How pests affect homeowners insurance policies
Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com
Owning a home comes with a variety of new experiences. On good days these are things like having the liberty to redesign elements of your property without oversight from a landlord. On the bad days, these experiences can include such inconveniences as trying to get your homeowners insurance to cover the damage from a pest infestation.
In this article, we’ll cover such questions as ‘does homeowners insurance cover pest damage,’ ‘which pests do the most damage to your home,’ and more. By the end, you’ll have an understanding of when your homeowners insurance will help you with pest infestations and what factors are involved in the determination.
Does homeowners insurance cover pest infestations?
Homeowners insurance policies can be tricky when it comes to pest infestations and the ensuing damages to your property. But for the most part, insurance companies don’t cover the removal of pests or the damage caused by pests.
Many people have questions about insurance when it comes to pests; “does homeowners insurance cover rodent damage? What about bed bugs — does homeowners insurance cover bed bugs?” The answer to these questions is most likely going to be “no.”
Insurance companies see most occurring pest infestation as a result of poor maintenance upkeep. The thought process is that if the homeowner took proper care of their property, infestations would not have occurred. Preventable damage and unexpected damage are two terms that play a significant role in whether or not pest damage is covered by insurance.
Preventable damage is damage that could have been avoided by the homeowner taking reasonable preemptive actions. A key element to preventative damages is that they typically occur over time. This can be a tree root slowly growing into your foundation, or a termite infestation invading your home. It’s assumed that homeowners can see the risk of pest damage in advance and take action to prevent the damage.
This is the core position of insurance companies when denying coverage, but there are some cases in which preventable damage is covered. Check your policy details or to speak with an agent of your homeowner insurer to verify what the exceptions are.
Unexpected damage is that which could not have been prevented by a homeowner performing reasonable maintenance. Damage from storms generally fits in this category. For example, if storm damage allows pests to enter your home and cause damage, that could qualify for coverage. However, when preventable pest infestations combine with other unexpected damages, it can get complicated.
Damage as a result of a rodent infestation coming from your woodpile adjacent to your walls will not be covered under most policies. However, if they chew through an electric wire and it causes a fire, that fire damage may count as unexpected damage. In this case, your insurance provider might cover only damages related to the fire.
Common pest infestations
Common infestations posing a threat to your home will depend a lot on where you live, and on the materials of your home, how it was built and how the terrain around it is maintained. Even so, there are a few pests that have made such a widespread and consistent nuisance of themselves that they’ve earned a spot on this list.
Common pest infestations
- Mice & Rats: These pests invade an estimated 21 million U.S. home every year, especially during winter when they start looking for shelter and food. Once inside your home, it’s not just the property damage they can cause that you should be worried about — they’re known disease carriers. Black plague anyone? Also, rodents are supposedly responsible for up to 25% of house fires, but luckily, that’s covered by your home insurance.
- Termites: Also known as “silent destroyers,” these bugs cause more than $5 billion in property damage annually, and the worst part is, you never know it’s happening. Are termites covered by homeowners insurance? As you might suspect by now, the answer is most often “no.” That’s why prevention is key when it comes to these little guys, which requires reducing water and humidity around your house and maintaining gaps between wood portions of your home and soil.
- Cockroaches: While these pests don’t cause structural damage, they’re often a sign of unsanitary conditions. They can also contaminate food, and it’s been discovered that nearly one in five children are sensitive to cockroach allergens, which can cause asthma-like symptoms. Children in low-income housing are especially prone to this since infestations are more prevalent in larger scales.
Other pests you may find in your home include silverfish, fleas, and bees. The likelihood of an infestation depends on the type of house, your location in the country, and the time of year. Residents of South Florida are now dealing with a new kind of infestation, Giant African Snails. Due to the climate and the fact that they don’t have natural predators, these slimy invaders are eating stucco right off homes. They too are carriers of some serious health threats — they carry a parasitic lungworm which can cause meningitis in some people. That’s precisely why the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said these little slimeballs need to be cleaned up fast, no small job since just one lays about 1,200 eggs a year.
How to avoid pest infestations
- Reduce Clutter in and around the house
Whether it’s piles of clothes in your laundry room or leaves pushed against your siding, bugs and other pests will make themselves at home. Removing potential pest habitats makes your home less attractive to them.
- Keep an eye on humidity
High humidity not only damages structural materials, it can also attract a variety of pests. Sinks and plumbing areas are the key spots to watch, as these places are often dark and damp. Consider using a dehumidifier in some parts of your home as necessary.
- Prevent and repair leaks, gaps, and breeches
The fewer routes pests have into your home, the less likely they are to find their way inside. Making sure your home is adequately sealed will prevent pests and save on your energy bills.
- Have a professional check your home annually
Have a professional check your home every year to verify there aren’t any signs of pest infestation or damage. Infestations can grow quickly and mostly out of sight, making them tricky at times to prevent. For people looking to buy a house, include pest assessments in your home inspection.
- Most homeowners insurance policies will not cover pest infestations or related damages.
- Insurance providers draw a line between preventable and unexpected damages.
- Unexpected damage can be covered in homeowners insurance policies, even if it was related to a pest infestation.
- Regular maintenance can help reduce the risk of a pest infestation in your home.
Unfortunately, most pest infestations and related damages generally aren’t covered by homeowners insurance. Specifically, preventable damage tends to be the responsibility of the homeowner, even in the case of a vacant home. Damages that can’t be prevented through regular maintenance may be covered, even if a pest infestation caused them.
From rats and mice to cockroaches and termites, pest infestations can be an inconvenient and expensive problem. Since insurance rarely covers these damages, it is wise to do your best to prevent them. Keep your home clean, dry and sealed, and keep your yard tidy and well drained.