Property owners fearing mine subsidence damage, such as those near a subsidence in Drifton Estates, Hazle Township, early last year, now have cheaper and easier access to insurance, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced last week.
As of Jan. 1, the cost for residential insurance from the Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund was reduced 25 percent and noncommercial rates dropped 60 percent. With the decrease, homeowners can purchase up to $250,000 in coverage for $157 annually while business owners can receive the same coverage for $314 each year.
The program was expanded to include sidewalks, driveways, retaining walls, in-ground pools and other types of property attached to the main structure if that structure is damaged by a clay- or coal-mine subsidence. Also, getting policies was simplified by making them available over the phone or Internet.
“The problem is it’s really underutilized, but it’s a very, very healthy fund, and we’re starting to see a lot of subsidence events on both sides of the state,” DEP spokesman Tom Rathbun said. “There are a million homes out there and fewer than 50,000 policies written, so there are a lot of people who are taking a chance.”
The state fund was created in 1961 with a legislative appropriation, but because the insurance isn’t required it hasn’t been used much while the fund has grown significantly. An actuarial study finished last year found that payments to the fund could be reduced, and it could still remain viable. The study found that nonresidential rates could be reduced even farther, though residential rates will likely remain the same.
DEP is looking for more enrollees by targeting areas that suffered a subsidence recently with advertisements made by a Harrisburg-based agency. “When it’s making the news is a good time to run some TV and print ads,” Rathbun said.
The fund paid out more than $1.3 million for 29 claims during the past fiscal year and has settled more than $23 million in claims since the fund was created in 1961.