Will my homeowner’s insurance cover damage to my retaining wall?
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Asked January 14, 2013
The technically correct answer to your question is that yes, retaining walls are covered under the "Other Structures" portion of your homeowners insurance policy. With that said, most policies contain exclusion clauses, and it is possible that retaining walls or specific types of damages may be excluded, leaving you covered but only for damages or losses that do not pertain to retaining walls. The key will be the wording in your policy.
Even though retaining walls are covered by default, common exclusions include specifically naming retaining walls or types of damage which commonly occurs. For example, settling of the foundation would not be covered because it is considered movement of the earth, and the weight of water against the wall may not be covered if the water could be classified as flood related. In these two examples, you would need to have insurance for that specific cause, such as earthquake coverage or flood insurance.
Your policy will indicate whether retaining walls are covered, and list any exclusions which apply to them. Read your policy carefully, paying special attention to the "other structures" section (where the type of buildings covered in the policy are mentioned) or in the "exclusions" section, where the insurance company lists all of their exceptions to the terms of the covered items. If retaining walls are not specifically mentioned, contact your insurance company and ask them to elaborate on the subject.
While the retaining wall may not be covered under your policy, failure to maintain it could result in having claims related to other damages denied in the future. If, for example, a wall becomes unsafe or falls because the retaining wall is failing, your claim for the wall could be denied because you were aware of the failing retaining wall but did nothing to prevent it from collapsing. This would be considered negligence, and the claim would be turned down because you failed to take an active interest in protecting your own property.
If the retaining wall is not specifically excluded, and the damage which happens is caused by something other than the mentioned exclusions, then the retaining wall will be covered within the terms of the policy. If you have actual cash value coverage, you will receive a check for the depreciated value of the wall, usually leaving you with additional out of pocket costs. If you have replacement value insurance instead, then the wall will be replaced to the original manufactured condition, or brought up to code and restored as close to the original condition as the law allows.
Answered January 14, 2013 by Anonymous