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Does home insurance cover bedbugs?

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, October 8, 2010
Posted: 11 am ET

Does homeowners insurance, or renters insurance for my friends in New York City, cover bedbug infestations? This is a question that few, if any, homeowners insurance agents have ever fielded prior to the Great Bedbug Epidemic of 2010. Now the calls are coming out of the woodwork, so to speak.

My fellow blogger, the wonderful Claire Wilkinson at the Insurance Information Institute, boldly ferreted out the answer after New York Gov. David Paterson signed into law the Bedbug Disclosure Act.

Wazzat? Apparently the city is so overrun with the vermin that legislation was created to require building owners to disclose to prospective tenants any bedbug infestations during the past year.

In addition to descending on residences, hotels, hospitals and clothing stores, the bugs finally crossed the line when they scaled the Empire State Building, making manifest a handful of my favorite 1950s sci-fi movies.

I know it's easy to make light of bedbugs here in Florida, where the average cockroach -- the more gracious among us refer to them as "palmetto bugs" -- reaches the size of a BlackBerry.

But in fact, the epidemic has spread nationwide, prompting the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend an integrated pest management approach that includes sealing cracks and crevices, vacuuming, heat treatment (other than snuggling), removing litter and using monitoring devices. There's a Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon line for every one of these, I'm sure.

So. Let's say you have bedbugs, and hypothetically, you're not too embarrassed to admit it to your homeowners insurance agent. Can you make a claim to rid your home or apartment of the uninvited guests?

Uh, no. According to Wilkinson, most standard homeowners insurance and renters insurance policies exclude vermin infestations. Keeping bedbugs and other vermin at bay is considered the homeowner's responsibility. Or option, I suppose.

But for New Yorkers who are still scratching their head over what to do, their state legislature is mulling over a sales tax credit to help defray the cost to replace mattresses and other furnishings disposed of in bedbug eradication.

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