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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Get detailed answers about our not-for-profit organization, the value of earthquake insurance, our earthquake insurance policies, how our deductible works, how to manage your CEA policy, earthquake risk and ways you can prepare your house and yourself against earthquake damage from the below Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

CEA wants you to have the earthquake facts! Our not-for-profit mission makes California residential earthquake insurance affordable and flexible. More than 1 million California policyholders trust CEA’s $18 billion claim-paying ability. We help homeowners, mobilehome owners, condo-unit owners, and renters before, and after, the big one strikes.

CEA educatesmitigates, and insures​ against California earthquake disasters.​
 

Top FAQs

Q. What is Earthquake Insurance?

A. Though California has nearly 16,000 known earthquake faults, you are not required by state law to carry earthquake insurance. Your basic homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage. Without separate earthquake insurance coverage, you will be responsible for all of the cost to repair your home and replace your belongings after a damaging earthquake occurs.

Earthquake insurance coverage guards against financially devastating shaking events. 

CEA earthquake policies cover houses, mobilehomes, condo-units, and rental homes. Buy separate earthquake insurance coverage in California through your home insurance provider.

Our residential earthquake insurance policies offer coverage for:

  • Repairs to your home/mobilehome/condo-units.
  • Costs of living elsewhere while repairs are being made to your house/mobilehome/condo-unit/rental home after an earthquake.
  • Replacement of the valuable contents in the home you own or rent.

Buy CEA earthquake insurance today to protect your life savings.

Q. Is Earthquake Insurance Really Worth it?

A. If you've never felt an earthquake tremor in your life, do you really need California earthquake insurance coverage?

Consider this.

  • Damage from a minor quake is most often limited to broken windows and dishes.
  • But a big quake may trigger catastrophic damage to your home’s structure and foundation—and may require use of your hard-earned life savings to repair damage to your home.
  • Scientists say larger earthquakes are a matter of when, not if. Earthquakes are a certainty in California.

Your basic homeowners policy does not cover earthquake damage. Californians must purchase a separate, companion earthquake insurance policy. Without earthquake insurance coverage in California, you will be responsible for 100 percent of the cost to repair your home, and replace your belongings after a damaging earthquake strikes.

Given the potential cost to repair shake damage, the cost of a CEA policy may be an easy expense to justify. According to a Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast  study, there is more than a 99% chance of one or more magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquakes striking California.

Ask yourself: after a major earthquake, could you:

  1. Afford to repair or replace your home without insurance;
  2. Cover the full costs of living elsewhere—while still paying your mortgage—during the time repairs are being made; and
  3. Replace the valuable contents of your home?

Compare those big-ticket expenses to an investment in earthquake insurance coverage—combined with the value of having peace of mind when the big one strikes.

Q. Do I Need Earthquake Insurance in California?

A. Live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Coast, Central Valley, Sierra Mountains or SoCal? Then you live in areas of greater earthquake risk.

Still, all of California is earthquake country.

Most Californians live within only 30 miles of an active earthquake fault. There are nearly 16,000 known faults, and scientists continue to find new faults.

Consider this likely scenario with a large earthquake:

  • Earthquakes can cause extensive damage to the foundation, siding and roof of homes. Older homes built before 1980 on a raised foundation are especially vulnerable if they are not retrofitted.
  • Without residential earthquake insurance you will be responsible for all repair and/or rebuilding costs.
  • Government disaster assistance, if available, only comes in the form of a small grant or capped loan, which may cover only a portion of your repair costs.
  • Without Loss of Use earthquake coverage—which includes covering additional expenses of living elsewhere—you’d still be paying your mortgage plus temporary housing rent during the time repairs are underway.

CEA earthquake insurance policies protect you against financially devastating shaking events. 

Q. How Much Does Earthquake Insurance Cost?

A. CEA offers the best affordable and flexible earthquake policies. Choose the kind of coverage that fits your budget. Residential earthquake insurance typically pays for damaged walls, foundations, and ceilings. Options can also cover household items that are destroyed or need repair due to an earthquake, such as electronics and appliances.

Our residential earthquake insurance rates are based on the latest science, not profit. Premiums are determined by many factors, including:

  • Your home’s age.
  • Its location near a fault.
  • Foundation type (raised, slab or other).
  • Construction (masonry or frame) type.
  • Roof type.

Find out about CEA’s premium discounts for retrofitted older homes and mobilehomes.  Grants to help pay for a house retrofit are available to people with eligible houses in select ZIP Codes from the Earthquake Brace & Bolt (EBB) program, and the CEA Brace + Bolt (CEA BB) program.

Q. How Do I Qualify for a Discounted Premium?

A. Have you been looking for a discounted rate for earthquake insurance?

CEA offers residential earthquake insurance premium discounts for older houses (up to 25%), and mobilehomes (21%) that have been properly retrofitted to better withstand earthquakes. A seismic retrofit involves strengthening your dwelling to make it more resistant to shaking.

Find out about CEA’s discounts for retrofitted older homes. Mobilehomes that are properly retrofitted are also eligible for premium discounts. Grants for retrofitting may also be available.

CEA’s affordable and flexible earthquake insurance policies allow you to choose the kind of coverage and deductibles that fit your budget.

Q. What is CEA doing regarding late payments or other CEA policy issues during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. CEA policy billing, payments, changes and renewals are not handled by CEA. The servicing of your policy—including any accommodations due to the ​COVID pandemic—is handled by the residential property insurance company that issued your CEA policy. You will need to contact that insurance company for details on how they are managing grace periods, late payments, or other policy issues that may arise related to COVID-19.

Read the California Insurance Commissioner's latest bulletin on grace periods, and contact your insurance company directly for more information.

Q. What is CEA doing regarding late payments related to the July-August wildfires?​

A. CEA policy billing and payments are not handled by CEA—all billing is performed by the participating residential insurer that issued your CEA policy. That participating insurer manages CEA policy billing, including managing any accommodations that are being made for late payments due to the wildfires and the California Insurance Commissioner's notice on the grace period. That being said, CEA expects all participating insurers to comply with the directive. You will need to contact the residential property insurance company through which your CEA policy was issued for details on how that company is managing the wildfire grace period.

