Does Home Insurance Cover Earthquakes?
A standard homeowners policy does not cover the damage to a home that results from an earthquake; you'll need an earthquake insurance policy. A homeowners policy will help to repair or rebuild your house when it has been damaged or destroyed by fire, an explosion or, say, a falling object, but it does not include earthquakes as a named peril.
If you live in an earthquake-prone area and want to protect your home from this natural disaster, you'll have to purchase a separate insurance policy that is specifically devoted to earthquake protection. If private home insurers deny you coverage, your state may have an earthquake-insurance program that can provide you with the necessary coverage.
What Is Earthquake Insurance?
Earthquake insurance pays for damages or losses to your home and personal belongings if caused by an earthquake. Additional living expenses are also covered, paying for daily necessities (e.g., hotel bills, meals) if your home is temporarily uninhabitable after an earthquake.
Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover earthquake losses. To gain earthquake coverage, you will need to add it to your existing policy as an endorsement or purchase a standalone policy.
How Do I Know What to Insure in Case of an Earthquake?
Your earthquake coverage needs will depend on the type of home you have and the value of your personal belongings. If you own a typical home structure, then you have the option of purchasing dwelling coverage, personal property coverage or both. Dwelling coverage will not apply to renters living on your property.
Personal property coverage is similar to standard homeowners insurance, covering several types of items, including:
The amount of personal property coverage you purchase will depend on how many items you own and their total value. Certain valuables and fragile items, like china, glassware and marble items may not be covered. You will need to purchase an endorsement to gain this extra coverage. With CEA earthquake policies, this is called a breakables endorsement.
Is Earthquake a "Named Peril" on My Home Insurance?
A standard homeowners policy usually comprises four components: dwelling, private property, additional living expenses and liability insurance. The dwelling component covers your house's exterior and interior structure, including the roof, after it has been damaged or destroyed by certain "named perils":
Fire and smoke
Hurricanes, tornadoes and windstorms
Damage caused by the weight of snow, sleet or ice
Damage from aircraft
Damage from a vehicle
As you can see, floods, landslides, earthquakes and some other natural disasters are not listed as named perils, sometimes referred to as "named hazards." Flood damage is paid for by a stand-alone flood insurance policy and landslide damage is paid for by difference-in-conditions (DIC) coverage. Similarly, earthquake damage is paid for by a stand-alone earthquake policy. Your earthquake policy will have one and only one named hazard: earthquakes.
What Does Earthquake Insurance Cover?
An earthquake policy typically covers three areas of risk associated with earthquakes:
Damage to your dwelling's original structure
Damage to your personal property
Additional living expenses you need if your house becomes uninhabitable.
You'll notice that a standard homeowners policy also covers those same three areas, but a standard homeowners policy does not recognize an earthquake as a named peril.
Upgrades To Comply with Building Codes
Depending on the home insurer and the policy, earthquake insurance may also reimburse you for building-code upgrades. This coverage pays for your house's original structure to be rebuilt so that it is in total compliance with current municipal or state building codes if it is damaged or destroyed. Some insurance companies only offer this as an endorsement that broadens the scope of your policy's stated coverage.
What Does Earthquake Insurance Not Cover?
Earthquakes policies vary from insurer to insurer, so it's difficult to give a hard-and-fast rule for what your policy will cover and what it won't cover. However, here are some examples of damages that are not typically covered by an earthquake policy:
Earthquake insurance will not cover damage to your car. If your car is damaged or totaled by a temblor, car insurance—specifically, comprehensive insurance—will pay for your car to be repaired or replaced. Comprehensive insurance is not included in a standard auto insurance policy, so you have to buy it separately as add-on coverage.
Earthquake insurance usually doesn't cover damage to a facade, which is the non-structural layer of brick, stone or artificial stone on the exterior of your house. However, you can purchase additional masonry veneers coverage in the form of an endorsement, which will broaden your basic earthquake policy to include this type of damage.
Earthquake insurance does not cover flooding that indirectly results from a seismic event. For example, if an earthquake causes a pipe to burst in your dwelling, the resulting water damage will most likely be covered by your homeowners policy. On the other hand, if an earthquake causes an external source—for example, a reservoir—to flood your home, that damage would only be covered by flood insurance, which is not included in a standard homeowners insurance policy.
