Now that you’ve considered your plan to stock up enough food and supplies to be on your own for two weeks following a major earthquake, what about your home? Do you have earthquake insurance?
If you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t.
“The one state we know that actually tracks the percentage of people who have the coverage is California,” says Kenton Brine, president of the Northwest Insurance Council, an association of some 15 insurance companies in the state of Washington.
Brine says only about 10 percent of that state’s homeowners have policies. A spokeswoman for the office of Washington’s Insurance Commissioner says the agency is embarking on a project to better assess how well covered the state’s homeowners are.
If you get the feeling there are a lot of questions surrounding earthquake insurance, you would be correct. According to the state Insurance Commissioner, some companies like State Farm, the state’s largest earthquake insurer, offer their own quake insurance. But most companies such as Pemco do not. Instead, they can hook you up with an earthquake-specific policy from a company that specializes in earthquake insurance, such as GeoVera. GeoVera offers quake insurance in Washington, Oregon and California and hurricane insurance in Hawaii.
But if you think earthquake is just part of your existing homeowner’s insurance policy like fire and theft, you would be seriously mistaken.
“If you are not insured against earthquakes and your home suffers severe damage, you could be in serious financial trouble,” says Brine. “Because there’s nothing to repair or replace your home and you have to continue to make your mortgage payment. “
Earthquake insurance in a seismically active state like Washington is expensive. For a brick home, worth $500,000 the NW Insurance Council estimates rates could be as low as $3 for each $1,000 of the home’s value to as much as $15.
That works out to an annual premium of between $1,500 to $7,500 per year. Wood homes are half that much. And we’re just talking about the home, the structure itself, not the value of the land it sits on.
Deductibles are also high. On that same brick home, a 15% deductible would work out to be about $75,000 the homeowner would have to contribute to the cost of rebuilding, presuming the house needed to be totally replaced.
These are just some of the basics. Brine says talk to your insurance agent who will know more about your individual home and circumstances and about the price you may have to pay to get earthquake insurance. You should also ask about earthquake insurance as it relates to the contents of your home, which may carry its own deductible.