About CEA

Q. Is CEA a state agency?

A. No. CEA is a public instrumentality of the state. An instrumentality is an organization created by state law and operated for public purposes.  
 
CEA is a not-for-profit and receives no funding from the State of California, whether for operations or claim liabilities, and is not a part of the state budget. CEA is financed solely through insurer contributions, policyholder premiums, and its own investment returns. 

Learn more about CEA’s creation after the Northridge earthquake

Q. Is CEA financially sound?
A.  Yes. CEA has an A- (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best Co., the world's leading rating agency of insurance companies. 
Q. Why choose CEA earthquake insurance?
A. The not-for-profit CEA is one of the world’s largest providers of residential earthquake insurance. Our rates are based on science, not profit, enabling us to use the best science available to determine competitive earthquake insurance rates.  CEA is actuarially sound and could pay all covered claims if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta, or 1994 Northridge earthquake reoccurred today.
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies. Learn more about how to buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy.
Q. Is CEA hiring?

A. To check on the latest employment openings with CEA, please visit our Employment Opportunities page. For answers to questions regarding employment at CEA, please contact: 

Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments, and claims.
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. 
Q. My premium increased. How can I lower my bill?
A: There are several ways to lower what you pay for earthquake insurance.
  • Choose a higher deductible to lower your premiumCEA deductibles range from 5% to 25%, in 5% increments.
  • If your home is insured under a CEA Homeowners Choice policy, you can reduce your costs by declining personal property and loss of use coverages and only insuring the dwelling itself.
  • Make sure your coverage limits make sense for your needs. Do you rent a 1-bedroom, but have the highest possible personal property limit of $200,000? Make sure your coverage limits accurately reflect what you own.
  • If you have an older retrofitted house, you may qualify for a  Hazard Reduction Discount of up to 25%, with proper verification. Call your agent or CEA participating residential insurer for details.

To learn more about your premium and options, visit our Premium Changes page.

Q. Is earthquake insurance expensive?
A. CEA offers coverage and limit choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use the CEA Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. What is the biggest difference between other insurers who write earthquake insurance in California and CEA?
A. CEA is unique because we are a not-for-profit residential insurer and are required to have actuarially sound rates. Our public mission is to help Californians prepare for and recover from damaging earthquakes through education, mitigation and insurance. CEA insures over one million households and writes two-thirds of all residential earthquake policies sold in California.

Our Financial Strength

Q. Is CEA financially sound?
A.  Yes. CEA has an A- (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best Co., the world's leading rating agency of insurance companies. 
Q. Could CEA pay all of its claims if there is an earthquake?
A. CEA has a claim-paying capacity of more than $18 billion. CEA could cover all claims if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta, or 1994 Northridge earthquake reoccurred today. 
Q: Is CEA part of the state budget?
A: CEA is a privately financed entity and receives no money from the State of California budget. California’s budget concerns have no impact on the CEA’s ability to pay its policyholders’ claims. By law, the State of California is not responsible for the CEA's liabilities, and the CEA does not pay any state liabilities. Therefore, CEA assets cannot be used by the state for any government purposes such as repairing infrastructure items like bridges and freeways. 
Q: The 1994 Northridge Earthquake caused about $20 billion in residential damage, but CEA has only $18 billion in claim-paying capacity. How can you cover all the claims after a major earthquake?

A: CEA would have liability only for a defined portion of the total cost of the economic damage caused by a major California earthquake, because CEA assets are available only to pay claims of homeowners and renters who have protected their homes and possessions by buying a CEA earthquake insurance policy.

Put another way, like any insuring entity, CEA is responsible for paying its insured losses, not the total cost of all the damage. CEA claim-paying capacity is carefully established according to financially conservative standards: CEA aims to maintain a claim-paying capacity sufficient to ensure that no less than once in every 400 years would the CEA be unable to pay 100 percent of every claim from all earthquakes occurring in one year. In addition, it is important to bear in mind that CEA is not responsible for losses to uninsured residential properties or their contents, commercial properties, or public infrastructure such as bridges and freeways.  

Q: Can CEA file for bankruptcy protection?

A: No. CEA is not permitted to file for bankruptcy protection, and, unlike a private insurer, it cannot be taken over by the state insurance commissioner. If an earthquake causes insured damage greater than the CEA's claim-paying capacity, policyholders with earthquake damage may be paid a prorated portion of their covered losses. Or, the CEA Governing Board may approve installment payments.  

CEA claim-paying capacity is carefully established according to financially conservative standards: CEA aims to maintain a claim-paying capacity sufficient to ensure that no less than once in every 400 years would the CEA be unable to pay 100 percent of every claim from all earthquakes occurring in one year. In addition, it is important to bear in mind that the CEA is not responsible for losses to uninsured residential properties or their contents, commercial properties, or public infrastructure such as bridges and freeways.

CEA Insurance Policies

Q. Is earthquake insurance expensive?
A. CEA offers coverage and limit choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use the CEA Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. My premium increased. How can I lower my bill?
A: There are several ways to lower what you pay for earthquake insurance.
  • Choose a higher deductible to lower your premiumCEA deductibles range from 5% to 25%, in 5% increments.
  • If your home is insured under a CEA Homeowners Choice policy, you can reduce your costs by declining personal property and loss of use coverages and only insuring the dwelling itself.
  • Make sure your coverage limits make sense for your needs. Do you rent a 1-bedroom, but have the highest possible personal property limit of $200,000? Make sure your coverage limits accurately reflect what you own.
  • If you have an older retrofitted house, you may qualify for a  Hazard Reduction Discount of up to 25%, with proper verification. Call your agent or CEA participating residential insurer for details.

To learn more about your premium and options, visit our Premium Changes page.

