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Do you know what your insurance policy covers? According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, nearly a third of respondents believed traditional homeowners insurance would cover damage caused by pests like termites, rats, or bed bugs. But they’re wrong—most home insurance policies don’t cover these things.

Pest infestations can be a serious problem for homeowners. Termites alone cost homeowners roughly $5 billion a year for pest control and damage repair. Do you know how to protect yourself from pest infestations?

Start by finding the right insurance program for your situation with Insurify, a simple tool that helps you compare quotes for home insurance.

The Most Common Pests

These are the pests homeowners are likely to confront.

Mice and rats: Rodents look for shelter and food inside an estimated 21 million homes in the U.S. every year. They’re a double threat—not only does their gnawing cause property damage, but they can also spread disease. And they can cause fires by chewing through wires.

Termites: These “silent destroyers” are so named because they cause extensive property damage without you even knowing about it. Prevention is the name of the game when it comes to termites. You need to reduce water and humidity around your house and maintain gaps between the soil and any wood portions of your home.

Cockroaches: Roaches don’t cause structural damage, but they’re often a sign of unsanitary living conditions that can attract other pests. They can also contaminate food and aggravate allergies.

Pest Infestations and Home Insurance

Homeowners insurance typically doesn’t help with damage caused by vermin. Why? Insurers view pest control as a maintenance task for your home and a concern that can be avoided.

This is especially true if the damage occurred gradually over time. Insurers want you to either prevent the infestation by maintaining your home well or detect it early enough to take action and prevent the worst damage. However, there are a few situations in which your insurance might cover pest-related claims.

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When Pest Damage Is Covered

If the damage was unexpected and occurred suddenly, pest-related property damage may be covered.

For example, insurance companies will deem damage preventable (and thus not covered) if it occurred over time, like a termite infestation. However, they may cover a fire caused by a rat chewing through wires or storm damage that allowed a squirrel to enter your roof.

It’s usually very hard to prove these claims, so make sure you sit down with someone from your insurance agency and go over the specifics of your policy before you file a claim. That will help you become more familiar with the policy limits of your insurance products.

How to Keep Your Home Safe

Keeping your home safe starts with avoiding pest infestations in the first place. Put a good risk management strategy in place with these tips.

  • Remove potential habitats. Bugs and other pests will make themselves at home if you let them. Get rid of places they can call home, like piles of clothes in your laundry room or piles of leaves against your siding. Pests won’t move in if you don’t make your home attractive for them.

  • Watch out for humidity. Humid weather can damage structural materials and attract pests. Especially keep an eye on places that tend to be dark and damp, like under the sink and areas with plumbing. Use a dehumidifier if you need to.

  • Find and seal entry routes. Keep pests out of your home by sealing the leaks and gaps that they use to enter. As a bonus, sealing your home will also help lower your energy bills.

  • Get a check-up every year. Engage pest control companies for an annual check of your home to make sure there are no signs of infestation or damage. Pest control operators know what to look for and can help catch infestations early. That saves you money on pest control services in the long run because you’ll be nipping pest damage in the bud instead of waiting until it grows out of control and becomes impossible to ignore. If you’re looking to buy a house, bring in a representative of the pest control industry for a pest assessment before you buy the house.

Not sure whether your home has pests? Start by bringing in a trained and licensed exterminator or other pest control provider to conduct a full inspection sooner rather than later. If they find an infestation, treat it quickly with pesticides, fumigation, or whatever other treatments the pest control provider recommends. Do not allow any infestation to fester in your home without treatment.

Make sure you document any pest control treatments you use and keep those records in a safe place. This can help you with any home insurance claims you have to file because you can prove that you did your best to minimize risks. If pests do cause property damage to your home, report it to your home insurance company even if you don’t think they’ll cover it. They need to know about the damage.

Above all, keep up with treatment. Most homes need annual pest control work.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • You can buy specialty pest control insurance if this is a concern for you. Make sure you understand what the limitations are and what the insurance coverage will cover. Insurance carriers can walk you through what a pest control policy does and doesn’t cover. Alternatively, you can also set up a pest management maintenance program with a local pest control business.

  • You might notice droppings or gnaw marks on food or boxes. Sometimes, hearing strange noises around the house can be the first sign of an infestation. You may even spot a nest or see tracks. If you notice any of these things, bring in an exterminator right away to reduce risks associated with infestations.

  • Insurers will want to make sure the damage was sudden and unexpected, and they will ask questions to determine how much you knew about the pest infestation. For example, imagine a storm caused some damage to your roof and squirrels have moved in, causing you to need pest control. Your claim might be covered, but the insurance company will want to know things like when the damage to the roof occurred and when you first noticed signs of pests. They’ll also want to know whether you tried to secure your home in a timely fashion by having your roof repaired or taking other steps to prevent the infestation. This helps the insurance company determine whether you tried to take care of the pest issue or let it fester, which could cause additional damage.

Protecting Your Home from Pests: The Bottom Line

You can keep your home safe from pest damage, but you need to act proactively and stay on top of it. Watch your home for signs of an infestation and act immediately if you spot anything.

You should also make sure your home is adequately insured by using Insurify, an easy-to-use tool that delivers quotes from multiple insurers in just a few minutes.

Use Insurify to compare home insurance premiums for your property.

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Tanveen Vohra
Tanveen VohraEditorial Manager

Tanveen Vohra is an editorial manager at Insurify specializing in writing about property and casualty insurance. Through her work, she helps consumers better understand the components of their insurance policies so they can make smarter purchase decisions. She received a bachelor's degree from SUNY Buffalo. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.