By Eileen Ambrose, The Baltimore Sun
August 24, 2011
Marylanders whose houses sustained damage from Tuesday's earthquake are about to get more bad news: Their homeowners' policies likely won't cover repairs.
Insurance agents say earthquakes aren't part of the standard coverage of homeowner policies because such events are rare here.
In fact, some insurance agents said they aren't even sure of the price of earthquake coverage because it's been so long since they added it to a policy.
"I haven't priced it for 15 years," says Don Grauel, president of L.E. Goldsborough & Son in Towson.
Janet Brown, owner of Anchor Insurance Agency in Anne Arundel County, said she has sold earthquake coverage only once during her decades in the business — and that was to a former insurance agent after tremors shook Columbia in the late 1980s.
At Brown's house in Riva, drawers were opened by the quake and items were strewn all over the floor. But she doesn't have earthquake coverage, either.
"Of course not," she says. "I never thought we would have an earthquake."
Tuesday's quake, though, will likely increase interest in such coverage.
Brendan Langhauser with Kirby Insurance in Westminster said he left his agency's building when the quake hit. Ten minutes after the tremors stopped, customers started calling to find out if their policies included earthquake coverage, he said. By early evening, he had heard from about 20 people — and about half a dozen asked him to add earthquake coverage to their existing policies.
Earthquake insurance comes with high deductibles — 5 percent to 15 percent of the amount of coverage — which is another reason consumers don't buy it, Langhauser said.
But one worried customer agreed Tuesday to pay $178 a year to insure a $240,000 home against quake damage, he said. The insurance won't help with damages from this quake or from another one if it occurs in the next couple of weeks, however. That's because the coverage won't kick in for 30 days, Langhauser said.
Even after Tuesday, some agents said they don't recommend that local homeowners rush out to buy earthquake insurance. Some suggest that homeowners would be better off purchasing flood insurance or other types of coverage for their homes before protecting against that rare event when the earth shudders in Maryland.
As of early evening Tuesday, local insurance agents said they had few reports of damage. Langhauser said he heard of a chimney collapsing. The homeowner wasn't covered.
Grauel got a claim about a gargoyle falling from the top of a building in downtown Baltimore onto a car. If it's any consolation to the owner, Grauel said, the damage was covered by auto insurance.
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