The death toll from the massive mudslide in March in Oso, Wash., stood at 27 as of April 1, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.
More than 40 structures may have been swept away or damaged. Coverage for hazards like mudslide can cost an extra $1,000 per year, and fewer than 1 percent of Washington State homeowners carry it, according to the NW Insurance Council.
The financial risk of homeownership might have been heightened for some in the area. Local television station King 5 has identified one homeowner who bought a foreclosed property in the slide zone. At the height of the recession, 40 percent of sales in the county were foreclosures.
Herbert Burkart, owner of a RE/MAX realty office in nearby Arlington, Washington, says purchase contracts for foreclosures often don’t include a Seller’s Disclosure Statement (known in Washington State as Form 17) listing problems like landslide.
“A lot of banks did not want to provide the disclosure statement at all,” said Burkart, “because they don’t know anything about these properties that they’re foreclosing on.”
Washington’s governor has requested federal disaster assistance—which may be all that many survivors get to help pay off their mortgages and rebuild.