As a coalition of government agencies starts taking stock of residential damage in Anchorage, Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsula Borough from the magnitude 7.0 earthquake and its many aftershocks, there are resources available for homeowners grappling with damage. Below, you’ll find a roadmap on assessing damage, applying for a disaster recovery grant, getting help with temporary housing, and the low-down on earthquake insurance.
Here’s a guide on how to tell if your home was seriously damaged:
• Cracks in sheetrock, or even in concrete, are not necessarily a reason to worry. Sheetrock is not a structural part of the house.
• If you can look through a crack and see daylight, that may be a sign of a bigger problem.
• Watch out for things that have moved out of place, like a wall or a foundation. A wall that has moved a few inches is not a good sign. Check to see if the house looks tilted or no longer square.
For homeowners who suspect serious damage, Ross Noffsinger, the acting Anchorage building official, has these tips on how to proceed:
If you live within the Anchorage building safety service area, which does not include Chugiak-Eagle River: Start with a legitimate, licensed, bonded and insured contractor. You can also consult with home inspectors or structural engineers. Check out this list of engineers trained on post-earthquake inspections, search online or use homeadvisor.com, a free online resource. Or, call the city’s building safety department and make a service request.
If you have structural damage, a building permit will be necessary to make repairs. The permit will involve a detailed municipal plan review and an inspection.
If you’re outside of Anchorage’s building safety service area:
• Consult with home inspectors or a structural engineer.
• Hire a reputable contractor to make any necessary repairs.
Additionally, if you live in Mat-Su: Officials are steering residents to this website to report damage.
Residents of Anchorage, Mat-Su and the Kenai whose property was damaged by the quake may be eligible for funding. Under the Individual Assistance Program, eligible applicants can receive up to $17,450 in non-taxable state aid to cover damage to their main home, vehicle and essential belongings, as well as medical and dental expenses incurred because of the earthquake. The money can also be used toward an earthquake insurance deductible, state officials said.
After an application is submitted, FEMA will contact the applicant within 10 days. Applicants may need to submit an insurance settlement or denial if their damages are insured before a FEMA home inspection can be scheduled. Applicants should save repair receipts and take pictures of damage, officials said.
Residents can apply for a grant online at ready.alaska.gov. The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has also activated an assistance hotline at 1-855-445-7131.
The deadline to apply is Jan. 29.
Home no longer safe to occupy? Get help with temporary housing
Homeowners and renters with homes that are damaged and unlivable may also be eligible for state Individual Assistance Temporary Housing. The program covers homeowners for up to 18 months and renters for up to three months. Eligibility for temporary housing is determined by the application for the Individual Assistance Program (see above) at ready.alaska.gov.
Some homeowners are now wondering about earthquake insurance. But earthquake coverage is expensive, it’s usually not included in homeowners insurance and can cost as much as the insurance itself.
Then there’s the deductible, which varies but can be about 20 percent of the home’s value, said Tracey Parrish, owner of Alaska Pacific Insurance Agency.
Earthquake insurance typically covers repairs needed because of damage like cracking, and may cover structures such as garages too, according to a representative for the Insurance Information Institute. It also usually insures your personal property for earthquake damage.
Don’t have earthquake insurance? Lori Wing-Heier, director of the state’s Division of Insurance, said people whose homes were damaged should call their homeowners insurance provider to make sure they understand whether there’s anything in their policy that can help them.
And if you’re thinking about getting earthquake insurance now, you likely won’t be able to. There’s a moratorium on selling earthquake policies for several weeks, according to Parrish, because of continuing aftershocks.