Your mortgage company probably requires you to maintain a minimum level of homeowners insurance. Even if you own your home free and clear, homeowners insurance offers a relatively inexpensive means of protecting what is probably your most valuable asset against a covered event. In either case, the operative phrase is, "covered event." The industry standard Special HO-3 policy covers you against 16 listed events plus all other perils, unless they are excluded from your policy. Damage caused by vermin is typically one of the things that is specifically excluded from homeowners insurance policies.
Read your policy. Your homeowners insurance policy is likely 50 pages or longer and typically includes legal language which might be challenging to understand, but it is important that you do understand it. If you bought a basic HO-1 or Broad HO-2 policy, sometimes referred to as a named peril policy, your insurance policy will describe the events that are covered. Any event that is not specifically named in these type of policies is not covered. If you bought a Special HO-3 policy, it will list all of the 16 perils you are covered against, and it will typically state that you are covered against all other perils except those that are excluded from coverage. HO-3 policies typically specifically exclude damage caused by vermin.Step 2
Review any floaters or riders that might be attached to your policy. While standard homeowners insurance rarely includes coverage against damage caused by vermin, your insurance company might make such coverage available in a rider which you can purchase for an additional premium. Riders can be quite specific in what they cover, so make sure you understand exactly what coverage is provided by any rider your insurance company offers.Step 3
Talk to your insurance agent. Homeowners insurance typically won't cover damage caused by vermin even if it is not specifically excluded because it considers such damage to be the result of lack of proper maintenance on your part. For example, your insurance company doesn't consider a rat infestation in your attic to be a covered event, so it won't pay for an exterminator to eliminate your rat problem, and it won't pay to clean up the rat droppings. There might be some exceptions to this general rule. According to the Insure.com website, if a rodent chews through an electrical line and causes a fire, the damage caused by the fire might be covered, since it was a sudden and unexpected event. The determining factor is typically whether it can be shown that the homeowner was aware of the rodent infestation before the fire occurred. If you knew about your vermin problem and did nothing to remedy it, your insurance company might deny your claim.
- Insure.com: That's Gross! Why Home Insurance Won't Pay For Disgusting Problems
- Insure.com: Got bugs? Home Insurance Won't Help
- New York Times: Home Insurance and Bedbugs
- Insurance Information Institute: What Types Of Disasters Are Covered By My Homeowners Insurance?
- Oregon Division of Insurance: Homeowners Insurance Frequently Asked Questions
- PestWorld: Homeowners Scramble as Termites Spring to Action
- Massachusetts Division of Insurance: A Massachusetts Guide to Understanding the Insurance Policy Covering Your Home
- Texas Department of Insurance: Homeowners Insurance
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.