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. Is my home at risk from an earthquake?

A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible.

Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared

Q. Why choose CEA earthquake insurance?
A. The not-for-profit CEA is one of the world’s largest providers of residential earthquake insurance. Our rates are based on science, not profit, enabling us to use the best science available to determine competitive earthquake insurance rates.  CEA is actuarially sound and could pay all covered claims if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta, or 1994 Northridge earthquake reoccurred today.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies. Learn more about how to buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy.
Q: I don't have earthquake insurance. Can I buy a new CEA policy after an earthquake?

A: Yes. CEA has never imposed a moratorium on selling new earthquake insurance policies following any earthquake, even in the areas directly affected by the earthquake.*

If you do choose to purchase a new CEA earthquake insurance policy shortly after the occurrence of an earthquake in your area, and if there are aftershocks or other quakes that are related to that same earthquake, then you should be aware that your new CEA policy will not cover losses from these aftershocks or other related ground-shaking that occurs within 15 days (360 hours) after that earthquake, though would cover damage from completely unrelated earthquakes that may occur immediately after you purchase your policy. That original earthquake, together with all related shaking that occurs within 15 days, are collectively referred to as the "seismic event" in the CEA policy. In other words, the "seismic event" commences upon the initial earthquake, and all earthquakes or aftershocks that occur within the 360 hours (15 days) immediately following the initial earthquake are considered for purposes of this policy to be part of the same "seismic event."

For a loss to be covered under a CEA policy, both the original earthquake that caused the loss (to your property or belongings) and the 15-day "seismic event" that the earthquake is part of must commence during the policy period.

If, however, another earthquake occurs after the new policy goes into effect, and that earthquake is not seismically related to the earlier earthquake (not part of the earlier “seismic event”), then your losses from this new earthquake would be covered, even if they occurred immediately after the effective date of the policy, because those losses would arise from a different seismic event.

If you are a current policyholder and have experienced damage from a covered seismic event, and another quake occurs as part of the same event (for example, with the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake, when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck and the next day a 7.1 magnitude struck, as part of the same seismic event), our 360-hour definition allows our policyholders to combine all the damage to meet their deductible. In other words, you do not need to meet your deductible each time; you only need to meet it once.

*It is possible, however, that one or more CEA participating insurers (who sell and service our policies), as well as other insurance companies, may declare a moratorium on new sales of their own insurance policies (e.g., homeowners, condominium owners, or renters insurance that covers the risk of fire) in the affected area after an earthquake or other disaster, so if you reside in an area that has been affected by a recent earthquake and are interested in purchasing homeowners or other property insurance, we recommend you contact the property insurer to see if they have issued a moratorium on the policy types they offer.

Q. I'm worried that I can't afford the earthquake policies deductible.
A. You do not have to pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage, so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before receiving your claim payment.

Both standard Homeowners and Homeowners Choice offer deductibles ranging from 5-25%. With the standard policy, all of your coverages are together under one deductible. With Homeowners Choice, you can choose to have separate deductibles for your dwelling and personal property. And if earthquake damage meets the dwelling deductible, the personal property deductible is waived.
Q. I rent out my property. How would I be compensated for lost rent?

A. For homeowners policyholders who are landlords that rent all or a portion of their homes to others, the CEA policy covers lost rental income resulting from earthquake damage. The policy states:

"Loss of Rent. If the part of the dwelling that you rent to others or that you actually hold for rental becomes unfit to live in as a result of either (1) damage to the dwelling or covered extensions to dwelling caused by an earthquake that commences during the policy period as part of a seismic event that commences during the policy period or (2) the process of repairing damage to the dwelling or covered extensions to dwelling caused by an earthquake that commences during the policy period as part of a seismic event that commences during the policy period, we cover the fair rental value of that part of the dwelling that is rented to others or that you actually held for rental prior to the loss, less any expenses that do not continue while the rental portion of the dwelling is unfit to live in. Fair rental value means the average rental amount immediately before the earthquake in your rental market for a residential unit similar to that covered under this policy.

We will pay for the shortest time reasonably needed to repair or replace the parts of the dwelling rented or held for rental that are unfit to live in. Your loss of rents due to cancellation of a lease or rental agreement is not covered."

Because each claim is unique, if you file a claim for lost rental income, the adjuster assigned by the participating insurance company would review the details of the loss and determine the most appropriate manner in which to settle the claim.

Q. Are cracks as a result of earthquake covered by the policy or does it only cover complete collapse?
A. CEA policies do not require the complete collapse of a dwelling in order for an insured to receive a claim payment. At the time of the loss, an adjuster from the participating insurance company would investigate the loss and issue payment for all covered damages, less any applicable deductibles. (Of course, claims for which homes suffer only very minor damage, such as a few minor, nonstructural surface cracks in drywall surfaces, would typically not meet the policy deductible for a CEA policy.)
Q. Has the CEA paid out claims? If so, when and how quickly were claims settled?
A. Yes, CEA has issued payments for claims from past earthquake events. Just as our participating insurers (PIs) handle the sale and servicing of all CEA policies, our PIs also handle earthquake damage claims. All investigations and settlement of claims are handled by our PIs on CEA’s behalf.

Homeowners

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies. Learn more about how to buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy.
Q: I don't have earthquake insurance. Can I buy a new CEA policy after an earthquake?

A: Yes. CEA has never imposed a moratorium on selling new earthquake insurance policies following any earthquake, even in the areas directly affected by the earthquake.*

If you do choose to purchase a new CEA earthquake insurance policy shortly after the occurrence of an earthquake in your area, and if there are aftershocks or other quakes that are related to that same earthquake, then you should be aware that your new CEA policy will not cover losses from these aftershocks or other related ground-shaking that occurs within 15 days (360 hours) after that earthquake, though would cover damage from completely unrelated earthquakes that may occur immediately after you purchase your policy. That original earthquake, together with all related shaking that occurs within 15 days, are collectively referred to as the "seismic event" in the CEA policy. In other words, the "seismic event" commences upon the initial earthquake, and all earthquakes or aftershocks that occur within the 360 hours (15 days) immediately following the initial earthquake are considered for purposes of this policy to be part of the same "seismic event."

