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Washington is one of the most disaster-prone states in the country. Between landslides and severe storms, residents have a lot to deal with.
In the last 66 years, the state has declared 147 natural disasters—that’s an average of 2.5 per year.
As a Washington resident, your homeowners insurance will cover damage from some acts of nature, like fire—but you’ll need additional policies for floods and earthquakes.
Unfortunately, many people are unclear about what their insurance does—and does not—cover. This can leave them in a tough spot when disaster strikes and insurance won’t pay.
In this article, car and home insurance super app Jerry covers everything you need to know about natural disasters and home insurance in the Evergreen State.
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What is homeowners insurance—and what does it cover?
A homeowners insurance policy is made up of different coverages that protect you and your property in the case of specific perils, such as fire or theft.
Home insurance liability insurance coverage can pay for injuries to visitors on your property or damage to their belongings.
There are eight policy types for different types of dwellings and coverage needs. Here we cover the five most common:
Levels of homeowners insurance coverage
HO-1: the most basic and limited type of homeowners insurance, HO-1 will cover damage to your home and attached structures at their actual cash value. It usually does not include personal belongings, liability, or additional living expenses.
HO-2: HO-2 insurance is a slight step up from HO-1. It provides coverage for a wider variety of perils and usually covers your home at its replacement cost. Personal property will be covered at actual cash value.
HO-3: the most common type of homeowners insurance, an HO-3 policy also covers your home at replacement value and personal property at cash value. In addition, it includes liability insurance and additional living expenses.
HO-4: HO-4 is more commonly known as renters insurance. HO-4 policies are specifically for people renting a home, apartment, or condo. They typically cover personal property at replacement cost and most natural disasters, minus floods and earthquakes.
HO-5: the Cadillac of homeowners insurance, HO-5 policies cover both your home and belongings at their replacement cost. It also includes liability, additional living expenses, and medical payments to others.
Not sure which policy is best for you? Check out this handy chart.
|Policy type||What’s covered||Open perils?|
|HO-1||Main structure only||Named perils only|
|HO-2||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments||Named perils only|
|HO-3||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments||Main structure—open perils, personal property—listed perils only|
|HO-5||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments||Yes|
What perils are covered by homeowners insurance?
Understanding what perils are included in your HO-1, HO-2, or HO-3 insurance policy is important. While every policy offers slightly different coverages, you can usually count on the following 16 named perils to be covered:
- Fire and lightning
- Wind or hail
- Falling objects
- Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
- Accidental discharge of plumbing
- Damage caused by aircraft
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Damage from electrical currents
- Frozen pipes
- Water heater cracking
- Volcanic eruption
Note what’s not on the list. HO-1 policies typically don’t cover many of the known perils (including water heater cracking). NO type of homeowners policy covers floods or earthquakes.
Key Takeaway It’s vital to understand what’s covered in your homeowners policy, especially in high-risk states like Washington.
Does home insurance cover natural disasters in Washington?
The Evergreen State endures many natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes, severe storms, and even volcanic eruptions. August and July are usually the busiest months in terms of natural disasters, but they can occur any time of year.
Washington gets hit by roughly 1,000 earthquakes per year. Luckily, most of them are too small to be felt. However, that doesn’t mean that large earthquakes aren’t a possibility.
Quite the contrary: Washington places #2 nationally as high-risk for potentially destructive earthquakes. The Cascade Subduction Zone, which runs parallel to the western coasts from Canada to California, can produce magnitude 9 earthquakes.
If you want coverage for earthquake damage in Washington, you will need to buy a separate earthquake insurance policy. The deductible is usually 10-25% of your dwelling’s policy limit.
Destructive flooding is a serious problem in Washington. According to the United States Geological Survey, severe floods occur at least once every 4 1/2 years in the state.
The main cause of the flooding is excessive precipitation (Washington receives 73 inches, on average, per year) and snowmelt in the spring.
A standard home insurance policy doesn’t cover flood damage. Washington experiences numerous floods each year, so consider purchasing flood insurance if your property is at risk.
It is most common to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program, but you can also buy it privately.
The threat of volcanic eruption in Washington is very real—the state has five volcanoes that are listed as a high or very high threat. Many of them are active and have experienced recent eruptions.
Eruptions can send ash and debris into the air, potentially damaging your home and property. Luckily, most home and renters policies cover property loss caused by volcanic eruptions.
Landslides are common in Washington—you can expect hundreds or even thousands of them every year.
According to the USGS, one of the worst landslides the state ever experienced occurred on March 22, 2014. Known as the Oslo Landslide, it killed 43 people and buried nearly a mile of State Route 530.
It was caused by heavy rain and soil saturation, though logging may have also played a role.
Unfortunately, homeowners insurance does not directly cover damage caused by a landslide or mudslide, and you will need to purchase Difference in Conditions (DIC) coverage if you want protection.
Washington experiences a variety of intense storms every year that bring wind, lightning, and hail. These storms can affect traffic, infrastructure, and power—including loss of utilities.
In addition, high winds, heavy rain, and lightning strikes can cause damage to your home.
Typically, homeowners insurance covers damage caused by windstorms, hail, and lightning, but not flooding.
Washington experiences more than a thousand wildfires each year—most of them in the summer. These fires can spread rapidly and become difficult to contain due to the mountainous terrain and often high winds.
In 2020, the second-most destructive fire in state history occurred, destroying more than 200 homes and other structures.
If your house is damaged, don’t worry—your homeowners policy will cover damage from fire, including wildfire. Depending on your coverage type, you may be able to repair or rebuild the home, replace belongings, and pay for temporary housing if necessary.
Key Takeaway If you live in an area that’s prone to natural disasters, like wildfires or tornadoes, it may be difficult to find affordable homeowners insurance. Make sure to read your policy carefully so you know what’s covered before disaster strikes.
How to file a home insurance claim
If your home or personal property in Washington is damaged due to a natural disaster, your home insurance policy should cover at least part of the damage.
Here’s how to go about submitting a claim:
- Take photos of the damage to document your losses
- Determine how much you paid for each item
- Contact your insurance company and let them know that you need to submit a claim
- Fill out the claim paperwork your insurer requires
- Meet with the insurance adjuster to assess the damage (remember to be thorough and take them through every room)
- Get repair estimates from contractors—your insurance company may provide a list of approved vendors
- Start rebuilding your home as soon as you receive your insurance payout
How to save money on homeowners and car insurance
A recent study from the American Housing Survey showed that just 1 in 10 homeowners has flood insurance—40% of whom only purchased it because it was required by their mortgage lender.
Don’t end up a statistic: make sure you have all the coverages you need before disaster hits.
Not sure where to start? Use Jerry. The Jerry app can collect quotes from dozens of top insurance companies, like Travelers, Nationwide, and Progressive, in seconds! They can even help cancel your old policy once you’ve made your pick.
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“I felt like I was paying too much for my insurance policy, so I downloaded Jerry. I literally only typed in 3 pieces of info and Jerry found my current insurance. In a few minutes, they pulled up 2 Progressive policies that showed $900 in savings over 6 months!” —Maeve J.
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