Things could get even worse for property owners who lost everything in the deadly mudslide that ravaged a small Snohomish County community, because many likely don't have insurance coverage.
"Standard home and business policies specifically exclude damage caused by earth movement such as landslides, earthquakes, mud flows, things of that nature," says Karl Newman, President of the NW Insurance Council.
Sadly, many people assume they are covered for catastrophe and don't learn they're not covered until after the fact, Newman says.
Devastating mud and landslides can happen anywhere in the Northwest, from a rural area like the one hit Saturday by the massive slide that killed at least 14 people to urban areas around Seattle.
The investment is well worth it, Newman says. Depending on risk factors such as steepness of your property or proximity to a cliff, the homeowner with a $300,000 house can expect to pay $1,000 or more per year for coverage.
"Your home is arguably your most valuable asset for most of us. And when you compare a homeowners policy, you're still talking about less than the average person pays for full coverage on a two-person auto policy," Newman says.
Some who avoid buying additional insurance assume they can rely on federal disaster aid to help cover costs of rebuilding. But Newman warns that aid often comes as a low-interest loan, meaning property owners are still ultimately on the hook for the cost of the repairs along with continuing to have to pay an existing mortgage.
The NW Insurance Council has prepared a list of tips to help prepare for a landslide or other natural disasters. It includes maintaining a complete inventory of all your possessions, evaluating risk with an independent geologist or other expert, and learning and recognizing early landslide warning signs such as: doors or windows that stick or jam, new cracks in plaster, tile, bricks or foundations, broken underground utility lines and bulging ground at the base of a slope.
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