For a loss to be covered under a CEA policy, both the original earthquake that caused the loss (to your property or belongings) and the 15-day "seismic event" that the earthquake is part of must commence during the policy period.

If, however, another earthquake occurs after the new policy goes into effect, and that earthquake is not seismically related to the earlier earthquake (not part of the earlier “seismic event”), then your losses from this new earthquake would be covered, even if they occurred immediately after the effective date of the policy, because those losses would arise from a different seismic event.

If you are a current policyholder and have experienced damage from a covered seismic event, and another quake occurs as part of the same event (for example, with the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake, when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck and the next day a 7.1 magnitude struck, as part of the same seismic event), our 360-hour definition allows our policyholders to combine all the damage to meet their deductible. In other words, you do not need to meet your deductible each time; you only need to meet it once.

*It is possible, however, that one or more CEA participating insurers (who sell and service our policies), as well as other insurance companies, may declare a moratorium on new sales of their own insurance policies (e.g., homeowners, condominium owners, or renters insurance that covers the risk of fire) in the affected area after an earthquake or other disaster, so if you reside in an area that has been affected by a recent earthquake and are interested in purchasing homeowners or other property insurance, we recommend you contact the property insurer to see if they have issued a moratorium on the policy types they offer.

Q. What are my deductible options?
A. You can choose coverage deductibles of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. 
Q. What's the difference between standard Homeowners and Homeowners Choice policies?
A. With the Homeowners Choice policy, you can purchase separate policy options instead of the standard Homeowners bundled coverage. CEA provides a comprehensive breakdown of both, so you can make the best choice for yourself and your family. 

Homeowners Coverages & Deductibles

Q. Do I need to retrofit my house before I can buy a CEA policy?
A. You do not need to retrofit your house to before buying a CEA policy. However, depending on the year your house was built, a retrofit can make it stronger and more resistant to earthquake damage, and qualify you for a CEA premium discount
Q. As a homeowner, am I eligible for a retrofit discount?

A. If your qualifying home was built before 1980 and has been seismically retrofitted, you may qualify for up to a 25% premium discount with a retrofit verification.

And, learn more about two programs—Earthquake Brace + Bolt and CEA Brace + Bolt—that offer grants of up to $3,000 to help pay for a seismic retrofit.

Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out-of-pocket. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front to receive a claim payment. 
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!
Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments and claims.
Q. Is my home at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!
Q. Where can I get an earthquake insurance policy cost estimate?
Q. Does CEA offer stand-alone policies?

A. No. CEA policies must be purchased from the same residential insurance company that your standard residential (fire) policy is with—functioning as a companion policy, you can buy your CEA earthquake insurance policy through your residential insurance company. They will help you get a CEA quote and will also handle billing; process your renewals, invoices and payments; and handle claims and claim payments. Learn more about how to buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy.

Q. Why doesn't my CEA policy cover everything I own?

A. Depending on the coverages you choose, CEA earthquake policies are intended to help rebuild or repair your home, replace your damaged personal belongings, and help with additional living expenses if you have to move out while repairs are made.

Our Dwelling coverage helps make your home safe and habitable, which means rebuilding or repairing items that are part of the main structure, like the roof, walls, foundation, plumbing, and electrical systems—these are all covered. Structures that aren't necessary to "put a roof back over your head" or are not part of the main dwelling, like a detached garage or a swimming pool, are not included in the CEA policy.

To learn more about our policy coverages, visit our Insurance Policies page where you can see more details on what we cover, download a sample policy, order brochures, and view our policy FAQs.

Condo-Unit Owners

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out-of-pocket. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front to receive a claim payment. 
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies. Learn more about how to buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy.
Q: I don't have earthquake insurance. Can I buy a new CEA policy after an earthquake?

A: Yes. CEA has never imposed a moratorium on selling new earthquake insurance policies following any earthquake, even in the areas directly affected by the earthquake.*

If you do choose to purchase a new CEA earthquake insurance policy shortly after the occurrence of an earthquake in your area, and if there are aftershocks or other quakes that are related to that same earthquake, then you should be aware that your new CEA policy will not cover losses from these aftershocks or other related ground-shaking that occurs within 15 days (360 hours) after that earthquake, though would cover damage from completely unrelated earthquakes that may occur immediately after you purchase your policy. That original earthquake, together with all related shaking that occurs within 15 days, are collectively referred to as the "seismic event" in the CEA policy. In other words, the "seismic event" commences upon the initial earthquake, and all earthquakes or aftershocks that occur within the 360 hours (15 days) immediately following the initial earthquake are considered for purposes of this policy to be part of the same "seismic event."

For a loss to be covered under a CEA policy, both the original earthquake that caused the loss (to your property or belongings) and the 15-day "seismic event" that the earthquake is part of must commence during the policy period.

If, however, another earthquake occurs after the new policy goes into effect, and that earthquake is not seismically related to the earlier earthquake (not part of the earlier “seismic event”), then your losses from this new earthquake would be covered, even if they occurred immediately after the effective date of the policy, because those losses would arise from a different seismic event.

If you are a current policyholder and have experienced damage from a covered seismic event, and another quake occurs as part of the same event (for example, with the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake, when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck and the next day a 7.1 magnitude struck, as part of the same seismic event), our 360-hour definition allows our policyholders to combine all the damage to meet their deductible. In other words, you do not need to meet your deductible each time; you only need to meet it once.

*It is possible, however, that one or more CEA participating insurers (who sell and service our policies), as well as other insurance companies, may declare a moratorium on new sales of their own insurance policies (e.g., homeowners, condominium owners, or renters insurance that covers the risk of fire) in the affected area after an earthquake or other disaster, so if you reside in an area that has been affected by a recent earthquake and are interested in purchasing homeowners or other property insurance, we recommend you contact the property insurer to see if they have issued a moratorium on the policy types they offer.

