In most disasters: responsibility to pay rests on homeowner

Posted at 4:55 PM, Aug 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-07 23:22:20-04

NORTH SALT LAKE -- Standard homeowner insurance policies don't cover damage from floods, earthquakes, or landslides.

It's a fact that often sinks in when it's too late, like after a slab of mountainside falls, making a home unlivable.

Insurance agent Brett Muir lives half a block from the landslide that occurred earlier this week in North Salt Lake.

"I've actually been in contact with a lot of the insurance companies that I represent," Muir said. "They do have an official moratorium on the area at this moment, so really you can't change or upgrade anything on the homeowner's policy at this point."

Muir recommends what is called "catastrophe" coverage: separate plans specifically insuring a home against damage from earthquakes, landslides and floods.

But such coverage is expensive.

"I would say as a general rule it'll probably be as expensive if not more expensive than your actual homeowner's policy," Muir said.

One thing to keep in mind: local, county, state and federal assistance is unlikely to provide assistance for individual homeowners.

"This is one of the most tragic things we deal with in government is it's impossible for government, especially local government, to come through and make sure people's homes are rebuilt or repaired," said Joe Dougherty of the Utah Division of Emergency Management.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sometimes provides individual assistance to homeowners, but only in extreme circumstances. For example: the state of Texas requested such funds when flood waters destroyed 138 homes and damaged more than 1,000 homes in the fall of 2013. They were denied.

"Unfortunately for these local incidents we've seen, individual assistance is very unlikely," Dougherty said.

Flood insurance is available to most Utah homeowners. Click here for information on flood insurance.

The Utah Insurance Department has some information about earthquake insurance here.

Ask your broker about natural catastrophe insurance.