Does homeowners insurance cover termites?
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Termite damage can be a costly and frustrating problem for homeowners, and it’s also a widespread issue. Every year, roughly 600,000 homes in the United States are damaged by termites. Fixing a termite infestation can cost thousands of dollars and may require professional home repairs. Most homeowners are unaware of a termite infestation until it is too late and significant damage has already occurred.
So does homeowners insurance cover termite damage? When seeking a fix for damage that may have occurred from an infestation, it’s important for homeowners to understand that typical home insurance policies do not cover termite damage. With this understanding, a homeowner is in a better position to research and understand the specific situations where losses due to termites may be covered by insurance. From there, steps can be taken to determine how to repair damage.
When termite damage is covered by homeowners insurance
TThere are generally only two situations when homeowners insurance will help cover the cost of termite property damage repair and extermination, including:
- When the termite infestation is caused by or causes a covered peril: If a covered peril directly caused a termite infestation, a homeowners insurance policy might cover the damages. For example, if a hailstorm damages the roof and termites get into the attic, it may be covered under insurance. In those cases, you may be able to file a claim, submit evidence of the damage and have your claim approved by your insurance company.
- When the house collapses due to termite damage: If the home has an unknown termite issue with severe termite damage, causing collapse due to structural issues, home insurance will likely pay for the rebuilding. Even if the damage is gradual, the home insurance company will likely still consider it a covered loss. However, if the homeowner is aware of termite damage and waits until further damage to make a claim, a carrier is likely to deny the claim.
When termite damage is not covered by homeowners insurance
Termite damage is typically not covered by homeowners insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). Bug, pest and rodent problems are usually considered preventable, and homeowners are expected to take proactive measures to avoid infestations.
Home insurance companies will not cover termite damage that results from neglect. If the homeowner failed to address potential entry points, the infestation would not be covered by insurance. Additionally, home insurance will not typically cover termite damage that occurs slowly over time.
Personal property that is damaged by termites is not covered by homeowners insurance either. Insurance will only cover damage to the physical structure of the home and attached structures, depending on the policy’s terms.
What to do when you have termite damage not covered by insurance
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a termite insurance policy. If the home has termite damage that is not covered by homeowners insurance, a professional will need to assess the situation, give you a cost estimate and recommend the best way to solve the problem.
Before choosing an exterminator, have several professionals visit and provide a quote. The service cost will be out of pocket, so look for a company that offers fair prices and has good customer reviews. Ask how long the extermination process will take and when a contractor can survey the interior damage.
The next step is to have a contractor evaluate the damage inside the home. Consider getting several opinions about the repairs that need to be made and what it will cost. Any licensed contractor should be able to address a termite infestation and recommend repairs.
How to detect termite damage
Early detection of termite activity is critical in order to prevent significant damage. Your home may begin to give off loamy or mildew-like smells, for example. Though termites are difficult to actually see, there are signs to look for which can help you determine the type of termites you have, whether drywood, dampwood or subterranean termites. These include:
- Damp wood: Because termites like moist spaces, it is important to look at potential damp habitats around foundations, such as near leaking gutters or around overgrown bushes. Eliminate moisture producing settings where possible.
- Blistered wood, bulging floors, ceilings or walls: If termites begin to imbed into your home’s wood, you may notice these signs of their presence.
- Mud tubes: Look for tunnel-like pathways on foundations and crawl-space walls.
- Swarms: Seeing winged termites or wing sheddings indoors is a clear sign of infestation.
- Droppings and holes: If you notice pinholes in walls with debris piles nearby, they can be a good sign to move forward with contracting a professional.
How to prevent termites
Termite infestations are often preventable, which means that prevention is typically the best cure for termites. Termites can enter homes through foundation cracks, crevices, loose pipes and gutters. They are attracted to humid and moist environments and are usually more active in the spring months.
There are several ways to take precautions that would safeguard the structure of your home and protect your belongings from termite damage. While you cannot always stop termites from attacking your property, you can take steps to try and prevent serious damage across your home, including:
- Eliminate termite food sources. Termites eat cellulose, which can be found in firewood, plants, mulch and other woody materials. If possible, keep those things away from the sides of your home where termites can easily get in.
- Seal entry points to keep termites out. Check the home’s foundation for small cracks and holes. Seal gaps around any water and gas lines that run outside the home. Look for leaky pipes or gutters that can cause water to pool around the foundation.
- Schedule annual termite inspections. This is an important step for all homeowners. An annual inspection can catch an infestation early and prevent further damage. Consider having a professional exterminator check the home for termites once per year and following their guidance on keeping termites away from the house.
If you have termites in your home, there are ways to treat the infestation. Certain pesticides are effective against termites, but because these bugs can cause damage relatively quickly, your best bet may be contacting a professional exterminator.
How to repair termite damage
While homeowners insurance does not typically cover termite damage, you may be able to take steps to repair termite damage that has occurred to your home. As you find damaged wood, you generally have a couple of options to fix it. You can replace the entire piece of wood if it’s non-structural and prone to minimal stress, and you may also have a less expensive option with products such as steel frames, which can be drilled into place and bolted to undamaged wood. This provides more structural support than the damaged wood alone could provide and generally costs less than replacing an entire piece of wood.
Repairs that require replacing structural supports are more complicated, and many homeowners choose to hire an experienced contractor to complete these repairs. If that’s the case, you may benefit from getting estimates from several local contractors before choosing one to make repairs. In some cases, the estimates from the contractors can vary greatly, and shopping around for the best and most affordable option may help you save money on repairs.
It’s also important to remember to treat any damaged wood for termites before you start repairs. Otherwise, you may still end up with termite issues after the repairs are complete. If your termite damage is confined to a small area, there are over-the-counter spray options available, or if there are more widespread issues, you can hire a professional to fumigate your home. Either option, along with adding or replacing damaged wood, should help to prevent further termite damage to your home.
Frequently asked questions
Every homeowner has specific needs when it comes to insurance. Some homeowners look for great customer service, while others look for cheap rates. The best home insurance company is different for everyone, but several companies stand out. Based on our research, USAA, State Farm and Erie offer some great homeowners insurance options.
Unlike a rodent or ant infestation, it can be difficult to detect termites, which live in the walls, support beams, floors, ceilings, cabinets, furniture and carpet. Some of the things that may indicate termite damage include soft or hollow wood, bubbling paint, splintered wood or mud tubes. You may also find termite pellet droppings or termites themselves.
The cost of termite extermination depends on a few factors, including the number of termites and the termite colony’s size. Small infestations are less expensive to treat, and widespread infestations are more expensive. Before hiring an exterminator, request price quotes from a few companies to ensure the best rate.
If a covered peril directly caused a termite infestation, home insurance might cover the damages. The insured can file a claim, submit evidence of the damage and get reimbursed. Keep in mind that every policy is different, so be sure to read your policy or talk to your agent to understand how your policy would react to termite damage.