Why Utahns Are Seeing Their Earthquake Insurance Premiums Skyrocket
SALT LAKE COUNTY — Aftershocks of a different nature have been rattling Utahns following the magnitude 5.7 earthquake that shook the Wasatch Front in March 2020. The latest tremors have come in the form of higher premiums for earthquake insurance.
Bill Penton, owner of Penton Insurance, said after shuffling through earthquake claims last year, insurance companies increased earthquake rates by around 5% to 10% for most people.
“Has that priced some people out of the market?” the KSL Investigators asked Penton.
“A few,” he answered.
For some Utahns, their earthquake insurance premiums have skyrocketed.
“It’s going up anywhere from 20% to 25%,” Penton explained.
Earthquake insurance is not part of a standard homeowners policy; it is an extra add-on.
The Utah Insurance Department has recommended every homeowner have it, even before 2020’s rumble.
According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, “unfortunately, the percentages (of earthquake insurance policyholders) remain low” — even in the wake of last year’s quake.
Earthquake insurance can be a tough sell. On top of rising premiums, deductibles are high in Utah: 5, 10 even 20% of the cost of your home, making it too cost prohibitive for many to file a claim, unless there is major damage. With those high deductibles, you would be better off covering the costs of small earthquake repairs out-of-pocket if those repairs add up to less than the deductible.
Still, Penton argued, earthquake insurance is worth it.
“We’re going to get a major earthquake,” he said.
In the event of a major quake, there is a chance the federal government could step in, but you cannot bank on it. For Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to get involved, the President of the United States must declare a federal disaster. Even then, Penton said that aid may be nothing more than a loan you will have to pay back.
“If an earthquake hits and takes it down, or makes it unlivable, then you’re in a situation where the federal government may come in and give you a loan, but they’re not going to rebuild your house,” he explained. “You would have to go out and get a second mortgage to rebuild your home.”
FEMA has ranked Utah sixth in the nation on what it would cost to assist in an earthquake event. It estimated over 31,000 people would be displaced in a thousand-year event. It also estimated losses in Utah at $124,637,000.
Other factors that determine what homeowners pay in earthquake coverage premiums include the home’s location and construction materials: brick houses cost more to insure against earthquakes than wooden houses.