Pigs roll in it, tires get stuck in it, and moms hate when you track it through the house. It is mud, and it turns out that in addition to all that, it’s not so friendly to your home. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, mudslides (also sometimes referred to as landslides) cause roughly $3.5 billion in damage and kill between 25 and 50 people each year.
December marked the beginning of mudslide season, so it’s the perfect time to brush up on your mudslide knowledge and review your home insurance policy.
Mudslides vs. Mudflows
First, let’s distinguish between mudslides and mudflows. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a mudflow occurs when liquid and flowing mud moves the surface of normally dry land. In contrast, mudslides happen when a mass of earth and rock travels downhill.
Mudslides or mudflows are often triggered by earthquakes, floods, storm surges, hurricanes, wildfires, or other severe weather but their effects can be even more damaging than the triggering event itself.
Is my home covered?
That answer is tricky. If you are relying solely on standard homeowners insurance, then you likely lack sufficient coverage. But if you have a flood insurance policy, you might have coverage. Why the hedge on the answer? Damage from mudflows typically is covered by flood insurance; damage from mudslides and other earth movement is not.
Neither mudflows nor mudslides are covered by standard home insurance policies. These items would be categorized under earth movement along with sinkholes and earthquakes, which are also not covered by standard policies.
How can I get protection?
If you don’t already have it, it doesn’t hurt to get a flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program. You say you don’t live in a flood plain. According to FEMA, which administers the program, more than 20% of flood insurance claims come from homes that aren’t in floodplains, either. This will help with mudflows.
As for mudslides, you can also opt to add a separate earth movement, or earthquake policy, to your home insurance. One warning: These policies aren’t offered in every state and may be expensive.
The best protection from mudslides is to avoid living in an area prone to them. Before buying a home, ask about the mudslide activity in the area. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends assuming that hills, steep slopes, and wildfire-charred areas are at risk of mud disasters.
The CDC also suggests contacting your state’s geological survey to find out whether a mudslide has ever happened near your home. If you are concerned about your coverage regarding mudslides or mudflows, call your homeowners insurance company and ask for more information about how you can protect yourself and your largest investment.