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!

Lake Oswego Flood Zone Changes

Lakefront property owners in Lake Oswego are pretty comfortable overall with the knowledge that the lake is managed and dammed, and so concerns regarding rising water during heavy rains etc are not prevalent. The lake is owned and managed by the Lake Oswego Corporation (LOC), a local entity to which lakefront residents establish membership and pay dues. Every few years the lake is drained for a few months to allow residents to clean and repair boat docks along the lake and canals, and generally speaking, it is understood that the lake is a controlled body of water. Even so, in the flood of 1996, water did spill over in some areas because it was not able to be released quickly enough at the dam to compensate for the heavy inflow.

FEMA recently completed a study of the Lake Oswego area and has determined that it will change the flood zone designation for properties on the lake, as well as properties surrounding the canals, Tualatin River, and Spring Creek. The maps for the 100-year flood zone have been altered, and are available for viewing at The city’s website states: “Text amendments are intended to comply with FEMA’s regulations so that the City can retain eligibility for participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.”

Lake Oswego must be compliant with FEMA’s requirements in order for Lake Oswego residents to be able to take advantage of their flood insurance policies in the event of a natural disaster. Lake Oswego property owners, especially those near the lake, would be well advised to double-check their property’s location on these new maps and its relation to the new flood zones, as they may be required to carry flood insurance now, even though that was not the case when the property was purchased.

According to Kelley Woodwick at Chicago Title, there is good news for sellers, in that flood insurance contracts may be transferred to new buyers at grandfathered rates and zones. Again, check the city’s new maps before June 18th to acquire information on the grandfathered areas… after the 18th, I am told that the information will most likely be removed from the website.

There are also new regulations resulting, including elevation requirements for remodeling and new construction. Significant remodeling jobs now require that the structure be at 104.5 ft elevation as compared to the old standard of 103.5 ft. New construction after June 18, 2008 will also be required to meet a 104.5 ft elevation requirement.

Checking with the City of Lake Oswego is always a good idea, and much information can be found at their website (above). Stay informed, stay protected, and stay dry!