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When is it Worth it to Get Earthquake Insurance?
What do San Diego County residents need to know about Earthquake Insurance policies, risks and costs?
Quality Claims Management views earthquake coverage as catastrophic insurance. You will only need it if we have a really big earthquake. However, depending on where you live in San Diego and how much you have invested in your home, you may choose to get insurance. Here’s what you need to know.
First, most general homeowner’s, mobile home owner’s, condo, and renter’s insurance policies do NOT cover earthquake damage. Like flood insurance, earthquake insurance often needs to be purchased separately.
However, fire insurance is part of standard homeowner’s insurance policies. This means that your home insurance policy can cover a significant portion of the damages if your home burns down or is damaged in a fire caused by an earthquake.
Most of the damage from an earthquake occurs after the ground has stopped moving. Gas lines that burst and start leaking can ignite and burn your home to the ground. In San Diego County, it is possible for your home to burn down in a wildfire caused by a long-distance earthquake. A power line may have fallen. A home may have caught fire in an earthquake and the flames traveled miles through the brush to your home.
Another priority is water damage. Earthquakes often break pipes. Even small earthquakes can burst a water or sewer pipe that overflows your home and can cause extensive damage to your floors, rugs, furniture – even the structure of your home.
If your homeowner’s insurance covers fire and flood damage, you should be covered for this “earthquake” damage – even if you don’t have earthquake insurance.
Another danger of earthquakes is landslides. You may or may not be protected by this. You should check your homeowner’s insurance policy to ensure your coverage for both landslides and fires. If your home is on fire, are you completely safe? Will you be able to change your home and all your belongings.
Check out other articles about homeowners insurance for details on coverage and what you need to know.
Where do you get Earthquake Insurance?
The law requires insurers selling residential property insurance within the state of California to provide earthquake coverage to their policyholders. Most of these California earthquake insurance policies are sponsored and administered by a state agency known as CEA – the California Earthquake Authority.
Although most earthquake insurance is sold by state-run insurers, a few private companies also sell earthquake coverage. In order to provide earthquake protection, insurance companies can either be a CEA participating insurance company and provide CEA residential earthquake policies or they can manage the risk themselves. To date, more than two-thirds of the state’s home insurance sales companies have chosen to become CEA participating companies.
According to the CEA website, the CEA homeowners policy is designed to help you get back home after an earthquake. CEA’s basic policy for homeowners includes:
Homeowner’s coverage – The coverage limit is the amount of your home insurance that is specified in your spouse’s policy.
* Personal Property coverage – $5,000
* Additional Living Expenses/Loss of Use coverage – $1,500
* You can choose either a 10% or 15% deductible on your Homeowners insurance, and CEA’s extended limit options allow you to increase coverage for Personal Property up to $100,000 and Additional Living Expenses/Loss of Use up to -$15,000.
Residential property insurance includes coverage for homeowners, homeowners, mobile home owners, and renters.
Earthquake insurance is not for small losses as you must have enough damage to pass your deductible. Although deductibles are generally 10-15% of the value of Coverage A limits, it can be a little confusing to calculate the actual deductible because there are many factors that go into the formula.
How Your Home Will Handle an Earthquake – Do You Need Earthquake Insurance
– where do you live in San Diego County?
– what is the bottom of your house (rock, sand, fill, etc.?)
– how your home is built – up to code and why it’s important to your safety
The age and type of construction contribute to how a residential building responds during an earthquake. Based on scientific and engineering research, CEA premiums reflect the following benchmarks:
– In general, houses built on a slab perform better than those built on a raised foundation.
– Single-story houses are less vulnerable to earthquakes than multi-story houses.
– Unreinforced masonry buildings are more susceptible to damage than wooden buildings.
– Houses of certain ages are not as robustly built as others.
The type of home you own affects your risk. Single-story homes that are “fastened together” — with the roof tied to the walls, and the walls to the foundation — tend to survive earthquakes and windstorms better than homes with multiple stories that aren’t. As you would expect, houses with large openings, such as glass windows or large garage doors, fare worse than those without.
In addition, your home can be greatly strengthened with some special building measures. For many, this may be a better investment than buying earthquake insurance.
The Center for Business and Home Safety has a “Strengthened Safe Living” program that outlines construction methods that can help homes better withstand a disaster.
Other Features of California Earthquake Insurance
There is no known requirement for a loss letter
In areas that have previously been affected by an earthquake or other catastrophic event, the insurer may require a “No Known Loss Letter” with all applications for earthquake insurance or to add earthquake insurance to an existing policy. These types of letters confirm that no known loss or damage has occurred at the requested location(s).
DIC (Exceptions to Circumstances) insurance provides coverage designed to fill certain gaps in standard insurance policies. It allows the insurance to be tailored to cover areas such as water damage, floods, falls, earthquakes, landslides, etc., as per the needs of the insured. DIC coverage can be provided through a separate insurance policy or can be added by agreeing to the basic policy.
Is earthquake insurance right for you? How Much Equity Do You Have in Your Home?
As previously stated, we view earthquake coverage as catastrophic insurance. You will only need it if we have a really big earthquake. The more equity you have in your home, the more insurance you need.
According to UnitedPolicyHolders, a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of insurance consumers and educates individuals and businesses on how to obtain proper coverage, “a generally accepted rule of thumb is that you should not risk more than 10 percent of your liquid assets. A major earthquake could mean that 10 up to 100 percent of your home may be damaged or destroyed, up to 20 percent of your belongings may be damaged, and/or you may need $3,000 a month to cover temporary rent and moving expenses.
In San Diego, we experience many small earthquakes on a regular basis. These are reminders to YOU to review your current insurance policies to make sure you have adequate coverage. Is your current homeowner’s insurance up to date? Would it pay to rebuild your home to current building codes? Do you have additional coverage and riders for all the new things you may have acquired since you first purchased your insurance policy?
Remember, it’s more likely that you’ll break pipes or start a fire in small earthquakes. If any of these things happen, you should have coverage under your regular homeowners policy. Check to make sure it’s up to date and you have adequate coverage. As a result of the wildfires of 2003 and 2007, we found that many San Diego homeowners were not covered.
By the way, businesses should update their policies to make sure they have EQSL – or Sprinkler Loss coverage. There is a greater chance that you will experience damage from leaking sprinklers than from a building collapsing.
by Ronald Reitz, President of Quality Assurance Management
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