If your house catches fire as a result of an earthquake, your homeowners dwelling coverage, not your earthquake policy, will pay for the fire damage.
Earthquake insurance and homeowners insurance both pay for foundation damage, but not in every case. Nail down exactly what kinds of foundation damage your policy or policies covers. For example, your earthquake insurance will most likely not cover your foundation if it was cracked and compromised by normal wear and tear before the seismic event.
An earthquake policy does not include sewer-line replacement. This damage is usually covered by an endorsement on your homeowners policy or by a separate, stand-alone policy.
Earthquake coverage does not typically recognize sinkholes as a named hazard. While sinkholes are not covered by homeowners insurance, you may be able to get an endorsement to broaden the range of your home insurance to include sinkholes, according to the International Risk Management Institute.
How Much Does Earthquake Insurance Cost?
A 12-month earthquake policy can cost as little as $300 and as much as $5,000. But like the price calculation of any standard homeowners insurance policy, the calculation of an earthquake policy's premium takes many factors into consideration:
The amount of coverage you purchase
The amount of your deductible
The age, location and type of house
The likelihood of an earthquake damaging your house
The cost to rebuild your house
A 12-month earthquake insurance policy can vary in price due to the above factors and others, such as the time frame of your area's last quake, your area's annual rainfall as well as the composition and slope of your property. Californians pay a lot for earthquake insurance due to two major factors: The Golden State has the most quakes and houses are expensive relative to the rest of the country.
Is Earthquake Insurance Worth It?
A deductible is the amount a homeowners insurance company subtracts from a loss before the company starts to pay for that loss. The policyholder is responsible for paying this subtracted amount. Not only that, a deductible must be paid for every separate claim filed.
While standard homeowners policies commonly have a fixed $1,000 deductible, earthquake insurance is associated with a much higher deductible, perhaps 5% to 20% of the home's insured value. So, if your house is insured for up to $750,000, you may have to pay a $150,000 deductible—that is, 20% of $750,000—before your earthquake insurance would even start to provide coverage.
In fact, FEMA notes that the damage to most earthquake-impacted homes does not exceed the deductible amount, which means many folks who pay for earthquake insurance end up paying for not only the insurance but also the damages. However, if a home needs to be rebuilt, an earthquake policy can save you tens of thousands of dollars.
So, is earthquake insurance worth it? Yes, if you think about an earthquake completely destroying what is probably your most significant asset, you'll consider buying coverage. To find out if you live in an earthquake-prone area, FEMA offers earthquake hazard maps.
California Residents Need Earthquake Insurance
California, Washington and Missouri are the three states most vulnerable to seismic activity. While California experiences 90% of the earthquakes in the U.S., only 10% of California homeowners have earthquake insurance, according to FEMA.
The not-for-profit California Earthquake Authority (CEA) offers insurance for your home's structure, building-code upgrades and emergency repairs. It also provides add-on coverage for private property, which has a lower deductible than the dwelling deductible, and additional living expenses, which has no deductible.
CEA policies are underwritten by participating insurance companies. If you want to know how much earthquake insurance will cost, you can get an estimate using the CEA's nifty calculator.
Which Insurers Provide Earthquake Insurance?
If your current insurer does not provide earthquake coverage, you can keep your homeowners insurance with that company and purchase earthquake insurance from another carrier. Here are some insurers that offer coverage:
Allstate, which also underwrites Encompass policies
Armed Forces Insurance Exchange
American Strategic Insurance (ASI)
Farmers, also which underwrites Toggle and Foremost policies
Compare Home Insurance Quotes, Buy Earthquake Coverage
If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you need to protect the big investment you made in your house not only with homeowners insurance but also with earthquake insurance. A standard homeowners policy does not cover earthquakes. Earthquake insurance often includes coverage for the structure of your dwelling, damage to your personal property and additional living expenses. Some policies go further, providing coverage for building-code upgrades and emergency repairs.
Depending on where you live and other factors, earthquake insurance can cost more than your traditional homeowners policy, and the deductibles are definitely higher.
If you are having trouble finding a reasonably priced earthquake insurance policy, let SmartFinancial help. The best way to find the cheapest homeowners insurance and earthquake insurance is to shop around, comparing policies and prices to get the most for your money. When you enter your zip code below or call 855-214-2291, SmartFinancial can match you with the best, lowest-priced homeowners policy and earthquake coverage all at no cost.