Q. What are my deductible options?
A. You can choose coverage deductibles of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. 
Q. How does a Condo policy pay out for building and loss of use?

A. Building Property, an optional coverage, covers earthquake damage to built-in features of the dwelling such as appliances, fixtures, and wall-to-wall carpeting, and the policyholder can select a limit of up to $100,000 for that coverage. Optional Loss Assessment coverage, on the other hand, helps pay your share of certain assessments levied by your HOA on its members for earthquake-damage repairs or to pay a master-policy deductible, and you may select a limit of up to $100,000 for that coverage as well. Both coverages are subject to the chosen deductible of 5% - 25% of the coverage limit.

Loss of Use coverage—optional coverage that is combined with Personal Property coverage as a package—pays for additional living expenses if you must live outside of your home because of earthquake damage to your home or as directed by a civil authority following an earthquake. This coverage never has a deductible.

Q. What happens if somebody lives in a condo, and after a large quake the HOA does not have the funds to rebuild the structures they are responsible for (walls/roof....)?

A. It is important for HOAs to have earthquake insurance for the Association. If they do not, however, and the HOA decides not to rebuild after an earthquake, if you are a CEA policyholder, you can still receive a claim settlement for your covered losses.

For CEA condo policyholders who purchase optional Loss Assessment and whose HOA either cannot afford to or chooses not to repair damage to common property, rendering the policyholder’s dwelling uninhabitable, the policy covers the reduction in value of the policyholder’s interest in the condo, up to the policy limits and subject to the deductible for Loss Assessment. (Loss Assessment coverage is subject to exclusions for certain categories of property and losses, so it is important to read and understand that coverage.)

 And remember that Loss of Use, which covers additional living expenses if you must live outside of your home because of earthquake damage or as directed by a civil authority, never has a deductible. This coverage can be purchased with limits as high as $100,000.

Condo-Unit Coverages & Deductibles

Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!
Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments and claims.
Q. Is my condo unit at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared
Q. Is there loss assessment coverage on a CEA condo unit policy?
A. Yes. Loss Assessment coverage can be added to your CEA condo policy and has options up to $100,000 for an individual unit owner to help cover the cost of special assessments your Home Owners Association (HOA) may assess for the cost of repairing the unit structures, or may be used towards the HOA’s master policy deductible. For all terms and conditions please read the CEA condominium policy

Mobilehome and Manufactured Home Owners

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies. Learn more about how to buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy.
Q: I don't have earthquake insurance. Can I buy a new CEA policy after an earthquake?

A: Yes. CEA has never imposed a moratorium on selling new earthquake insurance policies following any earthquake, even in the areas directly affected by the earthquake.*

If you do choose to purchase a new CEA earthquake insurance policy shortly after the occurrence of an earthquake in your area, and if there are aftershocks or other quakes that are related to that same earthquake, then you should be aware that your new CEA policy will not cover losses from these aftershocks or other related ground-shaking that occurs within 15 days (360 hours) after that earthquake, though would cover damage from completely unrelated earthquakes that may occur immediately after you purchase your policy. That original earthquake, together with all related shaking that occurs within 15 days, are collectively referred to as the "seismic event" in the CEA policy. In other words, the "seismic event" commences upon the initial earthquake, and all earthquakes or aftershocks that occur within the 360 hours (15 days) immediately following the initial earthquake are considered for purposes of this policy to be part of the same "seismic event."

For a loss to be covered under a CEA policy, both the original earthquake that caused the loss (to your property or belongings) and the 15-day "seismic event" that the earthquake is part of must commence during the policy period.

If, however, another earthquake occurs after the new policy goes into effect, and that earthquake is not seismically related to the earlier earthquake (not part of the earlier “seismic event”), then your losses from this new earthquake would be covered, even if they occurred immediately after the effective date of the policy, because those losses would arise from a different seismic event.

If you are a current policyholder and have experienced damage from a covered seismic event, and another quake occurs as part of the same event (for example, with the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake, when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck and the next day a 7.1 magnitude struck, as part of the same seismic event), our 360-hour definition allows our policyholders to combine all the damage to meet their deductible. In other words, you do not need to meet your deductible each time; you only need to meet it once.

*It is possible, however, that one or more CEA participating insurers (who sell and service our policies), as well as other insurance companies, may declare a moratorium on new sales of their own insurance policies (e.g., homeowners, condominium owners, or renters insurance that covers the risk of fire) in the affected area after an earthquake or other disaster, so if you reside in an area that has been affected by a recent earthquake and are interested in purchasing homeowners or other property insurance, we recommend you contact the property insurer to see if they have issued a moratorium on the policy types they offer.

Q. What are my deductible options?
A. You can choose coverage deductibles of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. 
Q. What's the difference between standard Homeowners and Homeowners Choice policies?
A. With the Homeowners Choice policy, you can purchase separate policy options instead of the standard Homeowners bundled coverage. CEA provides a comprehensive breakdown of both, so you can make the best choice for yourself and your family. 

Mobilehome Owners and Manufactured Homeowners Policy Coverages & Deductibles

Q. Do I need to retrofit my mobilehome before I can buy a CEA policy?
A. You do not need to retrofit your mobilehome before buying a CEA policy. However, a retrofit can make it stronger and more resistant to earthquake damage, and qualify you for a discount.
Q. As a mobilehome owner, am I eligible for a retrofit discount?

A. You may receive a 21% discount on your CEA earthquake insurance premium if your mobilehome:

  • Has been reinforced by an earthquake-resistant bracing system certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), or
  • Has been installed on an approved foundation system in accordance with subdivisions (a) or (b) of section 18551 of the California Health and Safety Code.

Learn more about premium discounts for mobilehomes or contact HCD for more information. 

Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!
Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments and claims.
Q. Is my home at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!

