The Freedom Valley Chronicles: Sinkholes Part Five – Homeowners Property Insurance

Sinkholes are a fact of life in this area. It is a peril that should be considered by all property owners in the regions with Karst Features, including ground composed of limestone.

Individual homeowners in Plymouth Meeting, in neighborhoods along Colwell Lane, and in other communities in the Freedom Valley may want to review their homeowners insurance policy to see if they are covered for potential sinkholes on their property.

“Sinkhole insurance coverage is typically not included in homeowner property insurance policies,” stated Mr. Ron Ruman, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. “A number of insurance companies do offer this insurance as additional coverage that can be purchased by their policy holders.”

One such insurance company is Travelers Insurance, a major national insurance company that insures homes and other properties throughout Pennsylvania.

“Travelers Insurance does not include coverage for sinkholes in our standard Travelers Homeowners policy,” explained Sperry Mylott, Spokesperson for Travelers Insurance. “There are riders available that provide coverage for sinkholes.”

Allstate Insurance is one company that does include coverage for sinkholes within their standard homeowers property insurance policies.

“In Pennsylvania, sinkhole coverage is provided within our homeowners policies – at no additional cost,” stated Ms. Tracey King, Spokesperson for Allstate Insurance. “Allstate is dedicated to protecting the things that matter most to our customers and of course this includes their homes.”

“Our coverage is similar to that of the other insurance companies that offer sinkhole coverage in Pennsylvania,” Ms. King continued. “We will cover sudden and accidental direct physical loss [to] the insured dwelling and other building structures caused by sinkhole activity or catastrophic ground cover collapse, including expenses incurred to stabilize the land and dwelling or other building structure; and repair the foundation of the dwelling or other building structure.”

Sinkhole insurance – whether part of a standard homeowners property insurance policy or as a rider in addition to a standard homeowners insurance policy – typically only covers damage done to a house and related structures. Coverage generally does not apply to a sinkhole that develops in the middle of a yard. For most insurance to come into play, a building or dwelling needs to be damaged in some manner.

“A standard homeowners insurance policy covers the structure on the land so long as these structures (e.g., the dwelling, garage, a shed) were damaged by the perils (e.g., wind, fire, and theft) listed in the policy but not the land itself,” explained Mr. Michael Barry, Head of Media and Public Affairs for the Insurance Information Institute.

It should be noted that several insurance companies declined to acknowledge whether their standard homeowners property insurance policies included coverage for sinkholes and/or whether their firms offer riders to provide coverage for sinkholes. According to Mr. Barry, a homeowner should ask their insurance professional for guidance regarding insurance coverage for earth movements – like sinkholes.

While sinkholes are something that many in the Freedom Valley should consider as they purchase homeowners insurance, one potential peril is not as likely to befall citizens within the Commonwealth:

Neither Travelers Insurance nor Allstate Insurance provide insurance coverage in Pennsylvania in the case of volcanoes.

Thankfully, the communities in the Freedom Valley do not face volcanic eruptions and lava flows. Not today, at least.

While volcanic ash may not be falling from the sky anytime soon, there are remnants of lava flows from volcanic action in communities as close as rural western Virginia. In a news article dated January 2, 2014, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, Associate Professor of Geochemistry at James Madison University, spoke of the volcanic eruptions that likely helped form part of the Appalachian Mountains. She is quoted as saying that there was no need for concern right now: “If something hasn’t erupted for the last 47 million years, you can call it completely extinct.”

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