Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage?
Termites can do terrible damage to your home. Find out when and if your homeowners insurance policy protects your house from termite damage.
In general, home insurance doesn't cover termite damage. Damage to your home due to other birds, rodents, or vermin, or other insects is also excluded. However, there may be some cases where coverage is available for termite damage.
This article touches on when termite damage is or isn’t covered by insurance, how to get coverage, and how to prevent damage.
When is Termite Damage Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
If termite damage causes a collapse in your home, home insurance may cover the damage. However, the termite damage must be hidden. For example, termite damage out of sight behind a wall could qualify.
If the damage that caused the collapse is visible, neither the collapse nor the termite damage will be covered. If the termite damage that causes a collapse is hidden, your homeowners insurance policy will likely cover the damage from the collapse but not the termite damage.
Similarly, if termites chew your home’s wiring and cause a fire, the fire claim may be covered but the termite damage would not.
Why Don’t Insurers Cover All Termite Damage?
Insurers view termites and small critters as a maintenance issue that is usually preventable. Termite colonies take three to five years to mature and cause an infestation. It takes a similar amount of time for major damage to occur to a building. In other words, it’s not a sudden event.
While termites are difficult to spot, there are warning signs that occur before termites cause expensive damage. Insurance companies believe it’s the responsibility of the homeowner to notice these signs. But the early signs of termites can be easy to miss for many homeowners. That makes regular termite inspections a must in some areas.
Most of the coverages on a homeowners insurance policy cover sudden and accidental damage. Termite damage or damage from similar insects like carpenter ants or carpenter bees is a gradual event. It’s typically accompanied by some warning signs of insect activity. Gradual damage to your home, whether due to insects, a leaky pipe, or a leaky roof, is usually not covered by a standard home insurance policy. Insurers believe these types of gradual damages are a maintenance and upkeep issue.
It’s also difficult or even impossible to know when termite damage occurred. Did termites cause damage ten years ago or ten months ago? It can be impossible to know when the damage occurred or if you were eve insured under their policy at the time. Because of this, insurers naturally shy away from providing coverage for insect damage.
Are There Any Termite Insurance Companies?
Some home insurance policies can cover damage due to wood boring insects. But these policies can be hard to find and may come with other tradeoffs. A more common option is a contract with a pest treatment company for regular inspections and treatments to your home. These termite contracts come as two main types of bonds. Your contract may specify that the company will simply treat your home for termites. Or it may provide coverage for damage that occurs after your home has been treated. As with all contracts, it’s important to read the fine print to understand the coverage and exclusions.
How to Prevent Termite Damage
Treating your home for termites is a job for professionals. A trained eye is more efficient and some of the treatments for termites must be handled with care. There are over 40 types of termite species in the US and effective treatment can vary depending on the type of termites causing the damage.
Many termite species are subterranean termites, the type responsible for most damage to homes. As the name suggests, these termites live underground. Subterranean termites build mud tubes to travel from the nest to food sources like logs, wood fences, and homes. On a home, you might notice mud tunnels running up the foundation of your home and then disappearing beneath the siding or under a piece of exposed wood. Mud tubes are just one of several possible signs of termite activity.
Termites also swarm during warm weather months looking for a new nest. If you see termites swarming, this isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm – unless they are swarming from under your home or an area close to your home.
Here are some steps you can take to make your home safer from termites:
- Seal holes or gaps around your home’s exterior. This might include gaps around pipes, holes in screens, and gaps or cracks in your home’s foundation.
- Remove food sources near your home. Termites eat wood, but more specifically, they eat cellulose. This includes paper, boxes, leaves, tree debris, mulch, and wood itself. Any of these cellulose sources can be an attraction for termites.
- Control moisture in your home. Damp wood is more attractive to many types of termites. Areas where wood, drywall, or plaster in your home are damp can invite unwanted guests. Repair leaky windows or plumbing drips to keep wood from becoming wet. Consider using a dehumidifier in the basement to control moisture.
- Check your gutters frequently and clear clogs before storms. Direct downspouts away from your home to prevent pooling and reduce the chances of water entering your home, which can lead to damp wood.
- Inspect firewood and lumber. Both firewood and lumber can have termites inside the wood. Check for any insect activity before bringing wood into your home.
As with many things in life, prevention is the best cure for termites. Consider hiring a reputable pest company that provides periodic termite inspections and treatments as needed. Your homeowners insurance won’t cover termite damage and your home’s safety is too important to leave to chance.
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