Renters

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. How much does a CEA renters policy cost?
A. A CEA renters policy could cost as little as $35 per year. Of course, the cost of your policy depends on factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers coverage and limit choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate. 
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies. Learn more about how to buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy.
Q: I don't have earthquake insurance. Can I buy a new CEA policy after an earthquake?

A: Yes. CEA has never imposed a moratorium on selling new earthquake insurance policies following any earthquake, even in the areas directly affected by the earthquake.*

If you do choose to purchase a new CEA earthquake insurance policy shortly after the occurrence of an earthquake in your area, and if there are aftershocks or other quakes that are related to that same earthquake, then you should be aware that your new CEA policy will not cover losses from these aftershocks or other related ground-shaking that occurs within 15 days (360 hours) after that earthquake, though would cover damage from completely unrelated earthquakes that may occur immediately after you purchase your policy. That original earthquake, together with all related shaking that occurs within 15 days, are collectively referred to as the "seismic event" in the CEA policy. In other words, the "seismic event" commences upon the initial earthquake, and all earthquakes or aftershocks that occur within the 360 hours (15 days) immediately following the initial earthquake are considered for purposes of this policy to be part of the same "seismic event."

For a loss to be covered under a CEA policy, both the original earthquake that caused the loss (to your property or belongings) and the 15-day "seismic event" that the earthquake is part of must commence during the policy period.

If, however, another earthquake occurs after the new policy goes into effect, and that earthquake is not seismically related to the earlier earthquake (not part of the earlier “seismic event”), then your losses from this new earthquake would be covered, even if they occurred immediately after the effective date of the policy, because those losses would arise from a different seismic event.

If you are a current policyholder and have experienced damage from a covered seismic event, and another quake occurs as part of the same event (for example, with the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake, when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck and the next day a 7.1 magnitude struck, as part of the same seismic event), our 360-hour definition allows our policyholders to combine all the damage to meet their deductible. In other words, you do not need to meet your deductible each time; you only need to meet it once.

*It is possible, however, that one or more CEA participating insurers (who sell and service our policies), as well as other insurance companies, may declare a moratorium on new sales of their own insurance policies (e.g., homeowners, condominium owners, or renters insurance that covers the risk of fire) in the affected area after an earthquake or other disaster, so if you reside in an area that has been affected by a recent earthquake and are interested in purchasing homeowners or other property insurance, we recommend you contact the property insurer to see if they have issued a moratorium on the policy types they offer.

Q. What are my deductible options?
A. You can choose coverage deductibles of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. 

Renters Coverages & Deductibles

Q. Won’t my landlord’s policy cover my belongings?
A. No. You’ll first need a separate renters policy, and then a CEA earthquake insurance policy, to cover damage to your personal belongings like TVs and furniture, and to cover loss of use in case earthquake damage keeps you out of your home. 
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!
Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments and claims.
Q. Is my rental at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you, and take steps to get prepared

How to Buy Earthquake Insurance

Q. When Should I Buy Earthquake Insurance?

A. Earthquakes are unlike any other natural disaster. There aren’t any warning signs or advanced notice. One thing is certain: California, with nearly 16,000 known faults, is due for a devastating earthquake in the near future.

Earthquake insurance is not required in California, unlike automobile liability insurance.  If you choose not to protect yourself with earthquake residential insurance, you will be responsible for 100 percent of the cost to repair your home and replace your belongings after a major earthquake.

You may receive a letter from your insurance company offering you a CEA earthquake insurance policy. Since the 1980s, California law has mandated that insurance companies selling residential insurance also offer earthquake insurance. By law, your insurer is required to send a mandatory offer letter at least every two years if you do not yet have earthquake insurance. But don't worry if you happen to miss the due date shown in your mandatory offer letter! You can purchase a CEA policy at any time, simply by contacting your residential insurer.

Protect your home before the next big earthquake strikes by contacting your residential insurer to add earthquake insurance. You also don't have to wait until your residential policy renews in order to purchase a CEA policy.

For the best choice of coverages and premiums, buy earthquake insurance in California from CEA.

Q. How Much Coverage Do I Need?

A. Answer the following three questions to determine your need to buy earthquake insurance in California: 

  • Can you afford the cost to rebuild or repair your home if it is damaged in a major earthquake?
  • Can you replace your personal belongings if they are damaged or destroyed?
  • Can you pay for temporary housing if there is structural damage that makes your home uninhabitable or a civil authority prevents entry to your neighborhood because of earthquake damage?

Because the risk for earthquake damage is great in California, CEA offers homeowners coverage for the structure of the house, building code upgrades and emergency repairs. Renters, mobilehome owners and condo-unit owners have customized coverage choices. We also provide separate coverage options for belongings and additional living expenses.

Q. Where Can I Buy Earthquake Insurance

A. CEA residential earthquake insurance is easy to buy. Contact your home insurance agent to discuss purchasing separate earthquake insurance added to your current home policy. We work with 24 residential insurance companies.

You can include the coverage today, no need to wait until your home policy comes up for renewal. Contact your residential insurer now!

Q. How Expensive is Earthquake Insurance in California?

A. CEA California earthquake insurance policies are not one size fits all. You customize your policy to fit your needs and budget.

CEA affordable premiums—based on science, not profit—are determined by several factors including your home’s location near a fault, and the coverages and deductibles you choose.

For the best choice of CEA earthquake home insurance policies, select deductibles from 5%-25%.

Q. How do I Qualify for a Discounted Premium
A. A seismic retrofit involves strengthening your home’s foundation to make it more resistant to shaking. CEA offers earthquake home insurance premium discounts (up to 25%) for older houses that have been retrofitted to better withstand earthquakes.  Mobilehomes that have already been certified with an earthquake-resistant bracing system may be eligible for a 21% discount.

 

Grants to help pay for a house retrofit are available under the Earthquake Brace & Bolt (EBB) program, and the CEA Brace + Bolt (CEA BB) program.

