Homeowners Alert – Protecting Your Family Against Mudslides

Protecting Your Family Against Mudslides

Your Homeowner’s Policy May Not Protect You from Natural Disasters

After the terrible mudslides in January in Montecito, CA, I received numerous calls and emails from clients about how to protect themselves from events like that. With local news programs showing deadly mudslides that killed people, swallowed cars and destroyed numerous homes and buildings it’s hard not to consider your own circumstances. What does one do if you live on or near a hillside? How do you protect yourself?

I realized that I needed to reach out to all of you to talk about how insurance carriers look at the various types of claims. When dealing with catastrophic events, it’s always important to consider in which way you are protected, both physically and financially. Though exceptionally rare, natural disasters such as mudflow and mudslides have their specific descriptions and coverage.


What is Mudflow?

Image a scenario in which you own a house on or near a hillside. In a random event, rainwater pours down the hill into your backyard and pours mud into your house, ruining your custom floors, walls, furniture and personal assets. This is “mudflow”. We describe it as “chocolate milk” in that it is “water carrying earth”. Mudflow is generally covered by standard Flood insurance policies that must be purchased separately from your typical Homeowner’s policy.


What is a Mudslide?

Okay, now imagine that same scenario, but instead of rainwater falling down the hill, the hill itself begins to move down into your backyard into your house. Where mudflow can be described as “chocolate milk”, a mudslide is a “chocolate shake”, where the earth is carrying the water within it. Unfortunately, though far more destructive than mudflow, coverage for mudslides is much harder to get. Mudslide (also known as landslip) are generally not covered by Flood or Homeowner’s policies.


How to Protect Yourself and Your Assets

If your property has a potential risk, protecting yourself, your property, and assets from potential mudflow or mudslide events are imperative. First, for homes on or near hillsides, consider investing in a geological survey in and around your property to have a better understanding of your potential risk and if preventative measures can be taken (ie. drainage systems or retaining walls). Second, even if your home is not in a flood zone, consider if your home might be at risk by combinations of events such as the wildfires followed by heavy rains which inflicted the people of Montecito. Third, talk with your insurance broker to understand what your current insurance policies do cover and if additional coverage is necessary. Finally, if you do live in an area where mudslides are a possibility, all is not lost. There are supplemental policies that can insure you. They are pricey, but they do exist.

If you have additional questions on this or other insurance issues, please feel free to check out our resource page. To reach me directly, feel free to contact me at (626) 535-1817 or email me at jgunnar@boltonco.com.

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About Jessica Gunnar

With close to a decade of industry experience, Jessica is both the Manager of and a producer with Bolton’s Personal Risk Management Department. Jessica works with our internal departments and insurance carriers to address the risk management challenges of our clients and to ensure that their personal assets are protected.

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