Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tsunami Damage?

Key findings

  • Homeowners insurance does not cover damage caused by a tsunami.

  • Flood insurance can protect you from tsunami damage.

  • You might also consider earthquake coverage for more robust protection.

A tsunami can be an extremely destructive force, forcing people to flee their homes and causing significant property damage. For homeowners in the path of a tsunami, it pays to know whether or not your home insurance covers tsunamis. In most cases, you’ll need to look elsewhere for tsunami coverage, but Bankrate can guide you through the process of finding tsunami protection quotes so you have financial support in the event of a disaster.

Common types of damage caused by tsunamis

Tsunamis are incredibly powerful and destructive waves formed by the displacement of a large body of water and are usually the result of earthquakes and volcanic activity. Tsunami damage is therefore varied and widespread.

Tsunamis – the waves themselves – can cause the following types of damage:

Additionally, the earthquake or volcanic eruption that originally caused the tsunami can also create additional hazards. Earthquakes and volcanic activity can cause:

  • Property damage

  • Fires

  • Landslides

The cost of damage caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and resulting tsunamis can be high. If you are far enough from the epicenter of the earthquake or volcanic eruption, or far enough from the coast where the tsunami hit, you may not suffer much damage. The closer you get to the epicenter or coast, however, the more damage you’re likely to experience.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tsunami Damage?

It depends on the type of damage. Standard home insurance policies do not cover damage caused by floods or earthquakes. If the tsunami wave itself or an earthquake that causes a tsunami damages your home, you will not have coverage under a standard home insurance policy.

However, a volcanic eruption is a covered insurance peril for homeowners. While damage from an earthquake or flood won’t be covered if you have a standard policy, cover for damage caused directly by a volcanic eruption should be. This can include damage caused by shock waves, ash and lava. Determining which specific policy is responsible for paying damages will depend on what was damaged. If your home is damaged, for example, your homeowner’s coverage will pay. If your belongings are damaged, your personal property coverage will pay.

Does flood insurance cover tsunami damage?

You already know that home insurance may not cover all damage caused by a tsunami. As such, you may be wondering: Does flood insurance cover tsunamis?

Flood insurance, which is usually optional but may be required if you live in a flood zone and have a mortgage, will likely pay for flood damage caused by a tsunami. Flood insurance not covered by standard home insurance policies is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and many private insurers. Flood insurance comes in two types of coverage:

You can purchase a home only policy or include both types of coverage, but you cannot purchase a personal property only policy. If a tsunami hits your area and causes flood damage to your house, the home coverage on your policy will pay out. If, for example, your furniture and clothing are also damaged, your personal property coverage will pay, assuming you choose to purchase it.

Importantly, most flood insurance policies do not take effect immediately. This means that if a tsunami is actively headed your way, it’s too late to buy flood insurance. There’s usually a 30-day waiting period between buying cover and your policy taking effect (with some exceptions for things like buying a home), so it’s wise to consider your property’s risk ahead of time. Flood insurance premiums are also usually paid annually and in full.

Does earthquake insurance cover tsunami damage?

So, your home policy covers damage caused by volcanic eruptions and you can buy a flood policy to cover damage caused by tsunami waves, but what about damage caused by earthquakes?

Earthquake coverage is a common home insurance policy, so you may be able to add earthquake damage coverage to your existing home insurance policy. If you are in a particularly high-risk area, you may need to purchase a separate policy.

Earthquake insurance will not cover water damage from a tsunami or damage caused by a volcanic eruption associated with a tsunami. However, having an earthquake endorsement or policy can help provide financial protection against damage caused by earthquakes that create tsunamis. Not all earthquakes create tsunamis, but they can still damage your home. Damage from non-tsunami earthquakes will also be covered by an earthquake endorsement or policy.

Frequently Asked Questions

    • What should I do if a tsunami is coming?

      If you live in an area where tsunami damage is at risk, have a plan in place before a warning is issued. That way, if you need to act, you already know what to do. Be mindful of your personal safety, think proactively and follow official guidelines if a tsunami is headed your way.

    • Can I reduce the risk of tsunami damage to my home?

      Although you cannot prevent a tsunami from occurring, there are several ways you can prepare your home to minimize the risk of damage you may experience. You can install floor drains to prevent flooding and secure any loose or hanging items to prevent them from falling. Check the seals around your home and make sure your foundation is sound and have regular home inspections to make sure your home is as secure as possible to reduce the risk of damage. Above all, heed warnings and official advisories and act quickly if evacuation is recommended or ordered. Your life and the lives of your loved ones is the most important thing to protect.

    • Will my insurance cover a hotel after a tsunami?

      Not likely. Most standard home insurance policies include loss of use coverage, also called additional living expenses coverage. This type of coverage is designed to pay for temporary housing if your home is uninhabitable after a covered loss. It can pay for things like hotel or rental fees, pet fees, restaurant meals, and laundry services. But the primary peril will need coverage to qualify for loss of use coverage, so if you don’t have tsunami coverage, then you don’t have hotel loss of use coverage after a tsunami. Flood coverage also does not extend to loss of use coverage.

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