The short answer is “no.”
Your standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover any movement of land or water, such as a flood, a landslide, a mudslide or a mudflow.
But there may be more to that answer if you purchase flood insurance.
Flood insurance provides coverage for a mudflow that damages your home. Notice the specific term: “mudflow.”
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides coverage under their policy for mudflow, but not mudslide.
You might ask: “Who cares? If I’m standing up to my ankles in mud in my home, it should be covered by my flood insurance, right?”
Not necessarily. The answer depends upon how the mud got there. I realize how much that answer could frustrate a homeowner. But definitions make a difference. And you don’t want to discover that difference after a tragedy has happened. So it’s important that we know ahead of time exactly what may or may not be covered.
Let’s look at how flood insurance defines these terms:
Dictionary.com defines a landslide as “the downward falling or sliding of a mass of soil or rock on or from a steep slope.”
Basically, it’s land that is sliding. That’s how insurance companies define it too. Flood insurance does not cover a landslide.
A mudslide is similar to a landslide, except that it can look, to the untrained eye, just like a river of mud.
However, it is usually characterized by an entire hill collapsing, sliding and disappearing. If the entire hill above you collapses and slides into your home, it is likely a mudslide, and not covered.
The National Flood Insurance Program defines mudflow specifically as: “A river of liquid and flowing mud on the surfaces of normally dry land areas, as when earth is carried by a current of water.”
A key question to ask: “is this a hill collapsing, or is it a flood of water that is carrying mud?”
If it is the latter, it may be covered under flood insurance. No one, including your agent, can guarantee ahead of time what will and will not be covered. It is up to claims adjusters to make a final determination. Mudflow, covered. Mudslide, not covered.
El Nino is likely to send some pretty heavy rains our way this year. Some areas in Napa and Sonoma counties have lost a lot of vegetation due to wildfires. Flooding and mudflows are a very real risk.
What can I do?
If you don’t already have it, buy flood insurance. It’s not a guarantee that you will be covered in every scenario where your home and mud collide. But it’s protection against some of the scenarios.
Remember that flood insurance has limits and policy exclusions. Talk to your local insurance agent. Do it today. There is a 30-day waiting period after you purchase flood insurance before coverage kicks in.