Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Earthquakes?


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ByMark Fitzpatrick
Edited byRae Osborn
ByMark Fitzpatrick
Edited byRae Osborn

Updated: May 22, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Standard homeowners insurance policies do not include coverage for earthquake-related damages. Earthquake damage is commonly considered a separate risk and requires an additional policy or an endorsement to an existing homeowners policy for coverage.

It’s important to understand your current insurance policy's limitations regarding earthquakes and assess the necessity of additional earthquake coverage, especially in seismically active regions.

Key Takeaways

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Standard homeowners insurance typically does not cover earthquake damage; separate earthquake insurance is necessary for this protection.

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Earthquake insurance covers specific aspects like dwelling damage, personal property and additional living expenses, but has notable exclusions.

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Proactive measures to protect your home against earthquakes and understanding and purchasing appropriate insurance coverage are essential.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Earthquake Damage?

As a homeowner, your standard home insurance policy typically does not cover earthquake damage. This means if an earthquake affects your home, the costs for repairs or rebuilding would not be covered under your basic policy. To safeguard your home against earthquakes, you must purchase separate earthquake insurance or add a rider to your existing policy.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Fire Caused by Earthquakes?

Damages caused indirectly by an earthquake, such as a fire, may be covered by your standard homeowners insurance policy. Some types of indirect damages caused by an earthquake that may be covered include:

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    Fire Damage

    An earthquake causes a gas leak, which leads to a fire. The fire damage to your home and belongings would typically be covered.

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    Water Damage

    If earthquake-induced pipe breakage results in water damage to your home's interior, the damage from the water (but not the repair of the pipes) would usually be covered.

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    Smoke Damage

    A neighboring building catches fire due to the earthquake, and smoke from this fire causes damage to your property. The smoke damage might be covered.

It's important to note that coverage for these indirect damages depends on your homeowners insurance policy's specific terms and conditions. Each insurance company and policy can have different exclusions and limitations, so it's essential to review your policy carefully and consult with your insurance agent for precise information.

What Is Earthquake Insurance?

Earthquake insurance is a specialized form of property insurance designed to provide financial protection against damages and losses on your home and personal property caused by earthquakes. This also provides additional living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable due to an earthquake. This coverage typically includes:

  • Dwelling Coverage: This aspect of earthquake insurance helps cover the costs to repair or rebuild your home if a quake damages it. It's essential to ensure that the coverage limit is sufficient to handle the potential rebuilding costs in your area.
  • Personal Property Coverage: This part of the policy covers damages to your personal belongings, such as furniture, electronics and other household items, in the event of an earthquake.
  • Additional Living Expenses (ALE): If an earthquake renders your home uninhabitable, ALE coverage assists with the costs of temporary housing and other living expenses incurred while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

After understanding what earthquake insurance covers, it's equally important to be aware of potential exclusions. Understanding these exclusions is vital to comprehensively assessing your insurance needs, especially if you live in an area prone to seismic activity. Common exclusions in earthquake are:

  • Land Movement: Damage caused by land movement, other than seismic activity, is often not covered. This can include landslides, sinkholes or other forms of earth movement.
  • Fire: If an earthquake leads to a fire, the fire damage may be covered under your standard homeowners insurance rather than the earthquake policy.
  • Vehicles: Damages to vehicles caused by earthquakes are typically not covered under earthquake insurance and should be claimed through your auto insurance policy.
  • Floods: If an earthquake results in flooding, the water damage caused by the flood will not be covered by earthquake insurance. Flood insurance would be required for this type of protection.

How To Buy Earthquake Insurance

Buying earthquake insurance involves a process that's slightly different from purchasing standard homeowners insurance as you need to assess the risk of earthquakes in your area. It also requires careful consideration of your specific needs, especially if you're looking for cost-effective options. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to proceed:

1
Assess Your Risk

Determine the earthquake risk in your area. This step is crucial in deciding whether you need earthquake insurance and the extent of coverage required. Research local seismic activity history and consult geological surveys if necessary.

2
Review Your Current Homeowners Policy

Before looking for additional coverage, thoroughly understand what your existing homeowners insurance covers. This helps identify the gaps that earthquake insurance needs to fill.

3
Determine Your Coverage Needs

Based on your risk assessment and current policy limitations, decide on your needed coverage amount. Consider factors like the cost of rebuilding your home, the value of your personal property and the need for additional living expense coverage.

4
Compare Quotes

Look for insurance providers that offer earthquake insurance. Don't hesitate to shop around and compare quotes from different insurers to find cheap homeowners insurance.

5
Inquire About Discounts and Deductibles

Ask potential insurers about discounts for home improvements that reduce risk, like seismic retrofitting. Also, understand the deductible options, as they can significantly affect both your premium and out-of-pocket costs in the event of a claim.

6
Consult an Insurance Agent

Speak with a knowledgeable insurance agent who can provide insights specific to earthquake insurance. They can help you navigate the complexities of different policies and ensure you're adequately covered.

7
Finalize Your Policy

Once you've selected the right policy, review all the terms and conditions before finalizing it. Ensure that it aligns with your needs and offers a balance between comprehensive coverage and affordability.

Protecting Your Home Against Earthquakes

Protecting your home against earthquakes is a vital aspect of home maintenance, especially in seismically active areas. Implementing specific measures can significantly reduce the risk of damage during an earthquake. Remember, while insurance provides financial protection, the first line of defense is making your home earthquake-resistant.

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    Secure Heavy Furniture and Appliances

    Fasten heavy furniture, such as bookcases and cabinets, to walls to prevent tipping. Secure appliances like refrigerators and water heaters to reduce movement during seismic activity.

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    Strengthen Your Home's Structure

    Consider retrofitting your home to improve its earthquake resistance. This can include bracing cripple walls, reinforcing foundations and installing seismic straps to secure the structure.

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    Check for Structural Flaws

    Regularly inspect your home for structural issues, such as cracks in the foundation, walls and ceilings. Addressing these flaws promptly can enhance your home's ability to withstand an earthquake.

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    Create an Emergency Plan and Kit

    Prepare an emergency plan and assemble an earthquake survival kit. This should include essentials like water, food, first-aid supplies, flashlights and a battery-operated radio.

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    Install Safety Features

    Add safety latches to cabinets to prevent contents from spilling out. Use shatter-resistant film on windows and glass doors to reduce the risk of injury from broken glass.

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    Review Your Insurance Coverage

    Regularly review your homeowners and earthquake insurance policies to ensure they provide adequate coverage for your home and belongings in case of an earthquake.

FAQ

When it comes to homeowners insurance, understanding what is and isn’t covered is crucial, especially in the context of natural disasters like earthquakes. Many homeowners have questions about the extent of their coverage, particularly regarding events like earthquakes. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions that can help clarify common concerns about homeowners insurance and its coverage of earthquakes.

Does my homeowners insurance cover earthquakes?
Does homeowners insurance cover natural disasters?

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About Mark Fitzpatrick


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Mark Fitzpatrick has analyzed the property and casualty insurance market for over five years, conducting original research and creating personalized content for every kind of buyer. Currently, he leads P&C insurance content production at MoneyGeek. Fitzpatrick has been quoted in several insurance-related publications, including CNBC, NBC News and Mashable.

Fitzpatrick earned a master’s degree in economics and international relations from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. He is passionate about using his knowledge of economics and insurance to bring transparency around financial topics and help others feel confident in their money moves.