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What Is Landslide Insurance?

Landslide insurance provides coverage if a policyholder’s home or property is damaged by a large movement of soil and/or rocks down a slope.

Protection against landslides is not part of standard home insurance policies. Instead, it is additional coverage that homeowners can buy, especially if they live somewhere with a higher risk of landslides. Read on to learn about how landslide insurance works, what it may cost, and how to get coverage if you want to protect your home. 

Do You Know Your Landslide Risk?

Landslides occur when rocks, debris, and soil move downslope from higher to lower ground. The movement of these materials may happen in minutes or take place over days or weeks. Sudden landslides can send down debris faster than a person can run. They may cause severe property damage, along with injury or death.

While landslides can occur in all 50 states, risks vary depending on local conditions. States such as Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and California all contain high-risk landslide areas. Rainy conditions in California caused nearly 600 reported landslides in January 2023. 

For homeowners who live in high-risk areas, insurance coverage can help reduce the cost of repairing and rebuilding after a landslide. Most standard homeowner policies, however, exclude damages caused by earth movements.

Common Landslide Damages to Property

Both slow and fast landslides can cause property damage. Some common impacts include:

  • Damage to utilities: Landslides may damage utilities such as water mains, electrical boxes, or natural gas lines. Depending on the extent of the damage, utilities may require extensive repair or replacement.
  • Damage to physical structures: Debris can damage buildings. For example, rocks and earth may break through doors and windows, and large-scale landslides may destroy sheds or other outbuildings. 
  • Damage to home foundations: Shifting earth and water may cause damage to concrete home foundations, making homes unsafe to live in until the damage is fixed. 
  • Indirect damage: Slow-moving landslides can cause indirect damage over time. For example, these landslides may put pressure on local wastewater pipes or underground electrical wiring. Eventually, the weight of collected debris may cause sudden floods or electrical failures. 

Protect Your Home With a Difference in Conditions (DIC) Policy

A difference in conditions (DIC) policy offers coverage for damage due to landslides, mudslides, or floods. While standard homeowners policies cover a variety of named perils such as fires, theft, falling objects, windstorms, hail, or explosions, they typically exclude natural disasters. 

A difference in conditions (DIC) policy can help bridge the gap. Insurers known as surplus line carriers specialize in writing policies for less-common risks, including DIC policies. These policies are not standardized but tailored to the policyholder’s needs.

Peril Coverages

DIC policies may include all-perils coverage or cover named perils only. A DIC acts as landslide, flood, mudslide, and earthquake insurance in an all-perils policy. In a named-perils policy, only named events are covered. As a result, it’s worth reviewing potential policies before purchase to confirm the extent of the coverage.

Policy Coverages

DIC policies cover structural damage to buildings due to landslides or other named perils. It may also cover personal property loss due to landslide damage. This might include furniture, appliances, and electronics damages during the disaster. If a DIC policy does not include personal property, homeowners may be able to supplement coverage with their standard home insurance.

How Much Does a DIC Policy Cost?

Landslide insurance costs vary by location and insurance provider. For low-risk areas, DIC coverage could cost $400 per year. In average-risk locations, premium costs could rise to $5,000 or more annually. In high-risk areas, homeowners could pay upwards of $12,000 per year for protection. 

Overall, several factors impact the cost of a DIC policy:

  • Probability of risk: The higher the risk of a local landslide, the higher the cost of a DIC policy. This is because greater landslide risk means more frequent insurance claims.
  • Age of the home: Older homes are more prone to damage than newer houses. For example, aging wooden frames or weathered windows may be more likely to break in the event of a landslide. 
  • Home value: Higher home values come with higher DIC premiums since replacement and repair costs are similarly more expensive. 
  • Previous incidents: In much the same way that previous auto accidents can increase car insurance premiums, a history of local landslides can lead to premium increases. 

How to Get Landslide Insurance

For homeowners in the market for landslide insurance, there are several steps to follow:

  1. Assess your current risk. Homeowners should assess their current risk of landslide damage. This includes consulting data from both federal and state agencies. It is also generally a good idea to ask other community members. The higher the risk, the more protection you may want from a DIC.
  2. Evaluate your existing home insurance coverage. Review your existing insurance coverage, including what perils are named, how much coverage is provided, and what exceptions exist. See if you feel comfortable with your current coverages, or whether you’d like to add more.
  3. Research the options. Since DICs are not standardized, policy costs and coverage can vary significantly. As a result, it’s worth comparing multiple options to find a good fit. 
  4. Provide documentation. Be prepared for insurance providers to ask for documentation about the age and condition of the home, along with the total number of recent landslide incidents and any damage caused.
  5. Know your policy’s limits. Familiarize yourself with the limits of any potential policy, including total coverage amounts and any restrictions on potential claims, such as secondary damage caused by flooding if a landslide diverts a river or overflows a pond. 

Tips to Protect Your Home Against Landslides

For homeowners who live in high-risk landslide areas, there are several steps you can take to protect your property.

  • Consider common landslide paths. Landslides take the path of least resistance. In communities where landslides are common, homeowners can identify the most likely route for rocks and debris. 
  • Build walls. Retaining walls can help absorb the initial impact of landslides and reduce the amount of damage to homes and buildings.
  • Install ground cover. Ground cover such as trees and bushes can reduce the total volume of debris that directly impacts homes. 
  • Assess property drainage. Landslides may lead to flooding if they dam common water routes or wash out riverbanks. By assessing property drainage, homeowners can take steps to divert both water and earth in the event of a disaster. 
  • Use flexible pipe fittings. When moving earth and rocks strike a home, they can cause damage to water and gas lines. The use of flexible pipe fittings can help reduce the risk of pipe leaks or breakage. 

Putting It All Together

Landslides can cause serious damage to homes and property, but these events are not covered under standard home insurance. DIC policies offer a way to bridge the gap. While landslides are hard to predict and can occur without warning, homeowners can limit damage to their property and reduce total costs by combining DIC coverage with proactive landslide protection. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Areas that regularly experience landslides may have a greater number of DIC providers available to meet consumer demand. This same regularity, however, can lead to higher insurance premiums because the total number of insurance claims and payouts is higher.

If a landslide causes property damage, the first step is to ensure safety. Inspect building foundations, walls, and utilities such as gas lines, electrical wires, and water pipes. Once the home is secure, document the damage and contact your insurance company to begin the claims process. 

Possibly. Some providers may reduce premiums if homeowners can show that property improvements may limit landslide damage. For example, if policyholders plan significant ground cover along common landslide paths and create drainage channels that help direct debris away from their property, insurance companies may offer lower premiums.  

If you have both homeowners and DIC policies, you submit separate claims after a landslide. Your DIC claim goes to your surplus line carrier and details the damage caused to property by the landslide. Your homeowners’ claim goes to your home insurance provider for anything not covered by your DIC, such as valuables or property damage in excess of what your DIC covers. 

If you cannot afford private DIC coverage, you may be able to apply for a policy under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In addition, you can apply for FEMA assistance after a natural disaster.