EDITORIAL | Landslides bring insurance to mind

Two major landslides over the last week remind us that those who live on the island’s edge trade great views for significant risks.

A big hunk of Camano Avenue sidewalk and accompanying slope slid down to Wharf Street in Langley last Friday, blocking marina access. The community responded admirably in getting people to and from the marina, opening a walking route to Seawall Park and driving visitors around in a golf cart. But the full extent of the damage and total cost of repairs has yet to be determined.

Then the “big one” hit Wednesday on Central Whidbey, when a huge landslide at Ledgewood Beach took down one house, tons of material, endangered other homes, and caused some folks to temporarily evacuate. Obviously, a number of homeowners were financially devastated as they’ll never be able to sell their homes even if they can continue to live in them.

Earlier this year, a landslide at Possession Point wiped out one summer home and semi-buried another in mud.

In all three cases, it was a miracle no one was hurt physically, although the financial and emotional damage was considerable.

Whidbey Island’s bluffs have always been prone to landslides and slower erosion which, in the long run, is just as damaging. People who built homes 200 feet from a bluff a few decades ago might now be only a few feet from the bluff. It’s only a matter of time before these homes go, too.

Following the Ledgewood landslide, the Northwest Insurance Council sent out a timely reminder that standard homeowner insurance policies “specifically exclude damage caused by earth movement such as a landslide.”

Special coverage for landslides is available for an additional cost, of course. As with earthquake insurance, homeowners must weigh the cost against their assets and the likelihood of disaster. Most skip the insurance and hope for the best, but today many are no doubt having second thoughts.

The nonprofit Insurance Council informs us that homeowners can purchase a Difference in Conditions policy through a surplus-lines carrier as a stand-alone policy. This policy includes coverage for landslide, mudflow, earthquake and flood. Depending on risk factors, such as the slope of your property or proximity to a cliff, a homeowner with a $300,000 house can expect to pay $1,000 or more per year for this coverage.

Is it worth it? That’s up for each homeowner to decide. More information is available at www.nwinsurance.org.


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