Image of a home entry with stairway and retaining wall, hill off in the distance

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Erosion?

Updated February 2, 2024 . AmFam Team

When heavy rains lead to flooding in your neighborhood, you may find sections of your property have taken a hit. As water flows, it can carry away topsoil or shift the landscape in such a way that may require some rebuilding.

And you may be left wondering with all that eroding if your insurance policy on your home has a yard insurance clause that covers something like this. The truth is, most homeowners policies do not cover “earth movement” events. In fact, they’re frequently named as an “excluded peril” — a fancy name for a listed event — that is not insurable.

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Understanding Earth Movement Exclusions

Many typical homeowners policies contain “special form” coverage that lists a group of events or circumstances that are not insured. Anything that’s not specifically listed in your policy as an exclusion should be covered. And because earth movement is listed in that special form, along with other items like earthquakes, sinkholes and landslides, you won’t typically find coverage there. Not all insurance companies offer land stabilization coverage. When water causes the movement, you typically won’t have coverage. Here’s a sample of earth movement exclusions:

Sinking ground. If the earth under your home settles, that’s usually called sinking. It can happen for many reasons, like water erosion or poor construction techniques that did not compact the soil well enough before the foundation was poured.

Rising or heaving soil. Opposite of sinking, rising and heaving happens when water seeps deep into the soil and forces your foundation pad upward. It can also push your basement foundation wall inward, usually because water in the soil — above the frost line — has frozen and expanded during the winter.

Shifting soil. Similar to rising, shifting occurs when soil changes position from left to right, which can again impact your home’s structural wellbeing.

Expanding earth. Policy makers included this term to account for any other event that would force soil outward from itself.

Contracting soils. Similar in purpose to expanding, this term helps insurance companies to define any type of soil adjustment that would result in a collapse or contracting event.

Single house during the fall

Does homeowners insurance cover retaining walls?

So, if soil and ground issues are not covered by homeowners insurance, are retaining walls covered by insurance? Because retaining walls are frequently considered a detached structure, damage to them can be covered under your homeowners policy under the right conditions. When damage is the result of a “covered loss” — or an insured event — like lightning, wind, fire or a vehicle striking the wall, coverage may be possible. Although homeowners insurance for retaining walls is available, coverage can be limited.

How can I get coverage for land erosion?

If your retaining wall collapses, your insurance coverage may not protect you from mudslides and landslides even with a separate flood insurance or earthquake policy. American Family’s earthquake coverage excludes mudslides and landslides.

If the erosion or land movement was the result of an earthquake and you have earthquake insurance, damage to your home or detached structures may possibly be covered with this additional earthquake coverage, but coverage is based on the state you’re in and on other factors. Because most groups don’t specifically offer erosion insurance, you may be able to protect your property with add-on policies that offer limited protection when circumstances and state laws mandate coverage.

When it comes to your family and the property around your home, getting your insurance protection before you need it is key. Get in touch with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) today and ask about additional coverages that can help to protect your finances — and your home’s detached structures.

You’ll find real peace of mind with a custom-crafted policy that that’s built just for you and your home.

This information represents only a brief description of coverages, is not part of your policy, and is not a promise or guarantee of coverage. If there is any conflict between this information and your policy, the provisions of the policy will prevail. Insurance policy terms and conditions may apply. Exclusions may apply to policies, endorsements, or riders. Coverage may vary by state and may be subject to change. Some products are not available in every state. Please read your policy and contact your agent for assistance.

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