Who do you call when you've discovered that termites have gnawed their way through your attic and you need a new roof?
Probably not your insurance agent.
Most pest infestations and accompanying damage are considered maintenance issues by insurance carriers. In other words, the insurance company's position is that you could have prevented the mishap by eradicating the pesky bugs before they ate you out of house and home.
So the homeowner, not the insurance company, pays for any repairs.
"Homeowners insurance coverage extends to 'sudden and accidental,'" explains Greg Baumann, technical director with the National Pest Management Association in Dunn Loring, Va. "For example, if you have a pipe that bursts, your insurance will cover it. If you have a slow leak that causes mold, the damage won't be covered."
But all might not be lost. While your insurance probably won't cover damage to your home after a couple of years of termite munching, if the pests dine on a crucial support beam of your house and that in turn causes your roof to collapse, the collateral damage is covered. You can usually count on your insurance to help pay for repairs to walls, floors and roof trusses that went when the beam buckled because that damage is considered sudden and accidental.
The cost of replacing the pest-infested crucial beam, however, remains your problem.
A long and growing exclusion list
Termites have company when it comes to insurance coverage, or lack thereof. Damage caused by bats, rats, birds, and other vermin usually isn't covered by your homeowners policy either.
In fact, exclusion lists keep getting longer and pest damage isn't the only thing not covered by home insurance.
"One trend we're seeing is that insurance policies are getting more specific about what's not covered and they're excluding more and more pest damage," says Mike McCartin, an insurance agent with Joseph W. McCartin Insurance in College Park, Md. "The policies are getting really specific and serve notice to the homeowner that the insurer's intent is not to cover it."
Insure.com reports that other common home concerns not covered by the average homeowners policy include:
- Cracks, settling, or pet damage, which are all considered typical wear and tear
- Flood or earthquake damage
- War or nuclear explosion damage
- Water or ice damage to fences, pavement, patios, or swimming pools.
And if you leave your home unoccupied for 30 days or more, don't look for insurance help to pay for any repairs if pipes freeze or thieves or vandals damage your property.