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Protect your home from the unpredictable with earthquake coverage
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Protect your home from the unpredictable with earthquake coverage

Earthquakes can cause devastating damage to homes and, as some Virginians discovered after a quake rocked Central Virginia in 2011, an unendorsed homeowner policy won’t cover the costs.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the 5.8 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in Louisa County, was the 10th costliest in U.S. history. The event caused $150 million in losses, mostly in Central Virginia and the Washington metro area, with insured losses at $50 million—a mere third of the total.

Lisa Whitus, personal and commercial lines underwriting manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., explained that unendorsed standard homeowner policies provide no coverage for earthquake damage. Earthquake coverage also is excluded on unendorsed business owner and farmowner policies.

Following the 2011 earthquake, Jeff Feagans, a Louisa County Farm Bureau insurance agent, said the county’s office was overwhelmed with calls from customers inquiring if they had coverage.

Nearly all of them did not.

“Inevitably, we had to tell customers that they didn’t have the endorsement and that [earthquake coverage] is one of the only exclusions on most people’s homeowner policies,” Feagans said, noting that county agents rarely addressed coverage when conducting policy reviews in the past.

“That probably was the darkest period of my 32-plus years with Farm Bureau, because most of my clients are my friends,” he shared. “And having to tell them they didn’t have coverage—I’m just glad it’s over and done.”

Homeowners typically can purchase earthquake coverage for their homes if there hasn’t been a seismic event within the past 30 days. Basic earthquake coverage insures the structure of the home itself, though policyholders can purchase additional coverage for personal property inside their homes and other structures like detached garages and sheds.

Through VFBMIC policies, the cost of coverage for framed dwellings is 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, and any other type of construction is 80 cents per $1,000. Policyholders’ deductibles are 2% of their home’s assessed value.

Therefore, the annual premium to insure a framed dwelling with an assessed value of $300,000 would be $150, and $240 for other construction types. The deductible would be $6,000 for each.

Despite the added expense and the infrequency of earthquakes in Virginia, Whitus said purchasing earthquake insurance can be a worthy investment to help protect your home from the unexpected.

“Even though it had been over 100 years between major earthquakes in Virginia, imagine being a homeowner when the Louisa County earthquake hit,” Whitus said. “It would have caught you by surprise, and that isn’t the time to find out that you don’t have coverage.

“Your insurance policies should be in place to protect you from these catastrophic events—fires that can burn your house down, hurricanes that can blow your house over, and earthquakes that can demolish your home. Coverage should be purchased for the big events, and earthquakes are exactly that.”

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