Catastrophe in Japan raises Earthquake, Flood Concerns in California

As Californians watch the news coverage and YouTube videos of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Japan, many have started to wonder, “Are we vulnerable, too?”

The geology off the coast of Japan is very different from the California coast, so an exact repeat isn’t likely.  However, California is certainly an earthquake zone, and much of Southern California and Central California is vulnerable to flooding.

The fact is: almost all property insurance excludes coverage for earthquake and flood.  That means that your homeowners or businessowners insurance policy will not reimburse you if an earthquake or flood (including tsunami) causes damage to your home or business.

And that exclusion extends to resultant damage, too.  For example, if an earthquake causes your property’s gas lines to rupture, or causes an overload to your electrical system, which sparks a fire, the resulting damage–burned buildings and burned contents–will not be covered by insurance.  The cause of loss in that example is earthquake.  The earthquake caused the fire, and the fire caused the damage to property. Even though fire–by itself–is normally covered, the fire was caused by the earthquake, and therefore all the damage falls under the earthquake exclusion.

Ditto for resultant damage from a flood.

Earthquake insurance can be purchased as a separate insurance policy in addition to your homeowners or businessowners policy.  Although earthquake insurance is very expensive (expect to pay about as much as your standard property insurance policy, or more), and typically will carry a high deductible, an earthquake insurance policy will offer you the reassurance that you won’t lose everything when the “Big One” hits.

Flood insurance, on the other hand, is very inexpensive, and every property owner should purchase a policy, even if the risk looks minimal.  The fact is that every property is located in some kind of a flood zone — it is just a question of whether it is a in a moderate-to-low zone or high risk zone.  About 25% of all flood insurance claims are from moderate-to-low risk areas.

Many property owners believe that in the event of an earthquake or flood, the government will step in and provide disaster assistance.  This is true, but only if the President declares a disaster, and even so, Federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest. For a $50,000 loan at 4% interest, the monthly payment would be around $240 a month ($2,880 per year) for 30 years, in addition to the mortgage loan that is still owed on the damaged property.

Insurance can be purchased quite easily, and it’s the best way to protect the time, energy, and money that you’ve invested in your property.

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