Does your homeowners insurance cover damage by California’s recent storms?

Punishing winter weather has triggered flooding and mudslides across many parts of the state in recent days, prompting evacuation orders and damaging homes, mostly in the Bay Area.

But some homeowners trying to file insurance claims in the wake of the storms might be surprised to find they’re not covered.

That’s because while most home insurance plans account for rain and wind damage — such as a blown-over tree crashing onto your roof — the policies generally don’t cover floods, mudslides or debris flows.

“I think many people are going be in a situation where they might have a landslide or even flooding, and they may be out of luck when it comes to coverage,” said Kami Cady, personal lines manager with Cassidy Insurance Agency in Scotts Valley near Santa Cruz.

In designated flood-prone areas, including along coastlines and rivers, specialized flood insurance is required to get a mortgage. But homeowners in other low-lying neighborhoods that have flooded over the past week may not have that same coverage. Outside of a flood zone, that kind of coverage is optional, similar to earthquake insurance.

Cady said anyone now looking to buy flood insurance, which typically covers mudslides, would have to wait 30 days before a new policy could take effect.

“There’s no way for people to go out and quickly obtain that type of coverage unless it’s the close of escrow,” she said.

Some places hardest hit by the storms have been in Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties, which have been primed for mudflows in recent years by massive wildfires that burned up hundreds of thousands of acres of vegetation that helped hold the soil together.

In those areas, homeowners dealing with mudslides might be eligible for coverage regardless of what type of insurance they own.

That’s because the state started requiring insurers to cover slides caused by wildfires following a devastating 2018 mudslide in a wildfire burn scar near Santa Barbara that killed 23 people and left more than $421 million in damage.

“If you had a mudslide or debris flow, it’s going to depend on the cause of that,” said Michael Soller, a spokesperson for the California Department of Insurance. “If (a) wildfire was the cause of it … then you may have coverage.”

Soller said homeowners who were ordered to leave during the storms might be able to claim evacuation expenses, such as food and lodging, after paying a deductible, which can vary in amount depending on the policy. “That’s another thing people should be aware of,” he said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency throughout California to respond to the relentless weather. But unlike a federal declaration, the move won’t unlock money for homeowners whose properties were wrecked in the storms.

Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said it’s unlikely President Joe Biden would declare a federal emergency, given the relatively limited damage so far.

“Several thousand homes would need to be damaged,” said Ferguson, adding that a total estimate likely won’t be available until the storms pass. Two more are forecast to strike Saturday and Monday, and there could be others in the days and weeks ahead.

Insurance agents and regulators said homeowners facing damage should first contact their provider to understand their coverage and figure out next steps. The Department of Insurance is offering to help homeowners figure out how to contact their insurers at 800-927-4357 or

“If you’re ever in doubt, call your insurance agent or call the carrier directly,” said Cady.

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