property. For example, you may wake up in the morning to discover there was a fire at your commercial property in the middle of the night. You may be away on vacation when you learn that the eye of a hurricane is heading straight toward your business. Or you may just be sitting down to dinner when you hear that a vehicle was stolen from your property’s parking lot.
Even while there can be great rewards for being a commercial property owner, these are the inherent risks of property ownership. Due to the risks involved, many businesses prefer to rent their space rather than own it. This means that, for those who are willing to bear the risk of owning property, renting out commercial property can reap serious benefits.
Economic and Tax Implications of Commercial Property Insurance
One way to mitigate the risk of commercial property ownership is to purchase commercial property insurance. Fire, theft, and natural disasters have the potential to quickly wipe out gains made by your business. Commercial property insurance can provide you with more than just peace of mind: It can help you retain your hard-earned rental income, rather than having to pay it out in lawsuits or rebuilding fees.
Protections Offered by Commercial Property Insurance
Commercial property insurance protects you when you rent your property for use by a third party. While your tenants are allowed to legally inhabit your property, as the owner you are still responsible in many situations if and when things go wrong.
Though at times overlooked by commercial landlords, commercial property insurance is necessary. Why? Very few contracts with tenants explicitly state that the owner isn’t responsible in the event of a problem. Below are specific protections offered:
- Indemnity period. This is the time period specified in your policy during which your insurance benefits are payable and during which claims must be made after a loss. It begins from the date the loss occurred. Claim payments end at the end of the indemnity period so it is important to confirm that your policy specifies an adequate indemnity period.
- Damage from natural disasters. In the event that your property falls in line with the path of a hurricane or tornado, you as the property owner are typically responsible for such expenses as debris removal, building demolition, and even rebuilding costs. Few people think such situations will happen to them, but you needn’t look much further than the major storms that have hit the U.S. in recent months and years, causing massive amounts of property loss, to understand that this threat is real: 2005’s record-breaking Hurricane Katrina caused an inflation-adjusted economic loss of $119 billion.
- Tenant law suits. Commercial property insurance may also offer protection if you need to sue a tenant who has not paid rent or has destroyed your property with malicious intent.
- Injury liability. Such insurance can also help cover the costs if for example, a visitor slips on ice in your parking lot, requires expensive surgery, and subsequently sues you.
- Break-ins. If someone forcibly enters your building, causing damage and stealing property, you’ll want to have a commercial property insurance policy on your side.
Additional Benefits: Greetings, Tax Man!
More good news: Commercial property insurance is tax deductible. Yes, you read that correctly. By protecting yourself and your property, you can write this expense off to save on taxes.
No matter where you live or where your property is located, you can take advantage of many federal tax deductions available to commercial property owners across the U.S. For example, you can deduct the premiums you pay for nearly every insurance option for your commercial rental activity, including:
- Fire, theft, and flood insurance
- Landlord liability insurance
- The cost of health and workers’ compensation plans for any employees who work on premises.
A major benefit of commercial property insurance is that it allows you to combine several types of coverage into a single, cost-effective policy that may help you get a far better deal than if you purchased the different coverages needed to adequately protect your property separately. Furthermore, in the event that your commercial property is adversely affected by a rare weather event like a hurricane, you can obtain a tax deduction for all or part of your loss.
There has been some recent discussion and confusion about the impact of the new tax law on casualty loss deductions, so it’s important to clarify this issue. Under the new tax law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2018, in order for personal casualty losses to be claimed, they must be attributed to a disaster as declared by the president.
However, the new tax law does not affect the deductibility of business casualty losses. You can continue to deduct disaster-related losses to your business/commercial property. But, if you experience disaster losses to both your business and personal property, you might not be able to claim a deduction for your personal losses.