Earthquake damage often not covered by insurance

LOUISA, VA (WWBT) - Many people with damage in their homes are now turning to their insurance companies for help, but damage from earthquakes often is not included in your basic homeowner's insurance.

Earth moving policies are popular in places like California where earthquakes and mudslides are more common, but that's not the case here in Virginia. We spoke to one Louisa family that could lose their home after they found out they weren't covered.

Rick Waugh lives only a few miles from the epicenter of Tuesday's earthquake in Mineral. Wednesday he showed us several cracks in his home. When his wife first called the insurance company, they said they were good to go.

"Thirty minutes later my wife called and I spoke to them and they said, 'sorry, we don't offer coverage for this type of damage because you have to have earth movement coverage,'" Waugh said. "I was like, 'earth movement coverage? Who gets that in Virginia?'"

Waugh said he went back and read the fine print. Sure enough, he's not covered.

"Our policy said in black and white it doesn't cover earth movement," he said.

Waugh said he plans on getting earthquake insurance but if you're looking to do the same thing, you might have to wait a while."

"Most companies are probably going to put in a wait period after the last seismic event before they'll allow you to add the policy," said Don Farmer of Harry R James Insurance Company in Richmond.

Insurance agents say the cost of earthquake insurance is usually pretty low, but the deductible can be high. Often the deductible is five percent of the value of your home.

Waugh said he's working with Louisa County and the Red Cross to see what kind of help he can get to fix his home.

He has a building inspector coming Thursday to look at his home. He's hoping his home won't be a total loss.

"If our home is not structurally sound, number one, how are we going to live in it," Waugh said. "Number two, how are we going to be able to sell it?"

Insurance agents say an earth movement policy usually can be added to your homeowner's insurance. The wait period for when you can buy the coverage after an earthquake is usually about a week.

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