CEA Policy Management

Q. Who do I contact if I have an earthquake damage claim?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all claims on our behalf. Please contact them directly if you have an earthquake damage claim.
Q. How can I access my bill?
A. The CEA insurance provider that insures your residence (for fire and theft) services CEA policies on our behalf. They also determine how your bill is delivered to you and what payment methods to offer you. Please contact your insurance agent to learn more about what options are available to you
Q. Where do I send my bill?
A. Make your CEA policy payment to the residential insurance company that sold you your CEA policy—not CEA. They handle all billing for your CEA policy on our behalf.
Q. My premium increased. How can I lower my bill?
A: There are several ways to lower what you pay for earthquake insurance.
  • Choose a higher deductible to lower your premiumCEA deductibles range from 5% to 25%, in 5% increments.
  • If your home is insured under a CEA Homeowners Choice policy, you can reduce your costs by declining personal property and loss of use coverages and only insuring the dwelling itself.
  • Make sure your coverage limits make sense for your needs. Do you rent a 1-bedroom, but have the highest possible personal property limit of $200,000? Make sure your coverage limits accurately reflect what you own.
  • If you have an older retrofitted house, you may qualify for a  Hazard Reduction Discount of up to 25%, with proper verification. Call your agent or CEA participating residential insurer for details.

To learn more about your premium and options, visit our Premium Changes page.

Q. What payment options are available?
A. The residential insurance company that sold you your CEA policy decides what payment methods and schedules (including pay by credit card or monthly installments) are available to pay CEA policy premiums. Please contact them to see what options they offer. 
Q. I want to choose an insurance company that offers CEA policy bill payment or viewing options that work best for me. What do I need to know?
A. Contact the residential insurance companies you are considering, and find out what options they offer CEA policyholders. Because CEA does not offer stand-alone earthquake policies, your CEA policy has to be with the same insurance company as your residential insurance policy. Those companies sell and service CEA policies on our behalf, and they determine what billing and payment options to make available to you. 
Q. What is CEA doing regarding late payments or other CEA policy issues during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. CEA policy billing, payments, changes and renewals are not handled by CEA. The servicing of your policy—including any accommodations due to the ​COVID pandemic—is handled by the residential property insurance company that issued your CEA policy. You will need to contact that insurance company for details on how they are managing grace periods, late payments, or other policy issues that may arise related to COVID-19.

Read the California Insurance Commissioner's latest bulletin on grace periods, and contact your insurance company directly for more information.

Q. What is CEA doing regarding late payments related to the July-August wildfires?​

A. CEA policy billing and payments are not handled by CEA—all billing is performed by the participating residential insurer that issued your CEA policy. That participating insurer manages CEA policy billing, including managing any accommodations that are being made for late payments due to the wildfires and the California Insurance Commissioner's notice on the grace period. That being said, CEA expects all participating insurers to comply with the directive. You will need to contact the residential property insurance company through which your CEA policy was issued for details on how that company is managing the wildfire grace period.

Your Earthquake Risk

Q. What is the risk of a California earthquake?

A. According to the third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3) report, in the next 30 years (beginning in 2014), there is a:

  • More than 99% chance that one or more M6.7 or greater earthquakes will strike somewhere in California
  • 75% chance one or more M7.0 or greater earthquakes will strike Southern California
  • 76% chance one or more M7.0 or greater earthquakes will strike Northern California

Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!

Q. Is my home at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!
Q. What fault is California on?
A. The state of California isn’t on any one particular fault, but rather, on thousands of known faults that crisscross the state. Scientists continue to discover new faults all the time. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!
Q. Do I still need earthquake insurance if my home isn’t on or near an earthquake fault?
A. Most Californians live within 30 miles of an active fault and earthquakes can strike anywhere, at any time—even on previously unknown faults. Even if your home is miles away from a fault or the epicenter of an earthquake, you could still experience damage from an earthquake. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!
Q. What could the Big One earthquake look like in California?
A. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Big One is a hypothetical southern California 7.8M earthquake modeled to cause 1800 deaths and cause $213 billion in economic losses. 
Q. How can I be prepared for an earthquake?
A. You can prepare by practicing Drop, Cover, and Hold On and put into action the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety. Talk to your insurance agent to discuss your insurance options.  
Q. If a big earthquake hit, won’t the government bail me out?
A. Government assistance is not always available. First, you must qualify, and grants are often limited to urgent health and safety needs. And government loans to rebuild may be less than you need, but like your mortgage, must still be repaid.

Prepare Your Home

Q. Why should I retrofit my house?

A. California has two-thirds of our nation's earthquake risk. Structures that lack adequate sill plate bolting and cripple-wall bracing are more susceptible to earthquake damage.

The frames of older houses are often not bolted to their foundations, and their cripple walls may lack bracing. Houses without adequate bolting and bracing can slide or topple off their foundation during an earthquake, requiring potentially very expensive repairs. But this serious damage can be prevented with a proper seismic retrofit.

You may be eligible for financial help to pay for your house's retrofit. Learn more about two programs—Earthquake Brace + Bolt and CEA Brace + Bolt—that offer grants of up to $3,000 to help pay for a seismic retrofit.

CEA policyholders with properly retrofitted houses are eligible for a discount of up to 25% off your CEA policy premium.

Q. How can I determine my earthquake risk?

A. Interactive hazard maps are available from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) at its My Hazards Awareness Map website on the “Earthquake Risk” tab. 

Then enter your address into the map search field at the top of the page. When you click “Map Search,” you will be shown your local earthquake hazard on a map. The page will include a description of risks in your area from other hazards such as flood, fire, or tsunami.

Q. Where do I find information about properly bracing my water heater?
A. Resources for bracing your water heater include: Earthquake Country Alliance and Seismic CA

Retrofitting

Q. Why should I retrofit my house?

A. California has two-thirds of our nation's earthquake risk. Structures that lack adequate sill plate bolting and cripple-wall bracing are more susceptible to earthquake damage.

