Termite infestation costs homeowners billions of dollars each year and can make houses unstable and uninhabitable. These tiny insects can make a feast out of your house and you may not know until it’s too late.
Because of the prevalence of this problem, you would think that your home insurance policy would cover damage covered by termites. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Damage from termites and other pests is only covered in specific circumstances because insurance companies consider pest-related issues to be preventable.
Read on to learn more about termite damage and the circumstances when your insurance company will help you out.
How do I know if I have termites?
- You find termites – If you see swarms of termites inside of your house, then it’s highly likely that you have a termite infestation. Make sure that these insects are not flying ants, as they look similar and are often confused with one another. Note that swarms outside your home near trees or piles of wood are not necessarily a cause for alarm, but you should keep an eye on them.
- Your find mud tubes – Mud tubes are tunnel-like structures that termites use to travel between their hive and the house. These are one of the most tell-tale signs that you have an infestation. You can cut them open to see if termites are actively using the tunnels. An empty tunnel does not mean the infestation is over, however, and you should still have your home professionally inspected.
- You find damaged wood – If you have any exposed wood, such as wood beams, be on the lookout for hollow or weak points. Termites eat wood along the grain–it is a very distinct look from other types of damage. You will often find dry mud near these hollow points.
How can I prevent termites?
Insurance companies expect you to treat pest management the same way you would any other type of preventative maintenance for your home.
In the case of termites, you may want to take the following actions:
- Perform regular inspections – Add termite inspection to list of work that you regularly do on your home. Look around for mud tubes and weak exposed wood the same way you would inspect pipes and electrical wiring.
- Remove attractive sites – Old tree stumps and wood piles are places where termites like to make their home. From there, they often migrate to the house. Removing these attractive sites makes it less likely that termites will enter your house.
- Minimize moisture around the home – Termites thrive in moist environments. Keep the soil around your house drier by installing proper drainage systems and diverting water away from the immediate perimeter of the house.
- Eliminate access points – Termites are able to enter your home through cracks and soft wood. Look for the areas in your house where external wiring comes in and fill in the gaps with cement or caulking paste. If you have any exposed wood in the exterior of your house, consider painting it or adding a sealant.
What types of termite damage will home insurance cover?
You’ve done everything you can to prevent an infestation, but you still have termite-caused structural damage. Will your insurance company still reject any claim you submit?
Your insurance company may accept your claim if it meets certain requirements or falls under particular circumstances.
Collateral damage from a termite infestation
Collateral damage as the result of an infestation is sometimes covered.
For example–termites damage beams in your kitchen, which causes the wall to collapse, breaking appliances and some utility lines. Your insurance company would not pay for your beam or walls to be fixed, but it would pay for all of the collateral items that were broken during the incident. That’s because the insurance company considers this residual damage to be unpredictable and accidental.
The termite infestation is caused by a covered event
If you can prove that your termite infestation was the result of an event that was covered under your insurance policy, it might be covered.
Examples include a severe weather event that left your house with exposed wood, or flooding due to a burst pipe. These events would suddenly create environments that are favorable to termites.
If you were to bring this argument to your insurance company, you would need to have already filed a claim for the precipitating event and also provide some evidence that you had been doing maintenance to prevent termites.
Do I have any other options?
If you think you’ll have an ongoing issue with termites, you may want to consider entering a termite bond with a pest control company. This is a maintenance contract where the exterminator agrees to treat your home for termites at regular intervals. Some agreements also include a provision requiring the pest management company to pay for repairs if termites continue to damage a house.
While a termite bond is completely separate from a home insurance policy, it may be useful to have in homes with a history of termite issues. In fact, some mortgage lenders may require it.