Opening your pantry to find mice have chewed through all your food boxes. Finding rat droppings across your basement floor. It’s every homeowner’s nightmare. Rodents can cause extensive damage by chewing through drywall, insulation, wood structures, and wires. But does your homeowners insurance cover the cost to repair rodent damage?
Unfortunately, the standard homeowners insurance policy excludes damage caused by rodents, deeming it as “preventable.” However, there are some exceptions where you may receive coverage.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore:
- Why rodent damage is typically excluded from homeowners policies
- Examples of damage caused by rats, mice, and other rodents
- Specific cases where you may receive coverage
- Tips to prevent an infestation and rodent damage
- Steps to take if you discover rodents in your home
By the end, you’ll understand why coverage for rodent damage is limited and how to avoid making a claim.
Why Rodent Damage Isn’t Covered
Homeowners insurance provides protection against sudden, accidental direct physical loss to your property. This includes perils like fire, lightning, windstorms, vandalism, and theft. Damage from a chewing rodent may seem accidental, but standard policies contain exclusions for:
- Damage caused by birds, vermin, rodents, or insects
- Nesting or infestation by any birds, rodents, or insects
- Discharge or release of waste products or secretions from birds, rodents, or insects
Insurers classify rodents as “pests.” Since their presence results from home maintenance issues or neglect over time, insurers see the resulting damage as preventable rather than sudden.
Some key reasons rodent damage is excluded:
Rodent infestations are preventable – With proper sealing, cleaning, inspections and extermination, homes can avoid infestations. Insurers don’t want to pay for damage that could’ve been avoided through prevention.
Claims would be too frequent – Rodents are ubiquitous pests. Without the exclusion, frequent rodent claims could significantly raise premiums for all policyholders.
It incentivizes prevention – Not covering rodent damage motivates homeowners to proactively avoid infestations before they happen through vigilant maintenance.
In essence, homeowners insurance is designed to cover damage from unexpected catastrophes, not gradually accumulating damage from lack of care.
Common Rodent Damage
Rodents like rats and mice have hard enamel teeth that constantly grow. They must constantly gnaw to wear their teeth down. This allows them to chew through a wide variety of common building materials:
Drywall/plaster – Rodents can burrow right through walls and ceilings, damaging insulation too.
Wood – Rodents gnaw through wood framing, floors, doors, cabinets, and furniture.
Wires/cables – Chewed wires are a fire hazard, and can disrupt phone, internet, and electrical systems.
Pipes – Rats often chew through PVC pipes used for plumbing and HVAC systems.
Insulation – Nesting rodents will tear up insulation for bedding material.
Food contamination – Urine and droppings all over food surfaces poses health risks. Rodents also eat through packaged goods.
Spread of disease – Rodents can directly or indirectly transmit diseases through bites, fleas, urine, or droppings.
Repairing all this damage can run from the hundreds into the thousands. Costs add up quickly between materials, structural repairs, disinfection, and possible electrical or plumbing repairs.
When Rodent Damage Is Covered
While rodent damage itself is excluded, your homeowners insurance may still cover secondary damage caused by a rodent problem in some cases.
Scenario 1 – A rat chews a hole through your water heater pipe, causing water damage as it leaks. The direct damage from the rodent’s teeth would not be covered. But the resulting water damage from the burst pipe likely would be.
Scenario 2 – Mice chew through electrical wires, which spark a fire damaging your home. Again, the direct rodent damage would be excluded. But as fire is a covered peril, the damage from the resulting blaze would likely be covered.
In these examples, the subsequent covered peril – water or fire – supersedes the rodent damage exclusion. This highlights the importance of fully understanding your policy and exclusions. An experienced agent can explain how your coverage would apply for specific rodent-related losses.
Preventing Rodents and Damage
While your homeowners insurance may not pay for rodent damage, you can take proactive measures to help avoid infestations and destruction:
Seal all possible entry points into your home using caulk, weather stripping, steel wool, concrete, hardware cloth, or metal kick plates. Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime, and rats a hole the size of a quarter. Pay attention to areas where utilities and pipes enter the home.
Install door sweeps or draft stoppers at the bottom of doors. Pick bristle or rubber options to best seal gaps.
Use metal drain covers for large sewer drain openings. Screen bathroom fan vents and small holes with steel mesh.
Clear brush, firewood, and debris from around the foundation. Rodents seek shelter in piles of wood and plants.
Store pet food, bird seed, and human food in chew-proof metal or thick plastic containers. Dispose of trash regularly in lidded cans. Clean up spills right away.
Inspect monthly for signs of rodents like droppings, gnaw marks, grease stains, strange odors, and sightings. Act immediately at any sign of pests.
Work with a pest control company to treat your home preventatively every few months. Use humane traps if infestation occurs.
What To Do If You Have Rodents
If you discover rodents in your home, follow these steps to get rid of them and prevent extensive damage:
Step 1: Document the infestation. Take photos of droppings, chew marks, nesting materials, etc. This creates a record that may help if you need to file an insurance claim.
Step 2: Mitigate damage. Remove or tightly seal up any food the rodents could access. Turn off utilities if wires have been compromised. Stop using areas of the home that show major signs of infestation.
Step 3: Call an exterminator to treat your home with traps, bait, and rodenticides. They can give tips for cleaning and disinfecting afterward.
Step 4: Make repairs like replacing insulation, fixing drywall and wood, disinfecting surfaces, etc. Save receipts for materials and labor.
Step 5: Contact your insurance company and agent to discuss your claim options for any resulting covered damage.
Step 6: Take preventative measures like sealing up entry points so pests don’t return! Consider using a pest control service for ongoing prevention.
Dealing with the destructive mess rodents can leave behind is no fun. But understanding how homeowners insurance handles such claims can prevent nasty surprises. With some diligent prevention and immediate action if pests sneak in, you can hopefully avoid substantial rodent damage and avoid having to file a claim altogether.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rodent Damage
Can I add coverage for rodent or pest damage?
Some insurance companies offer endorsements or add-ons to expand your coverage to rodent or pest damage for an additional premium. For example, Allstate offers a Pest Removal endorsement and others have similar addons available. Check with your insurance agent or company.
Does homeowners insurance cover extermination costs?
No, the standard homeowners policy will not cover the cost of professional extermination services or buying traps and pesticides. You would pay for these preventative and remediation services out of pocket.
What if a wild animal like a raccoon or squirrel causes damage?
Damage from wild animals that get into your home may be covered since they are not classified as rodent pests. Damage from pets may also be covered. Discuss specific scenarios with your insurance agent.
Can I get coverage for a rodent bite?
Medical payments coverage on homeowners or renters insurance typically covers injuries sustained on your property up to your selected limit. This would likely cover treatment costs for a rodent bite. Liability coverage would also apply if a guest was bitten at your home.
What if my neighbor’s rodent problem spreads to my home?
You’d need to prove negligence on their part that caused damage, like an unchecked infestation that spread. But covered damage on your end would still likely be limited as described above. Discuss any possible recourse with your agent if this does occur.
What is the average cost to repair rodent damage?
According to HomeAdvisor, typical rodent damage costs $500 to $1,500 on average to repair, depending on the extent of damage. Severe cases with electrical issues, major drywall repairs, insulation replacement, etc can cost several thousand dollars.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Animal Damage?
Can you claim rodent damage on insurance?
What damage isn’t covered by insurance?
Is damage to the home from rodents vermin and insects including termites typically covered by a homeowners policy?
Is rodent damage covered by warranty?