Less than 50 per cent of homeowners in earthquake prone areas in B.C. carry quake insurance even though scientists say it's a matter of when – not if – the Big One will strike the coast.

The World Conference on Earthquake Engineering says there's a 12-per-cent chance of a structurally damaging quake occurring in Vancouver in the next 50 years – and a 21-per-cent chance of it happening in Victoria.

Insurance experts say that homeowners who aren't properly insured are gambling with their biggest asset.

"We become complacent when it's quiet for a while. We think it's not going to happen and perhaps our renewal comes up at that time and we think, ‘well maybe next year,'" said Patricia Stirling of the BCAA Insurance Corporation.

But not having earthquake insurance could be devastating. It's estimated a 6.5 crustal earthquake under Vancouver could cause as much as $32 billion in damage.

"You could just not be able to rebuild your home, so it could be a total loss for you. If the damage was restricted to shake damage, and was such that you couldn't repair it, it had to be completely rebuilt," said Stirling.

Stirling admits that earthquake insurance can be a little confusing for condo owners who have a strata corporation.

Condo buildings do have earthquake insurance with deductibles downloaded onto the owners, but it only covers structural damage caused by shaking. That means individual owners are responsible for insuring the contents of the unit.

"It gets more complicated for a condo owner, because now they're dealing with not just their own personal policy, but with the strata corporation policy on the building," said Stirling.

Earthquake insurance can cost homeowners as little as $35 extra for a condo to thousands more for a larger detached home. Regardless of your situation, BCAA said all homeowners in the Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island should purchase quake insurance.

"At some point we will have a major earthquake here -- just when that's going to happen no one is able to predict," Stirling said.

Insurance experts suggest that condo owners should take their strata documents to their insurance agent to make sure they have the right amount of coverage.

A 1995 City of Vancouver risk assessment found that some 8,000 Vancouver buildings are vulnerable in the event of an earthquake.

Rates for earthquake insurance vary depending on where you live in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, with higher rates in areas with a high moisture content, like Richmond.

Those areas are much more likely to suffer catastrophic damages in an earthquake.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lynda Steele