Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover Earthquake Damage?
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Homeowners insurance covers a lot of different perils, but an earthquake is not one of them on standard plans. However, many insurance companies do offer separate earthquake insurance, especially in places that see a lot of earth movement, such as in California.
But, what is earthquake insurance and what steps can you take to protect your home form this potentially devastating event? Here’s everything you need to know about protecting yourself financially in the event of a damaging earthquake.
Does my home insurance cover earthquake damage?
Standard home insurance policies do not provide protection from earthquake damage, but most home insurance companies do offer an endorsement to your current policy. With at least 42 states within the U.S. prone to earthquakes, you would think that many homeowners would seek out such coverage, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Also referred to as ground movement, many home insurance policies do not provide coverage for most events that damage your home that result from an earthquake, though some standard policies might cover damage indirectly resulting from an earthquake, including:
- Breaking glass
What is earthquake insurance?
Even with a home insurance policy in place, you should consider purchasing additional coverage for earthquakes and other perils. Earthquake insurance comes in three basic parts, as detailed below.
- Dwelling coverage: The dwelling coverage of an earthquake insurance policy covers such things as repairing the structure of your home, up to a certain amount. Policies also include a deductible, which the insurer withholds from your total covered losses when making a claim. Deductibles range from 5% to 25%, with a higher deductible resulting in a lower premium.
- Personal property coverage: Personal property coverage protects your home electronics, furniture, and other personal belongings damaged or lost as a result of an earthquake. You must also purchase additional breakables insurance to cover items such as crystal, glass, or china. Limits start at $5,000 and can go up to $200,000, depending on the amount of coverage you buy.
- Additional living expenses: Additional living expenses coverage helps pay if you need to rent a place while your home gets repaired. It also covers additional items, including food, moving, and storage expenses, and other essential tasks like doing your laundry. Limits for this portion of earthquake insurance usually range anywhere from $1,500 to $100,000 and never require a deductible.
How to protect your home from an earthquake
Cost represents the biggest prohibitive factor keeping homeowners from buying earthquake insurance. With earthquake insurance policies ranging from almost a $1,000 to thousands of dollars a year, few can afford the expense. In light of this, many homeowners opt to try and earthquake-proof their home instead.
It’s recommended that you do both if possible: get earthquake insurance and earthquake-proof your home. Some of the steps you can take to help earthquake-proof your home include:
Strengthen the foundation: Strengthening the foundation of your home represents one drastic measure you can take to protect it from an earthquake. This involves installing steel anchor plates, bracing the cripple wall on top of the foundation, or reinforcing interior walls, among other measures.
Consult with a civil engineer to learn more about how you can reinforce the foundation of your home to make it more earthquake resistant.
Secure objects: Securing furniture, electronics, and small objects represents another step you can take to lessen damage to objects within your home during an earthquake. For securing objects within your home, follow the steps below:
- Secure items of large furniture, such as a bookshelf, display case, or large furniture to the wall using brackets designed specifically for this purpose.
- For flat screen TVs and other objects, you can purchase straps specifically designed to secure the device to whatever object it sits on or whatever wall it’s attached to.
- Use putty to attach small objects to surfaces to keep them from falling over or becoming dangerous projectiles during more extreme quakes.
Gas and water: To further protect your home, especially from fire or water damage resulting from an earthquake, you should secure water heaters, gas bottles, and other items within or around your home. Some of the more common items you might need to secure include:
- Secure water heaters as you would tall furniture by using brackets and straps attached to the walls.
- The same applies to gas bottles, such as a propane tank. Also, make sure you know the location of any emergency cutoffs.
- Install flexible hoses and fittings for attaching gas or water lines, especially between your house and the ground.
- Secure wood-burning and gas appliances to the floor using metal brackets to ensure they stay in place during an earthquake.
Protecting your investments represent your ultimate goal when buying insurance for your home. Usually this includes purchasing additional insurance to account for perils not covered by your regular home insurance, such as earthquakes. If you’re unsure about whether you need earthquake insurance or not, consult with an insurance agent to learn your options and determine how much coverage you need.