California Earthquake Insurance

A local independent agent can help you be certain that all of your property is suitably covered.

Written by Meg Stefanac
Written by Meg Stefanac

Financial blogger and business owner, Meg Stefanac, has more than 15 years experience working in the financial services industry and enjoys helping individuals make solid financial decisions. Meg has extensive experience writing about insurance and finances and is a key contributor to

California earthquake insurance

Earthquakes pose a serious risk in California. Scientists have identified more than 15,000 faults in this state and have estimated that there is a greater than 99% change chance of an M6.7 or greater earthquake occurring somewhere in California in the next 30 years. 

Fortunately, you can cover your property with earthquake insurance.

Local independent agents understand your earthquake risk because they live and work in your community. These agents can help you get the coverage you need so that all of your property is suitably covered no matter what kinds of hazards you may face. Find an insurance agent near you to learn more.

What Is California Earthquake Insurance?

Most home and renters insurance policies do not cover damage caused by earthquakes. This is particularly true in California, where the risk of seismic activity is quite high.

In 1994, the state was hit with a 6.7 magnitude quake, referred to as the Northridge earthquake, which caused around $50 billion in property damage in Los Angeles County’s San Fernando Valley.

The financial hit was so large for insurance companies, that many in this state either significantly restricted or entirely stopped offering coverage against earthquakes.

Because this left homeowners with no way to cover their property, the California state legislature stepped in and created the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). The CEA ensures that all property owners have access to coverage against seismic events through earthquake insurance.

Is Earthquake Insurance Required in California?

Although lenders will mandate that you carry homeowners insurance while you still owe on a mortgage, they do not require you to have earthquake insurance. This is one reason why, although earthquakes pose a significant risk in the western United States, only 14% of homeowners in this area have coverage.

There are no laws requiring property owners to have earthquake insurance, but California law does require all homeowners insurance providers to offer their policyholders earthquake insurance in writing every two years. If you do not respond to the offer within 30 days, you are rejecting it.

How Much Does Earthquake Insurance Cost in California?

Earthquake insurance is expensive in California. This may explain why so few people have it despite the seriousness of this risk.

A typical policy can cost California homeowners between $800 and $5,000 a year.  Here are some of the factors that affect your cost.

  • Where your house is located and its proximity to a major fault line
  • The amount of structural coverage you are buying
  • The amount of personal property coverage you are buying
  • The size of your deducible

When you receive an earthquake insurance offer from your homeowners insurance provider, it will include a customized quote. At this time, you may want to check with some other insurance companies to see if they can offer you a better price.


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What Does California Earthquake Insurance Cover?

Earthquake insurance can provide you with three types of protection.

Dwelling coverage

This covers earthquake damage to the structure of your home. If you are a renter or condo owner, you will not need to buy this portion of the coverage since this will be covered by your landlord or by your homeowners association master policy, respectively.

Your policy’s coverage limit will be the same as the amount of dwelling coverage you carry in your homeowners policy. This coverage comes with deductibles ranging from 5% to 25% of your total dwelling coverage.

This means that if you try to save money by purchasing coverage with a 25% deductible and your dwelling coverage is $400,000, you would be responsible for paying the first $100,000 of any damage to your home.

Contents insurance

This covers the cost to repair or replace your personal belongings like furniture and electronics if they are damaged in an earthquake. If you want coverage for certain fragile items like fine china and crystal glasses, you will need to also buy an endorsement for breakables.

The CEA enables you to purchase between $5,000 and $200,000 worth of contents coverage.

Loss of use insurance

This covers your additional living expenses if an earthquake forces you to evacuate the area or damages your home so severely that it is not safe to live in it while repairs are made.

The CEA enables you to buy between $1,500 and $100,000 worth of this coverage and does not allow insurance providers to charge you a deductible.

What Is Not Covered by California Earthquake Insurance?

As with any type of insurance policy, earthquake insurance has some limitations. Specifically, you should not expect your policy to cover the following types of damage.

  • Outdoor property damage
  • Fire damage
  • Flood damage
  • Vehicle damage

Outdoor property damage

Your earthquake insurance policy will not cover damage to landscaping or to outdoor structures like swimming pools, fences, sheds, or other structures that are separated from your house.

Damage to exterior masonry veneer is also excluded from coverage unless you specifically add it to your policy as an endorsement.

Fire damage

Earthquakes frequently cause fires to start. However, if your property is damaged by an earthquake-induced fire, you will not have coverage through your earthquake insurance policy.

Fortunately, California state law requires homeowners, renters, and condo insurance policies to cover earthquake-related fire damage, even though it was initiated by a non-covered hazard.

Flood damage

Sometimes, earthquakes can lead to flooding. If this happens, the flood damage, although earthquake-induced, will not be covered by your earthquake insurance policy. Instead, it will be covered by flood insurance, as long as you carry a policy.

Vehicle damage

Your vehicle will be covered as long as your car insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage. This “other than collision” insurance can cover against loss or damage caused by all kinds of problems including floods, hailstorms, property crimes, and, of course, earthquakes.

Comprehensive coverage is optional by law, but it is often required by lenders or dealerships if you are financing or leasing your car.

Why Ask an Independent Agent for Help Buying Earthquake Insurance?

Earthquake insurance is typically purchased in conjunction with other policies like home insurance or renters insurance. Local independent agents can be a wonderful resource whenever you are buying any type of insurance coverage.

These agents can answer your questions, offer guidance and advice, and help you be certain that your policies include all the supplemental coverage necessary to ensure your valuable property is suitably covered. Best of all, they can shop around to find the coverage you want at the most affordable price.

Arrange an obligation-free consultation with an insurance agent near you to learn more about covering your property against earthquake damage.

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