Mario Lopez was a guest host on the Today show the other day, and described his recent property loss where his backyard collapsed into the street. Photos of the loss are available on Mr. Lopez’ Instagram or the Los Angeles Times. What struck me as blogworthy, other than the horrific loss of his yard, was his statement: “Thank God for insurance.”
This got me thinking, if he were to only have a basic homeowner’s policy, is he covered? Without having seen any engineering reports, this (assumedly) was from an extraordinary amount of rain—what does the basic homeowner’s policy cover?
First, we need to differentiate mudflow from mudslide. A “mudflow” is basically a river of mud, and is covered under a flood policy of insurance, rather than a homeowner’s policy. The nightly news recently showed video of a mudflow in Lima, Peru.
A “mudslide” or landslide occurs when earth or rock moves downhill. Although often caused by an accumulation of water that leads to destabilization, it is not covered by a flood policy because there is seldom enough water to seep into the home. Mudslide or landslide is considered an earth movement event, and so is excluded from flood policies and without paying an additional premium for “earth movement” events, excluded from a basic homeowner policy as well.
You may now be thinking to yourself, “but I live in Southern California, my earthquake insurance policy will cover me!” No. (Of course read your policy language first). Although Earthquakes and Mudslides both involve earth movement, earthquake policies cover damage to property the result of seismic activity, mudslide/landslide results from erosion or water accumulation.
The gap filler is a “Difference in Conditions” policy designed to cover a homeowner for landslides, mudflows, earthquakes, and floods. This is a policy sold in addition to the standard insurance policy and is designed to provide coverage for perils that may be otherwise excluded in the policy.
When determining whether you’ve suffered a loss covered under your policy of insurance, it’s important to read the policy to determine not only what is covered, but also what is excluded.