Insurance & Adventures in Home Ownership

slide_1bWe’ve given you plenty of coverage of the exciting and unusual weather experienced lately here in Lake Oswego. I hesitate to scare the bajeezeez out of anyone contemplating living here, and/but believe that even though this is unusual weather, the story I’m about to share is extremely valuable for just that reason, and highlights the importance of giving great consideration to the type of insurance you decide to carry when purchasing a home.

Last Friday at about 1:00AM, 23-year old Sammy Abazzaz and a group of his friends were relaxing and having a late-night snack in the second-floor kitchen of Sammy’s Lake Oswego home when a mudslide hit its rear filling the level below with moving earth, throwing granite counters at them and opening a crevasse at their feet sending some plummeting beneath it.  Sammy’s parents were in British Columbia celebrating the new year and rushed home upon hearing of the catastrophe. All the occupants are reported to have escaped and are deemed relatively “OK” with the exception of one broken arm and lots of nightmares I’m sure.  According to the Oregonian,  Sammy relates: “It came through almost like an avalanche, through the windows and the house”.  Heavy rains and a plugged drainage point on the hill above the home reportedly caused the slide.

slide_6Scott Burns, a professor of geology at Portland State University advises:  “The important thing is to get people in Portland and the rest of this area to ask the question, ‘What can I do to prevent landslides on my property?’ ”  “There was just a lot of storm water going down the streets and going in every direction,” said Bill Burns, an engineering geologist with the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. “There was just so much water, it was just over-taking the system.”

slide_3The family reportedly had homeowners insurance, but not the additional protection of landslide coverage which is typically excluded from most policies. I would pose that in addition to being the most diligent and informed homeowner you can possibly be, you also need to acknowledge that sometimes “stuff happens”, and therefore it is prudent to assess any “potential” hazards (even if you believe them unlikely) and protect yourself with appropriate insurance. This means you may end up being the one inquiring as to the availability of such add-ons, and so need to come armed to any discussion with data to guide your inquiries and decisions. To that end, let me provide you with some basic information, which I suggest you view as a primer, and not as the replacement for consultation with your insurance agent who, unlike me, is the “insurance expert”:

  • Most homeowners policies will not include: floods, mold/fungus, earthquakes, mudslides/landslides, sinkholes, war or nuclear accidents.
  • If you do have, or are considering flood insurance, check to see if you are covered for a landslide should the slide be carried by a body of water. Some flood policies cover mudslides ONLY under these circumstances.
  • Cost of coverage is based on where you live & other factors. (visit: A typical quote for someone NOT in a flood plane according to my own insurance office only will cover up to $250,000 in structural damage, and $100,000 for content damage.  ** For $200,000/structure and $80,000/contents in a recent “preferred location” quote in SW Portland, the price tag I’m told was $326/yr.
  • Generally speaking, “property damage” is not intended to include a detached garage, outbuildings, tool sheds etc. These may be covered, but usually at around 10% of the amount of coverage applicable to your home.
  • The most common policies in the United States cover losses due to fire, lightning, fallen trees, tornadoes, wind storms, hail explosions, smoke, vandalism and theft. The amount of coverage that you have is an item for discussion between you and your insurance agent.
  • Water seepage from the ground up into your home is usually considered a maintenance issue and not covered in standard or flood policies.  Waterproofing and appropriate drainage work is recommended if this is an issue.
  • Although the term “Acts of God” is bandied about by most of us, it is not a term that’s actually included in homeowners insurance policies.

We all live on planet earth, so accordingly, we are susceptible to all kinds of unexpected occurrences.  Importantly, let me repeat-

  • Get/Stay informed.
  • Gather information about your property and any “potential” hazards.
  • Take appropriate mitigating actions to remove any threat(s) if possible.
  • Consult your insurance agent for the best advice on protecting yourself, your home and your family.
  • Should you not already have a trusted insurance agent/advisor, request some references from your Realtor.

Home ownership is an adventure.  Suit up, and enjoy it!