Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
A landslide can displace tons of soil and earth and can result in serious structural problems to your home. And when your big investments are on the line, it’s important to know mudflow can be covered by your standard homeowners policy. So, how does homeowners insurance cover landslides, mudflows, earthquakes and geophysical events? Short answer: it depends. Although most insurance groups don’t offer mudslide insurance, your home may be covered if the event was the result of an earthquake and you have supplemental earthquake insurance on your homeowners policy.
According to the US Geological Survey, landslides cause an average of $3 billion dollars in damage annually. Landslide insurance coverage isn’t typically offered because insurance companies consider mudflow of this type as an uncovered “earth movement.” And flood insurance usually doesn’t carry a landslide insurance rider either, even if many mudflow events are caused by excessive rain and flooding.
You may be able to find a form of landslide insurance coverage when damage results from a covered earthquake event. As hard as this may be to contemplate, if your home is damaged (or worse) from an earthquake and you have active supplemental earthquake insurance added onto your homeowners policy, you can be protected with this type of coverage.
Natural forces are usually at work when a landslide occurs. If your area is prone to large amounts of water flow like flash floods, swelling rivers or snowmelt, you should make a mudslide safety plan to safely evacuate if a geophysical event were to occur near you. Erosion and loss of supporting soil can destabilize an area and make it prone to movement. Because volcanic events and earthquakes can also shake foundations and leave parcels of land vulnerable to landslides, landslide safety (Opens in a new tab) has never been more important.
Take a look at our advice on what to do in areas prone to mudslides:
Build away from ridges. By avoiding construction of your home in areas prone to geophysical movement, you can protect against losses that result in landslides. Steer away from building on steep ridges and slopes. Mountain edges, drainage areas and parcels of land where natural erosion occurs are also to be avoided.
Educate yourself before you buy. Review geophysical events that have occurred in the area you’re planning on building. Contact local officials and request a geotechnical risk assessment of the area.
Erect building channels or deflection walls. In an effort to mitigate debris flow from impacting your property, these options can help to divert water flow. These do not guarantee that you can avoid a mudslide, but they can reduce the odds.
Know where wildfire burn zones are. If flash floods are predicted in an area that’s recently experienced a wildfire, the land nearby may be vulnerable to landslides. Download early warning apps that alert you to severe weather and hazardous conditions (Opens in a new tab).
From having a plan to keeping a watchful eye out for changes in your local terrain, it’s a good idea to understand how landslides form:
Watch for warning signs. Look for changes in the terrain or landscape near your home. Small landslides, a line of trees or utility poles all leaning the same way can indicate trouble is nearby. Other indicators like cracks appearing suddenly in the street or your driveway may signify trouble.
Inspect your home for symptoms. New cracks in your foundation, walls or bricks may be telling you that a geophysical shift is underway. Outside walls, stairs or sidewalks drifting away from the building can indicate movement as well.
Sharply sloping terrain. If the ground underfoot begins to shift in the direction of the slope, the area may be unstable or vulnerable to movement.
Be prepared for natural disasters. When natural disasters like landslides strike, you usually don’t have too much time to react. By putting together a comprehensive strategy for managing natural disasters like these, you’ll know what to do and when.
When landslides are predicted in your area, it’s important to know how to react:
Stay connected. Pick up a battery powered or wind-up weather radio in case your electricity goes out and a landslide warning is active. Contact nearby family and friends and alert them of the warning.
Heed evacuation directions. If an evacuation warning is active, leave the area and follow designated evacuation routes.
Stay awake during major weather events. When a storm presents that could trigger a landslide, stay up or assign shifts among family so that someone is always alert and ready to respond to trouble quickly.
Move uphill if you’re in a flow. If you’re overtaken by mudflow, get uphill as quickly as possible.
Note changes in nearby rivers and streams. When local waterways being to flow more quickly and get murky, this can be an indication that a landslide is on the horizon.
Although it may not be pleasant to consider the outcome or plan for mudslides and mudflows, a little preparation can really pay off if the unexpected should happen. While you’re putting together a strategy for emergency situations, remember to take some time and reach out to your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab). You’ll find they’re a fantastic resource for all your homeowners insurance questions and can help you build a policy that best protects your home from the unexpected.