Is insurance available for landslide damage or Acts of God?

Reviewed by Rena Novotny and Stefan Tirschler

Updated September 9, 2022

Landslides occur every year in all parts of Canada. The 2012 landslides in both Johnson’s Landing and Fairmont Hot Springs may have you wondering about landslides and home insurance.

Landslide damage

What is considered a “landslide?”

A landslide is the term used to describe rock, debris, or earth moving down a slope. According to Natural Resources Canada, these are caused by natural processes or by man. Some factors that can increase the risk of landslide include:

  • Earthquakes
  • Deforestation
  • Artesian water flow
  • Excavation and blasting
  • Pre-existing slope instability
  • Irrigation, or modifying stream flow
  • Freezing and thawing of rock faces
  • Snow melt or heavy rainfall, causing erosion or increased water pressure
  • Climate change involving higher temperatures, more precipitation, and violent storms

How fast do landslides move?

Landslides can move extremely slowly, perhaps just a few centimetres in a year. This will cause telephone poles, trees, and fences to tilt and appear deformed. Sudden landslides, particularly those involving large amounts of water or mud, or where rocks are falling, can move up to 360 kilometres per hour. Landslides involve very heavy, fast-moving material; the enormous weight and power of these events can easily sweep structures from their foundations and carry them with the landslide to its final settling point.

What can I do to protect my home from landslides?

If you live in a possible landslide area, Natural Resources Canada offers the following tips:

  • Learn about the geology and the possibility of landslides in your area.
  • Avoid actions that might increase instability, such as undercutting a steep bank.
  • Don’t build near the top or base of steep slopes, or place fill on steep slopes.
  • Don’t drain pools, redirect streams or otherwise increase water flow down steep slopes.
  • Call the municipal emergency contact number, or the municipal engineer, if you recognize these signs.
  • Have a plan and an emergency kit ready.
  • Check the Prepared BC website.
  • Look for signs of potential failure in your locality, such as slope cracks, slope bulges, unusual seepage of water on the slope, and small rock or sediment falls.
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Will my home insurance cover me?

The simple answer is: “no.” Most home insurance policies in Canada exclude landslide. Even a comprehensive policy, which offers broad protection, will likely exclude landslide. In many policies, landslide is included in the more general “earth movement” exclusion. If you’re unsure, or can’t locate that exclusion in your policy, contact your home insurance provider for assistance.

If my home insurance provides no coverage, where can I go for help?

In certain circumstances, disaster financial assistance can be declared by federal and provincial authorities. For example: in the province of British Columbia, certain landslides are eligible for disaster financial assistance as long as they result directly from heavy rainfall or other catastrophic causes, and were not caused by pre-existing slope instability.

If a landslide or other catastrophic event has occurred in your region, contact your provincial disaster financial assistance agency. To help you do so, Square One has compiled the below list of provincial entities as a starting point.

Canadian provincial and territorial disaster assistance contacts:

What about Acts of God? Does my policy exclude them?

You may have heard people say, “Insurance doesn’t cover that — it’s an act of God.” Have you ever looked through your policy wording booklet? If you have, you’ll find that virtually no home insurance policies sold in Canada contain an exclusion for “Acts of God.”

“Acts of God” is an archaic term that used to refer to events outside of human control, for which no one can be held responsible. When people use that term, they’re usually referring to things that happen in nature, which might include:

  • Lightning
  • Wildfires
  • Floods
  • Windstorms
  • Hailstorms
  • Earthquakes

A home insurance policy would not be very useful to customers if it contained an exclusion for “Acts of God,” because customers would have no protection for the above six causes of loss – and potentially many more. In reality, coverage is usually much stronger: fire, lightning, and windstorm are three causes of loss that most home insurance has been specifically designed to cover, for hundreds of years.

Instead of using vague terms like “Acts of God,” home insurance policies in Canada specifically spell out the coverages (referred to as “perils”) and exclusions that apply. For instance, most policies will automatically cover lightning, wildfires, windstorms and hailstorms. Many modern comprehensive home insurance policies, like the policy provided by Square One, cover all potential causes of loss – except for the narrow list of excluded losses that the policy specifically describes in writing.

However, most policies DO NOT automatically cover loss or damage from coastal flood, inland flood, landslide or earthquake; you will find these exclusions specifically listed in most policy wordings. Coverage for coastal floods or landslide is not available in most Canadian provinces. On the other hand, coverage for earthquakes and inland flood can often be added to your home insurance policy upon request. Square One automatically includes coverage for earthquake in some of our home insurance policies, and 94% of Square One customers will also automatically receive coverage for inland flood.

If you’re not sure what your policy covers, take a look through your policy wording booklet; when in doubt, always contact your insurance provider to discuss the coverage and exclusions that apply to your unique policy.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home Insurance Basics resource centre for dozens of helpful articles to guide you through the ins and outs of home insurance. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

About the expert: Rena Novotny

Rena's 23-year career started as an independent adjuster where she specialized in complex property, liability and special risk loss. As a branch manager, Rena hired, trained, mentored and coached several adjusters. She continues part-time post-graduate studies in neuro-psychology and traumatization, learning how both may impact the insured's engagement on catastrophic claims. Rena has a MA (Conflict Analysis and Management), CRM, CIP, and holds a level 3 adjusting license.

About the expert: Stefan Tirschler

Stefan is responsible for underwriting leadership, market expansion, and product research and development for Square One's operations. Stefan has earned his Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional designation, and maintains a level 2 general insurance license in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Stefan is also an Education Committee member and CIP/GIE instructor for the Insurance Institute of Canada.


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