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On Your Side: Landslides and homeowners insurance

On Your Side: Landslides and homeowners insurance
On Your Side: Landslides and homeowners insurance 03:53

The images of 12 destroyed homes in Rolling Hills Estates are shocking, and leave many wondering, If this happened to my home, would my insurance cover it?

The short answer is: These homeowners are likely out of luck. Most insurance policies won't cover damage caused by landslides.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula slide happened late Saturday night, forcing residents of 12 homes to evacuate. People only had 20 minutes to do so, so it's unlikely residents were able to save much. And fire officials believe more homes may still be at risk.

KCAL News spoke with an insurance attorney to see whether their homeowners insurance will provide any coverage for these people.

"There is a very high likelihood here that there won't be some source of compensation or recovery for this, because what most people don't realize is that homeowners insurance policies throughout the country, but especially in California, don't cover what's called 'earth movement,'" said insurance attorney Shant Karnikian.  "Things like exactly what's happening here, which is a landslide.

"If there is an argument that the HOA [homeowners association] knew of this, or should have known that there was a real possibility of this happening, and they could and should have done something to prevent it, there is an argument that the HOA is responsible. But that's also very difficult to establish in this situation, I think."

RELATED: Massive landslide destroys homes, prompts evacuations in Rolling Hills Estates neighborhood

There may be a way for these homeowners to go after an entity if they contributed to the slide -- for instance, if the city had a water-main break that could be tied to this earth movement.

Or if the recent rains contributed to it -- but that would only be covered if the homeowners had supplemental flood insurance, which many here in California do not have.

Going after someone for this would likely take years. And one's homeowners insurance likely isn't going to cover the contents of one's home either -- or pay for their temporary lodging.

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