Does Home Insurance Cover Damage by Pests and Infestations?

Every home insurance policy includes exclusions — damages and events for which the insured is not covered. These are also called riders. A collapsed roof due to lack of maintenance? Not covered. You went away during the winter, and your pipes froze and burst? Not covered. Pretty much anything the result of homeowner negligence? Not covered.

Squirrels in your attic? A wasps’ nest under your deck? Termites?

Generally, no.

Damage caused by infestations of insects, birds, rodents and bats isn’t covered in even a comprehensive insurance policy. They can’t be added as named perils because they are considered a matter of household maintenance.

Interestingly, though, your comprehensive car insurance probably covers bear break-ins. Some home policies may cover damage to contents and property by wild animals.

But for the most part, the onus is on the homeowner to prevent the intrusion of critters as a matter of home maintenance.

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Insects and Animals Can Cause Significant Damage

In the U.S., termites are estimated to cause $5 billion in household damages every year. And they’re not the only culprit. Here are some ways pests can cause expensive — and uninsured — damage to your home:

  • In Toronto, carpenter ants are a plague. One sign of an infestation is the pencil-shaped shaving they leave behind — they remove the wood through the hole of entry. Termites, on the other hand, literally devour the wood in your home. They survive on the cellulose fibre.
  • Rats can also do severe damage. They’re versatile, too. They can find their way into your walls, attic, and — perhaps most destructively — plumbing. A friend of mine had a rat stick his head out of her toilet. They can cause all manner of plumbing problems.
  • Smaller rodents can gnaw through anything on their way to your attic to nest. They also live in walls and can chew through wiring. They’ll also raid your kitchen and, importantly, carry hantavirus, which they leave behind in their droppings. Their points of entry are not as easy to find as the arch-shaped mouse hole from Looney Toons cartoons.
  • Woodpeckers peck.
  • Let’s not forget the tiny critters – roaches, bedbugs, and ants.

The Government of Canada lists a genuinely bewildering number of home invaders, signs of their presence, the damage they can inflict and has tips on dealing with them.

Be Proactive: Take Preventative Measures

Any of these creatures can cause damage in the thousands of dollars in contractor expenses. It’s expensive to have the animals removed safely, and do-it-yourself options like mousetraps only work if you know the little squeakers’ commute. You run the risk of poisoning yourself with pesticides. Self-enclosed ant traps work well, but you are still putting poison in your kitchen or bathroom.

As the old saw goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are a few ways to prevent insects and rodents from inflicting real damage on your abode:

  • Keep it clean. Mice love the crumbs of food you left out because you were too tired to do the dishes. Mouse prevention is particularly important in the kitchen because they can leave traces of infectious diseases on your cooking surfaces. Ants will find crumbs that were too tiny for the mice.
  • Be vigilant. When spring rolls around, keep an eye out for suspiciously heavy ant activity. It will lead you to one or more anthills in your yard. Deal with them quickly. Boiling water is one pesticide-free way to do it. Ant trap poison is carried back to the hill.
  • Seal it up. As part of your spring maintenance routine, check for cracks and gaps. Don’t overlook where pipes and meters enter the house. They might not be big enough for a mouse but can be an archway for insects.
  • Keep the house dry. Insects love moisture. That includes anything that pools outside. Speaking of which, if you have a pool, ensure it is chlorinated.
  • Clean up after pets. Your pet eats in the kitchen, too. Clean up after they eat, and don’t leave food out overnight, though your cat will likely hate you for it.

Not all wildlife are pests. Birds control the insect population, as do bats, though you don’t want them in your attic. The famous fox colony under the boardwalk at Kew Beach in Toronto has been feeding on small rodents.

Remember, home insurance is not a maintenance fund for your house. It’s your responsibility to maintain your property, so critters don’t invade your dwelling in the first place.

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