10/29/2012 10:23 EDT | Updated 12/29/2012 05:12 EST

Many B.C. Homeowners Not Insured For Earthquakes

Many B.C. homeowners assume that earthquake coverage is included in their house insurance, or that governments will compensate them for damage, but neither is the case.

Many homeowners who aren’t sure if they are insured are reminded to ask about it when events occur like Saturday night’s 7.7-magnitude quake centred near Haida Gwaii.

"Every time there's a bit of a rumble, we do see more uptake, if you will, from the public in terms of looking at earthquake insurance," said Lindsay Olson, of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

A B.C. government study in 2002 showed that 65 per cent of British Columbians in high-risk areas have quake insurance.

Those who don’t buy the extra coverage often don’t bother because they assume their fellow taxpayers will pick up the tab, according to Jason Vander Zalm, of Square One Insurance.

“They believe that the government will step in if there’s a major catastrophe and the government is going to somehow magically compensate the public if something happens to their homes,” Vander Zalm told CBC News Monday.

“The reality is, because it is an insurable event, it’s quite clear the government will not be stepping in.”

Cost also a deterrent

Vander Zalm said that another reason people don’t bother is the extra cost.

"On average, here in B.C., it accounts for between five and 50 per cent of people's homeowner insurance premiums, obviously depending on whether you are in a really earthquake-prone area," he said.

Those areas include locations on Vancouver Island, Richmond and Delta.

Earthquake insurance costs drop toward Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and into the Interior.

The price is based on information from the Geological Survey of Canada combined with characteristics of individual properties.

"They reflect things like soil condition, what the structure is actually constructed of, whether it's wood-frame or whether it's brick, and it also reflects the value of the building itself," Olson said.

Compared to California — where quakes are far more frequent — B.C. rates are low.

A B.C. house insured for $300,000 would have an annual earthquake premium ranging from $225 to $485. A California house insured for the same amount would have an annual premium of $865.

Earthquake insurance will usually cover all damage caused by an earthquake. The only exception is damage caused by a tsunami.