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How to insure your home if you live on a cliff

In this aerial photo, houses sit near the edge of a landslide, near Coupeville, Wash. on Whidbey Island, Wednesday, March 27, 2013. (AP Photo)

The whole country is shocked by images of homes perched on the edge of a Whidbey Island cliff after a 500 yard section of land slipped into the Puget Sound Wednesday morning.

The ground is still moving even after some residents were allowed to return to their homes. Others were forced out for the foreseeable future.

It raises the question: what are these homeowners going to do about their now worthless homes? Does insurance cover this sort of “act of God?”

Feeling especially vulnerable after looking at the images, KIRO Radio’s Luke Burbank decided to review his homeowner’s insurance (despite being safely tucked away in the heart of Seattle).

If Burbank was living in one of these homes, his agent, Kevin, would encourage him to go ahead and file a claim.

“The language in the policy could potentially give you some coverage.”

Kevin’s advice is tailored to Burbank’s specific coverage, but he said there is a group of underwriters that “works through non-admitted insurance companies” that offers landslide coverage and a “difference in conditions” policy. It covers landslides and floods.

He said if you’re living on the edge of a cliff on Whidbey or Camano or maybe you’re nestled near a babbling brook, you might want to cover your bases with earthquake and flood coverage, which is underwritten through FEMA.

“The limitation of that policy is $250,000 for your home. That’s the maximum,” Kevin said. “For higher value homes, (homeowners) could potentially purchase flood insurance through their insurance company, but for most of America it’s offered through FEMA.”

Even if you’re like Burbank and these conditions don’t apply to you, Kevin, being a good insurance agent, recommended looking into coverage for things like water backups for a tricky city sewer. There’s even coverage for “riots or commotion.”

While it’s hard to predict a falling tree or meteorite, which Kevin confirms is covered in most standard insurance policies and is his dream disaster, it’s a good idea to learn about all your options, especially if you live in a risky area.

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