Homeowners' insurance seldom, if ever, covers termite damage because most insurers believe the damage caused by pests is avoidable. The good news? The answer, as with most insurance-related questions, can depend on the specifics of your situation.
Having termites in your house is enough to rattle any homeowner, but the cost of repairing the damage they cause (as much as $3,000 according to some sources!) may be even more upsetting it the damage they can cause. That high price tag leaves many homeowners wondering if they should file a claim. This article explains the extremely rare situations where a home insurance policy might cover that cost.
Is termite damage ever covered by home insurance?
Termites can do a lot of damage, but most home insurance policies don’t cover these losses – in other words, your home insurance provider is unlikely going to send an exterminator to your house to eradicate the bugs or to repair structures damaged by termite activity.
Why? Because termite damage is usually seen as a maintenance issue. As we’ve mentioned before, wear and tear isn’t covered by home insurance. Your insurance policy is a contract, and part of the deal you make with your insurance company is that you will maintain the quality of your house. So while you might want to file a claim for termite damage, your insurance provider will likely point out that the damage wouldn’t have happened if you had properly maintained your property
That said, there are two scenarios where your insurance company may pay for termite-related damage.
Scenario 1: Termites cause your house to suddenly collapse
Your insurer may cover your damages if termites or other pests cause your home to suddenly collapse. Usually, this is only true if you couldn’t reasonably have known about the termites and the damage they were causing (i.e., the termites and their damage were hidden). But if you ignore signs that you have termites or choose to do nothing about them, then your insurance company will most likely deny your claim.
You should note, too, that your house has to literally collapse from termite damage for you to have a compensable claim. Cracked, bulging, or sagging wood typically won’t be covered.
Scenario 2: A covered peril causes a termite infestation
You might also be covered for hidden termite damage when a covered peril causes an infestation that leads to a loss. For example, let’s say a pipe bursts in your house. The water damage creates an environment that attracts termites and leads to an infestation that ultimately causes damage to your home. Because a burst pipe is a type of water damage typically covered by home insurance, your insurer may also cover your hidden termite-related damage.
However, your insurance company may deny your claim if you did not report the original cause of the loss, in this case, the burst pipe. It may also deny your claim if the termites or their damage is not hidden.
Neither scenario is automatically covered by your home insurance. Whether or not your insurer covers a loss usually comes down to the circumstances surrounding the loss and the language in your insurance policy.
How to spot termite damage in your home
Termites aren’t always easy to see, but the following are signs that you may have a problem:
- Blistering or darkening wood.
- Swollen or buckling wood.
- Discarded termite wings.
- Stuck windows and doors.
- Peeling or discolored wallpaper or bubbling paint.
- Termite droppings, or frass.
Mud tubes are also a good indicator of termites. These long, narrow veins that run from the ground and up the side of your house protect termites from dry air.
If you suspect a termite problem, call a professional exterminator to address it. They may have to tent your house or treat the ground depending on the type of termites you have and the extent of the infestation. You may even need to replace damaged wood to maintain the structural integrity of your home.
Stop termite damage before it starts
Damage from termites and other pests is seldom covered by homeowners insurance, so your best bet is to prevent problems in the first place. The good news is that general home maintenance activities can go a long way toward keeping an infestation at bay. Specifically, be sure to:
- Have a professional apply treatment regularly. Experts recommend treating every five to 13 years, depending on the type of treatment.
- Minimize the soil-to-wood contact around your house. Keep mulch away from your foundation and make sure wood siding is at least six inches above the soil.
- Keep water away from your foundation. Check your roof for leaks and that your downspouts direct water away from your house.
- Clean up your yard. Termites feed on wood and paper, so remove dead trees and stumps quickly, and don’t leave cardboard or newspaper in your yard.
- Use borate. Before you prime or paint the wood portions of your home, spray borate on it to repel termites.
A little extra investment upfront may reduce your chances for a termite infestation as well as other household hazards like mold. Find out when and how mold damage might be covered by home insurance.