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Is Damage from Infestation covered by your Homeowners Policy?

Even if you do everything in your power to protect your home from the elements, it is very difficult to prevent the outdoor world from sneaking in. Nature has a way of foiling our attempts to control it. No matter where you live, there is some type of insect or rodent that wants to share your domicile: from termites to rats, carpenter ants to squirrels. If your house becomes infested by pests or rodents, you should take immediate action to prevent damage.

Pests and your Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Your homeowners policy won't cover this; best to prevent it!

Many people look to their insurance agent and their homeowners insurance policy for help in covering the costs to eradicate the invaders and any damage they have caused. These people are operating  under the false impression that their homeowners insurance policy provides coverage against damage done by infestation, but that isn’t the case. In fact, most homeowners insurance policies have a very explicit clause that excludes damage from pests and infestation. Damage from infestation is generally considered to be a long-term problem that should be prevented by home maintenance. Damage that can be prevented by taking appropriate action is generally not covered by a homeowners insurance policy.

There are some, very limited policies that do cover damage from insects, infestation and pests, but this coverage is specifically called out within the policy and the cost for such coverage is not insignificant. If you have a specific need for this type of coverage check with your insurance agent on pricing and availability. The most affordable action that you can take to guard against damage from pests and infestation is preventative and regular maintenance.

Some damage is covered by a standard homeowners policy, but it is generally limited to collateral damage associated with the infestation (or infestation as collateral to a sudden event). For instance, if termites destroy a central pillar to the home’s frame and the roof caves in, the damage associated with the falling roof will likely be covered, but the damage to the home’s frame will not be. Similarly, if a storm blows a door off your garage and a family of raccoons turn the garage into their home before you are able to get the damaged door replaced, then the insurance company may cover the damage caused by the raccoons (since it is directly related to the storm damage). The differentiation is that gradual damage is not covered, but sudden, unexpected damage is.

Don’t rely on your understanding of the policy though, speak with your insurance agent about the specifics of your policy to try to eliminate any misunderstanding before you have reason to file a claim.

Common Pests

Pests come in all shapes and sizes, and some seem fairly benign while others can be downright vicious. You may know about or have heard of some of the more common pests, like termites, mice, or rats, but there are also other pests that can start to take over your home if you are not careful. Some unexpected rodents include moles, ants, spiders, and fleas. Each animal has its own unique warning signs, but often, common types of pets give off specific sets of signals to make their presence known.

Warning Signs

Termites and ants pose different hazards to humans, but both can release a negative odor to alert you to their presence. However, keeping an eye out for mud nests, tunnels, hollowed out wooden structure, and the ants or termites themselves is the best way to check for the pests. Experts say that if you see winged termites especially, that is a dangerous sign. You should call a professional exterminator immediately if you find large ants or termites in your home, because chances are, they are already nesting in the wooden surfaces of your home. The longer you wait, the more expensive removal will be, and your home will be devalued as well.

Warning signs for rodents, including mice, moles, and rats, will usually include an odor as well. Keeping an eye on any old food, books, or storage in your garage or basement especially, and opening stored boxes with a fair amount of frequency will often help you detect, but not prevent rodents. If you see paper that looks like it has been chewed, find small fecal droppings, or smell urine in corners, and amongst storage piles, those are all warning signs that you might have a rodent infestation, or at least one rodent living in the house. Rats and moles both can make very large holes in your yard, which can become a tripping hazard for small children and animals, and these rodents also carry diseases.

If you have a bed bug or flea infestation, you will likely know because of marks on your skin or finding the bugs on your pets. With bed bugs, you will need to call pest control, because the entire room will need to be either frozen or heated to an extreme temperature.

Serious Issue

Most pests not only do significant damage to the structure of your home by eating and nesting in the wood and base of your home, but they also pose very serious health hazards to humans. Keeping your home clean is one way to deter pests from nesting, although it will not prevent all infestations. Having a clean living space will also help you more easily detect the odor that many pest infestations bring with them. A sour or putrid smell is a warning sign for rodents, and termites and ants bring a sickeningly sweet and sour smell when their numbers grow, especially when their larvae are hatching.

Pest Control

When is the right time to call pest control? At the first sign of any drywall damage or structural infestation, you should call pest control. You also should call pest control if you see large numbers or the animal or bug in your home, or if the numbers seem to be multiplying. The more you see, the more likely it is that your home has been infested, and that the pests are laying nests and making the problem even worse.

Other Preventative Measures

Beyond keeping a clean house and calling pest control at the first sign of an issue, there are some other preventative measures that you can take. Cut back tree-limbs so that they aren’t you’re your house, ensure that grates, screens or other (appropriate) barriers are in place to prevent access to crawl spaces and attics and move wood and other debris away from the house.

Protect your home and make it your own. Don’t allow pests to take over and make it uninhabitable.

2 Responses to “Is Damage from Infestation covered by your Homeowners Policy?”

  1. Julie Karjala

    I have had mice in my apt. for the past three years and my landlord just sends over the building manager to find holes and plug them up. The mice keep making new holes though. My lease states that if I have a rodent problem that they are entitled to get rid of the problem. I think they should go around the outside of the building periodically and patch holes and also work on the inside. They have gotton so bad that I hear plaster board falling in the walls. If you can’t help, can you refer me to an agency that I can file a complaint with that will encourage th owner of the building to take care of this rodent problem once and for all?

  2. Swami

    Unfortunately, this is a legal issue and subject to the jurisdictional laws. We are unable to provide specific guidance, beyond the guidance that many state and local governments offer support services for renters. Your respective agency may be able to assist you; if not, seeking legal counsel may be your best approach.

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