A house located along the Raging River in Preston was yellow-tagged and deemed uninhabitable by officials on Feb. 12. The residents included Brenda and Dean Ralphs, their two daughters who are 9 and 12 years old, and their dog.
The couple had initially bought the house in 2006, and began investing in repairs during 2009. In the past they’ve hired a construction crew and a geologist, but this past January, the Ralphs spent $10,000 on an emergency repair due to erosion. This repair was finished two weeks ago.
When the family purchased the house in 2006, the river sat 100-120 feet away, according to Dean Ralphs. Today, the river runs about 20 feet from the house, with the house about 80 feet above the river.
The homeowners have insurance, but the provider has denied coverage.
“Insurance isn’t for things like wear and tear. Insurance is for sudden cause of loss,” said Marcel Dore, a State Farm agent of Issaquah,.
Dore went on to describe how companies will not offer insurance if something is deemed risky, such as high rates of erosion in the state of Washington.
The Ralphs filed a damage report with King County, however that does not guarantee the family compensation.
Barnaby Dow of King County Emergency Management said damage reports are “advantageous to everybody.”
The county’s damage reports are sent to the state to determine the amount of damages in the area. The state then submits the data to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who has the capability of compensating residents under a Disaster Declaration.
The Ralphs have about $140,000 left on their mortgage.
“I have to keep paying, whether the house is there or not, with us living in it or not. The only criteria they will look at to allow me to suspend payments is if we get the FEMA declaration,” Ralphs said.
Since the yellow-tagging, friends initiated a GoFundMe page for the family, which has since raised more than $7,000.
“We’re going to be paying rent and we’re going to be paying the mortgage — that’s kind of a heavy lift,” said Ralphs, who also mentioned that “every time somebody puts money in there, she (Debra) cries.”
According to their father, the children are old enough to comprehend the situation, but are uncertain of what the future entails.
The Ralphs were staying with a friend in a one-bedroom mother-in-law unit. The family came into contact with a landlord who planned to remove his unit from the market for remodelling purposes, and that has allowed the Ralphs to take over the residence as well as the remodelling.