Landslides are a brutal force of nature, and they result in billions of dollars in damage every year. A landslide's movement can occur at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, resulting in destroyed homes, a negative impact on the earth, and even a threat to lives.
It is easy to believe that landslide hazards are only an issue in coastal and mountainous states, but that is not accurate. They are present everywhere in America, making it critical that all homeowners ensure their home has proper coverage for such an event.
What is a Landslide?
A landslide is a natural disaster during which the earth can no longer fight gravity, causing a large amount of rock, soil, or debris to slide down a slope. Most often, they get triggered by earthquakes or intense rainfall. Landslides cause roughly 25 to 50 deaths each year in the United States.
The Difference Between Landslides and Mudflows
Both mudflows and landslides involve moving earth, rock, and debris. The differences are in the amount of water and type of movement when comparing landslide vs. mudslide.
Mudflows contain large amounts of water, often resembling a flowing river of mud. In a mudflow, the earth, rock, and debris moving down the mountain or hillside consist mostly of water.
A landslide, on the other hand, consists of more solid earth and debris. Though landslides are partly liquefied, they are nowhere near as fluid as mudflows.
Causes of Landslides
Anything that can impact the stability of a steep slope can cause what is known as slope failure. Slope failure occurs when gravitational stresses and earth disturbances destabilize the slope. Some examples include:
- Volcanic eruptions
- Heavy rainfall
- Human activities, such as mining and building roadways through or near hills
When one of these actions occurs, the slope material moves downward to and triggers a landslide. Earth movement can be slow and gradual, or it can come down rapidly, like avalanches.
Types of Landslides
Landslides typically fall into three categories: Falls, slides, and flows.
- Falls. Falls occur from sudden drops in materials. We have likely seen warning signs about rock falls on highways and other roads at the foot of mountainous areas or hills.
- Slides. Soil, rocks, and mud often falling or toppling down in the form of rotational or translational slides.
- Flows. Flows occur most often when there have been heavy rains that saturated the earth. It then comes down the slope in the form of debris flows, earth flows, and mudflows.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Landslides?
No. Landslides are considered earth movements, and a standard homeowners insurance policy typically excludes earth movement events. You usually need separate mudslide and landslide coverage just as you need different earthquake and flood coverage.
Earth Movement Insurance Rider
Some home insurance companies offer landslide riders to help cover the cost of damage due to land movement. However, the earth movement coverage rider typically only includes coverage for your personal property -- not the dwelling. You need separate coverage for the structure of your home.
Comprehensive Landslide Coverage
To cover property damage to both your home and personal belongings, you can purchase separate insurance coverage for landslides known as a difference in conditions, or DIC, policy. A DIC policy covers perils your standard home insurance coverage excludes.
The DIC covers damage to your home from natural hazards and earth movements, including landslides, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, and mudflows. DIC policies do cover your dwelling and also include detached buildings and contents coverage.
This coverage gets sold through the surplus line insurance market, which specializes in insuring properties that are high risk. Ask your insurance company for recommendations or check with the surplus line market in your state.
Landslide Coverage Exclusions
DIC policies are customizable and can provide several types of coverage. Many of them are open perils policies. Open perils mean that they cover all risks except for those expressly stated in the policy.
Does Earthquake Insurance Cover Landslides?
No, earthquake insurance usually does not cover landslides because different things cause each event. Landslides occur due to erosion and water accumulation that make slopes unstable. Earthquakes occur due to seismic activity.
Does Flood Insurance Cover Landslides?
No, flood insurance does not cover landslides. However, many flood insurance policies do cover mudflows.
How to Protect Your Home from Landslides and Mudslides
If you are building a new home, try not to do so near a steep slope or too close to mountain edges and other high-risk areas.
- Learn everything you can about your property. Determine how much your property is at risk by checking for previous incidents. You can also use geology reports or contact local officials to determine if your location has experienced debris flow in the past.
- If you are in a high-risk area, hire a professional to build retaining walls to help keep any slippage at bay.
- Consider hiring a professional to evaluate drainage systems on your property.
- Always be aware. Your emergency alerts should include hearing unusual sounds like trees cracking or boulder runoff water converges filling from heavy rain. Be on the lookout for human modification nearby or changes in patterns of storm-water drainage on slopes.
- Have an evacuation plan. Fast-moving landslides leave little time for last-minute planning for your family's safety. You are not only at-risk for landslides and debris flows, but if utility lines break, you will not have power if you stay home to protect your property from looting and vandalism.
Geological Survey Home Inspections
If you currently live near or plan to move near a hillside, you should have the property geologically inspected. A geotechnical engineer uses structural engineering analysis to determine if the ground and any slopes are insecure.
They typically do not inspect things like your home's structure, a retaining wall, or a swimming pool if you have one. However, the engineer can give you a good idea of potential earth movement dangers from your area's geological conditions. S/he can also provide some prevention and building and safety mitigation steps you can take
You can also have a home inspection to evaluate items a geological inspector does not.
Landslide Insurance Cost
Landslide insurance costs often depend on the level of risk associated with your location. However, a good average to expect is about 40 cents for every $100 worth of coverage. For example, if your home's replacement cost is $150,000, your coverage should cost about $600 annually.
Compare Landslide Insurance Quotes
If you are buying a home in an area at risk for landslides, floods, and earthquakes, you should consider these specialty insurances to protect your home. We can help you. We will find and compare the top 40+ insurers who offer excellent policies covering damaged property and personal belongings if an earth movement occurs.
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