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Heritage Insurance Blog : Insurance Illustrated

Do I have coverage for Sinkholes on my PA home insurance policy?

Posted on 4/26/2013 by Nate Bunty in PA Home Insurance PA Insurance Sinkhole Insurance Earthquake Insurance Homeowners Exclusions

After the tragedy in Florida, you may be wondering how your PA homeowners insurance will respond to a sinkhole suddenly swallowing your home. If you haven’t added coverage, your policy won’t respond at all!

Sinkholes and earth movement are excluded on standard Pennsylvania home insurance policies.  Both of these geologic risks are more common in Pennsylvania than you might think.  Most PA insurance companies offer endorsements that add Sinkhole Collapse or Earthquake coverage to your Pennsylvania Home Insurance policy.  

Sinkholes are a definitive part of Pennsylvania’s geologic landscape.

Sinkholes usually occur when an underground cavity created by groundwater dissolving subsurface limestone collapses.  Sinkholes are more common in areas that have significant limestone formations deep.  The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has an interesting infographic showing that Central Pennsylvania has large bands of sinkhole activity.

If a sinkhole were to open up beneath your home, it could cause drastic amounts of damage that would NOT be covered by your Pennsylvania home insurance policy without a special endorsement.   Earth movements of all kinds are excluded from your PA homeowners insurance policy, but you can buy Sinkhole Collapse coverage back, however, the Sinkhole must be caused by erosion of underground limestone. 

If the Sinkhole is caused by something else, like a broken water main, then no coverage would exist under the endorsement.  Additionally, the sinkhole must cause damage to your home or other structures for the Pennsylvania Home Insurance policy to respond.  A sinkhole that forms on your property, but doesn’t affect any insured buildings would not trigger your PA Home Insurance policy – in this case the only damage is to the land, and land is not insurable.     

 Earthquakes are common in Pennsylvania, too, just not severe.

Earthquakes are a way of life for the City of Angels and others in various parts of the United States.  Pennsylvania homeowners might get some shakes, rattles and rolls sometimes, but in my lifetime, I haven’t witnessed any damage to any homes.  Of course we all know how Murphy’s Law works – I hope I didn’t just jinx the Commonwealth.

The quake a couple of years ago in Virginia was strong enough to shake large swaths of the Northeast, and we got quite a few calls about Earthquake Insurance immediately after.  Here are some of the details:

1) Earthquakes can be insured against, for additional premium, and with a special deductible – which is usually a percentage of the loss rather than a fixed amount (2% or 5% instead of $500 or $1000)

2) Damage to Masonry Veneers are excluded, unless additional premium is paid to buy that coverage back.

3) All tremors and aftershocks within 72 hours count as a single earthquake.

4) Most PA insurance companies will not add Earthquake coverage to a Pennsylvania Homeowners Insurance policy within the first 7 days after the     occurrence of an Earthquake in the Commonwealth.

For more information about Pennsylvania Insurance call Heritage Insurance Agency – 717.684.6409 


photo credit: Foxtongue via photopin cc


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