Thousands of landslides occur every year in all parts of Canada. They can be lethal and cause damage to roads, communication infrastructure, pipelines, buildings, and natural resources. These events can damage property and hurt people. According to Natural Resources Canada, landslides account for an estimated $200–$400 million in direct and indirect costs every year. Is your home at risk of landslide damage? Will your home insurance cover damages from a landslide? Read on to learn more about landslides, what to do if one occurs in your area, and how to prevent damage to your dwelling.
What is a landslide?
A landslide is generally defined as any type of downward movement of rocks, boulders, soil, sediment, or trees. These materials can fall, topple, slide, spread, or flow down a slope. Sometimes they crawl along imperceptibly slow, and sometimes they move at a rate greater than 100 kilometres per hour. Landslides can occur due to various reasons, including earthquakes, heavy rainfall, clear-cutting, and mining. While earthquakes and rainfall are natural disasters, clear-cutting and mining are done by humans, which can result in a landslide. Other human activity, such as heavy lawn watering or construction near steep slopes, can also cause landslides. The volume of debris can be anywhere from a few to millions of cubic metres.
Risk areas include bedrock composed of unusual rock formations or land that’s composed of unstable soils. Areas with unstable soils and bedrock include:
- The Niagara Escarpment, which includes the Bruce Peninsula
- Guelph, Rockwood, and Elora
- Manitoulin Island
- Portions of Eastern Ontario
What are the causes of land movement?
Many landslides and sinkholes occur across Ontario. These events can damage property and hurt people. Landslides, as well as sinkholes, can happen due to:
- Building or construction in unstable areas
- Loss of vegetation due to clear-cutting
- Heavy rainfall or water from spring runoff and/or heavy lawn watering
- Earthquakes, explosions, and heavy vehicle traffic
Landslides and home insurance coverage
Home insurance policies in Canada do not cover damage from landslides. In your policy wordings, you will see an exclusion for damage from the “movement of the Earth,” or something similar. It’s difficult for insurers to cover landslides because of their unpredictability and the extensive damage they can cause. However, you can buy what’s known as a “Difference in Conditions” policy (which typically offers all-in-one coverage for landslides, mudflows, earthquakes, and floods). The purpose of a DIC policy is to protect you from catastrophic losses not covered by basic property coverage. It’s originally a “gap filler” or an “all-risks” form, providing coverage where more common basic property forms leave off. The DIC extends the “perils covered” and the intent is not to provide coverage above otherwise inadequate property limits.
Is government assistance available?
Fortunately, should your property experience a landslide event, there are government programs that may provide financial assistance to communities after a disaster:
1. Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA): The DFAA is a federal government program that provides funding to provincial and territorial governments, which in turn provide financial assistance to communities and individuals.
Considering purchasing a home? If you want to know if the home you are interested in resides in a landslide hazard area, please click here.
2. Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians (DRAO): The DRAO, on the other hand, is a program that can help you recover costs after a natural disaster. Canadians may activate DRAO for damage to private property if there’s a sudden, unexpected natural event, such as a flood or tornado. that causes costly and widespread damage in your area. If you are eligible, you may receive reimbursement for clean-up expenses, costs to repair or replace essential property, as well as basic emergency expenses, like evacuation travel costs.
Financial help from the program…
- Is limited to $250,000 per application
- Is subject to a $500 deductible, which may be waived for low-income households
- Provide reimbursement of up to 90% of your total eligible costs with limits for:
- Emergency expenses
- Household appliances
The program is not intended to replace insurance coverage. Insurance payments are deducted from eligible costs. Homeowners with more than $275,000 in insurance coverage are not likely to be eligible under the program. To receive information concerning eligibility for the program, please click here.
It’s important to note that government financial assistance programs may not cover you for damages after a disaster. Just like insurance, there are limits, exclusions, and restrictions on eligibility. The programs also vary by province and territory.
How to protect your home from landslides
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the land around your home. Stormwater drainage, slopes, rocks, stones, creeks, brooks, streams, or rivers can all show tell-tale signs of a potential landslide. Visible precursors of a landslide include cracks and bulges in the slope of the land, the unusual seepage of water on a slope, sudden changes in waterway flow, and small stones falling or sliding. It’s also important that you avoid actions that may increase the instability of the land.
Protecting yourself from landslide damages
- Speak with the seller or the neighbours to learn more about the area’s history before purchasing a home.
- Hire a registered geotechnical engineer or geoscientist to conduct a site assessment.
- Look for any landslide or flood control structures that may be protecting the property, such as retaining walls.
- Follow appropriate land use measures, and avoid building near steep slopes, close to mountain edges, near drainage ways, or along natural erosion valleys.
- Get a ground assessment of your property.
- Minimize lawn watering and make sure to direct water runoff from driveways, gutters, and downspouts away from slopes.
Always consult a certified professional for advice on preventative measures for your home, such as flexible pipe fittings and the design and construction of retaining walls. Proper landscaping is also key to ensuring adequate water drainage on your property.
Landslide insurance coverage for your vehicle
If you are a car owner and experience damage from a landslide, you are in luck. Should a landslide as a result of nearby construction damage your vehicle, you may receive renumeration. Construction companies must carry insurance on their projects in case they need to pay to repair damages caused by their work. In addition, your auto policy’s comprehensive coverage usually covers a landslide that damages your vehicle. Always be sure to check with your isure broker to check your policy for specific exclusions, as each policy and provider is different.
Understanding your home insurance policy is essential to ensure that your premium covers what you expect it to. Being clear about your policy is vital so that you can avoid any coverage gaps. Although your home insurance policy does not cover you in the event of a landslide, your vehicle may have coverage. Knowing the exclusions of your insurance policies can help you to identify where gaps exist. When in doubt, your isure representative can review your coverage with you and advise which endorsements can help give you the home insurance coverage you need.