Laguna Beach

Woman who lost home in Laguna Beach landslide fears Rolling Hills Estates residents won't recover financial loss

When Jill Lockhart lost her house to a landslide in 2005, her home insurance deemed it an "act of God" that her policy wouldn't cover

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It's been 18 years, but Jill Lockhart can still vividly recall the morning she and her family escaped their Laguna Beach home as it crumbled down a hillside.

Unable to access the broken street in front of their home, Lockhart and her family stumbled down their hilly backyard as the land collapsed underneath them.

"We we were stuck in our homes, so we had to run for our lives," Lockhart said.

Losing their home in a landslide in 2005 was a moment that changed Lockhart's family forever. She said she can empathize too well with the 17 families in Rolling Hills Estates who were forced to evacuate their homes due to a landslide this past week.

"That was the first thing that comes to mind, because when it happened to us, it happened so quickly," she said. "They had a little bit of notice, but with these landslides, you just don't know how far reaching they are and where they're going to stop."

Lockhart said the landslide was deemed an "act of God," meaning the loss of their property was not covered by their home insurance.

Later, with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the City of Laguna Beach was able to rebuild the hillside and the Lockhart's sold their property at a loss.

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While the homeowners in Rolling Hills Estates await answers regarding coverage from their respective home insurance companies — and potentially a master insurance plan taken out by their homeowner's association — Lockhart worries they may never recover the financial loss.

"I'm not sure if they own the land, if they don't own the land. What recourse do they have? They have pretty much nothing," Lockhart explained. "Insurance doesn't pay for a thing, not a dime."

Landslide at Rolling Hills Estates forces residents to evacuate their homes

Today, Lockhart still lives in Laguna Beach, where she is also a real estate agent.

She said home buyers typically sign a document warning of the potential for natural disasters, and when selling homes in hillsides, she said she always recommends buyers get a closer look at the topography and stability of the land.

"Get a geologist out there, get a soils inspection," Lockhart said. "There's so much value in that because then you know exactly what you're dealing with and you can make an educated decision on how you want to move forward."

The city of Rolling Hills Estates has proclaimed a local emergency to request funding from FEMA and the state.

On Thursday, Los Angeles County announced a fund has been started to assist the homeowners affected by the recent landslide.

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