Why almost 90 percent of Washington doesn’t have earthquake insurance

Jul 12, 2019, 12:25 PM
Nisqually Quake...
Damage from the 2001 Nisqually Quake. (Seattle Municipal Archives)
(Seattle Municipal Archives)

For many, a pair of early morning earthquakes in Snohomish County were a wakeup call both literally and figuratively. Concerning the latter, many may have rushed to check whether their homeowner’s insurance covers quakes, and — like a vast majority of people in Washington — found that it doesn’t.

Pair of earthquakes jolts Puget Sound region early Friday

“Only about 11 percent of all people in state have earthquake insurance — it’s not something a lot of people have,” Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s Office Spokesperson Steve Valandra told KIRO Radio.

People across the region woke to their homes shaking after a 4.6 magnitude earthquake struck shortly before 3 a.m., followed by a 3.5 magnitude shake minutes later. KIRO 7’s Morgan Palmer says that there is a 5 percent chance (1 in 20) that such a quake is a foreshadowing of a larger one.

So what can you do to prepare for the worst, should a larger, more damaging quake arrive? The first step could be weighing whether earthquake insurance is something worth considering.

“A lot of it depends on how much equity you have in your home — if you own your home outright it’s probably a good idea, the location of your home, the foundation and how it’s structured right now, and what kind of contents and other things you have on your property,” Valandra described.

The upside is of course having coverage in the event of major earthquake damage. Even so, there’s a reason many homeowners don’t bother with it in the first place.

“An earthquake policy comes with a high deductible anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent,” said Valandra. “If your home is damaged severely by an earthquake, you have to pay a deductible up front before your coverage kicks in, so you really have to consider the value of your home, how much equity you have in it, and if buying earthquake insurance is the right thing to do.”

MyNorthwest Earthquake Tracker

That also includes the possibility of a second deductible for unattached structures like garages and sheds.

Generally, earthquake insurance covers repairs to a person’s home, personal property that was damaged, cost to remove debris, and extra living expenses people might have while their home is repaired or rebuilt. There’s also a chance it might cover increased costs to meet current building codes and/or costs to stabilize land underneath a home. It also might not cover other structures that are not attached to a person’s house.

KIRO 7 TV Staff contributed to this report

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Why almost 90 percent of Washington doesn’t have earthquake insurance