The frames of older houses are often not bolted to their foundations, and their cripple walls may lack bracing. Houses without adequate bolting and bracing can slide or topple off their foundation during an earthquake, requiring potentially very expensive repairs. But this serious damage can be prevented with a proper seismic retrofit.

You may be eligible for financial help to pay for your house's retrofit. Learn more about two programs—Earthquake Brace + Bolt and CEA Brace + Bolt—that offer grants of up to $3,000 to help pay for a seismic retrofit.

CEA policyholders with properly retrofitted houses are eligible for a discount of up to 25% off your CEA policy premium.

Q. How can I determine my earthquake risk?

A. Interactive hazard maps are available from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) at its My Hazards Awareness Map website on the “Earthquake Risk” tab. 

Then enter your address into the map search field at the top of the page. When you click “Map Search,” you will be shown your local earthquake hazard on a map. The page will include a description of risks in your area from other hazards such as flood, fire, or tsunami.

Q. Will a seismic retrofit ‘earthquake-proof’ my house?
A. There is no such thing as an “earthquake-proof structure.” But there are straightforward measures that will likely reduce the potential for (or severity of) earthquake damage. The California Existing Building Code (CEBC) states that its retrofit provisions are "minimum standards intended to improve the seismic performance of residential buildings; however, they will not necessarily prevent earthquake damage."
Q. What is the best method to retrofit my house?

How your house is built and its foundation type determine what type of retrofit your house needs. Houses with a raised concrete perimeter foundation that lack sill plate anchors and/or cripple wall bracing may follow existing state building code (CEBC, Appendix Chapter A3) or standard plan sets, which also provide step-by-step directions. 

The following types of houses may require an engineer to design a retrofit:

  • Soft-story row houses
  • Houses on hillsides
  • Houses with living space over the garage
  • Post and pier foundation houses
Q. What does ‘wood-framed floor at the lowest level’ mean?
A. It means that the framing of the house’s first floor is composed of beams and cross-beams made of wood. You should be able to look under the house to see if wooden beams and cross-beams support the first floor.
Q. What is a cripple wall?
A. A cripple wall is a less-than-full-height wall, typically four feet or less tall, located between the house’s foundation and the base of the house’s first floor.
Q. What is a ‘continuous perimeter foundation?’
A. A continuous perimeter foundation is concrete and runs continuously, without gaps, under the exterior walls of your home. CEBC, Appendix Chapter A3, and standardized plan sets are designed specifically for this type of foundation that lacks sill plate anchors and/or cripple wall bracing. If you have a partial perimeter foundation or if your house foundation is made from unreinforced masonry or stone, you’ll need to have your house evaluated by an engineer or design professional before planning or commencing a retrofit, to ensure you will meet building-code requirements.
Q. What does ‘slab-on-grade’ mean?
A. A slab-on-grade-foundation house has no basement and therefore no basement wall. Your house is built on a solid slab of concrete.
Q. What is a ‘low-slope’ building site?
A. A low-slope building site has a natural slope of 10% or less. If columns or beams support a house, it’s likely the house has been built on a slope greater than 10%.
Q. Do I need to hire an architect or engineer to complete a retrofit?
A. Prescriptive plans sets that do not require an engineered design, such as Appendix Chapter A3 of the CEBC or standard plan sets, may have already been approved by your local building official. Typically houses with cripple walls taller than 4’-0” require an engineered retrofit design. Homeowners, contractors, and design professionals should always check with the local building code official to verify local code requirements.
Q. What should I know before hiring a retrofit contractor?

A. You can follow personal recommendations, or review advertisements or use directories or references provided online. You can also search contractors in the Contractor Directory on the Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) website. Contractors on the EBB list have completed FEMA training for retrofits of houses with raised continuous perimeter foundations and cripple walls.

But regardless of how you find your contractor, before you make your final decision the CSLB recommends:

  • Getting at least three written bids on the project
  • Asking for personal recommendations
  • Verifying the contractor's business location and telephone number
  • Ensuring the contractor has a license and the legally required bond
  • Verifying the contractor's workers’ compensation and commercial general liability insurance coverage
Q. How do I determine if the retrofit contractor is licensed?
A. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) provides online information about contractors, so you can verify their license number and verify the business name and whether their license is active.
Q. Can I do the retrofit work myself?
A. If you have do-it-yourself skills, you can probably tackle the seismic retrofit work outlined in CEBC, Appendix Chapter A3. Or, you may find using a standard plan set easier, since it provides step-by-step directions on needed retrofit components and their proper placement. When you do this work without a licensed contractor, you become an “owner-builder,” which has risks and requirements you should fully understand before starting. You should also review the FEMA Education Course on raised-foundation or cripple-wall retrofits.
Q. Are drawings and calculations required for a building permit?
A. Check with your local building inspection department to verify the construction documents (drawings, etc.) required for a building permit—requirements vary considerably. Many building departments accept standard plan sets, which the owner-builder or contractor can access online. If you hire a registered design professional (architect or engineer) to design a retrofit for your cripple wall house, specify that they design the retrofit in accordance with Appendix Chapter A3 of the CEBC or one of the plan sets adopted by your local building official.
Q. What is a ‘standard plan set?’
A. There are standard sets of plans. made available to homeowners and contractors, to use as construction documents for the seismic retrofit of wood-frame, single-family dwellings. These plan sets include specifications, details, and instructions for installing foundation anchorage and cripple-wall bracing (for walls shorter than four feet). Note that a registered design professional (architect or engineer) must design any modifications to plan-set provisions.
Q. Can I use a standard plan set as construction documents?
A. Check with your local building inspection department to see if it has adopted a standard plan set that meets the requirements of the CEBC, Appendix Chapter A3.

If not, determine whether “Plan Set A” is acceptable—this plan set applies to any wood-framed, single-family dwelling with a raised foundation and with or without a cripple wall of less than four feet. You can download Plan Set A from the Association of Bay Area Government (ABAG) website.

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