The National Pest Management Association estimates that termites cause over $5B of property damage each year in the United States. Termites can crew through cabinets, flooring, furniture, ceilings, plaster, and metal. Termites are animals that live in the home and can survive for years without being noticed. They feast on the very structure of the home and especially the support beams in the house. These tiny animals are capable of causing significant damage Repairs tend to cost tens of thousands of dollars and might require opening walls or digging to replace the house foundation. This guide will focus on the way home insurance treats termites and filing claims.
Does homeowners insurance cover termite damage? No, homeowners insurance does not cover termite damage. Insurance companies will refuse to pay for damages caused by termites. The only exception is when you get termites from a covered peril such as a water leak in your home. Home insurance only insures you for unpredictable accidents while termites can be prevented through regular maintenance.
Damages to the home that occur as a result of a lack of maintenance (including termites) are not covered by homeowner policies such as HO-3 and HO-5. There are only a few ways to file a successful claim for termite damage, and this will only work if you can provide evidence the termites appeared after a named peril brought them to your home.
Why Home Insurance Won’t Cover Termites
The main reason home insurance won’t cover termites is because they’re preventable. Home insurance only insures customers for unpredictable accidents or acts of God. Example: A lightning striking your home or a fire burning down your home is an unpredictable event.
A termite presence is predictable and therefore it’s up to you as the homeowner to carry out regular maintenance on their home and remove termites thoroughly. There are dedicated termite removal services that can inspect your home for termites and remove them adequately.
Other perils that are NOT included by default in home insurance are:
- Mischievous acts
- Bed bugs
Termites and other animals that are hard to spot but cause damage like bed bugs and carpenter bees are almost always excluded from home insurance policies. The official reason is that these can be prevented in advance, therefore all damage caused by them is written down as neglect on the owner’s side. These are predictable damages that you can act on now. The only unpredictable damages that are not included in homeowners policies are earthquakes, sinkholes, and floods (in some states).
In practical terms, this means that you won’t be able to file a claim for termite damage regardless of the cost. If the termite damage leads to collapsed beams or broken staircases in your household, the insurance provider will refuse to compensate you. Moreover, they won’t compensate you for termite damage to your personal property (even though personal items are included in a policy).
If you have wooden furniture, clothes, or books that were damaged by termites, you won’t be able to file for replacements because damage to personal property is only covered for named perils. For instance, if a fire burned down your home you could get a replacement for furniture, clothes, and other items. This is not the case with termite damage.
Exceptions For Termite Coverage
There are few exceptions where you can successfully make a claim for termite damage. If you know the origin of the termites and your home got them as a result of a covered peril, you can make the case that the damage was caused by that original peril. Example: Water leaks are covered under HO-3 insurance. If this water leak unleashed termites in your home, you could state this was the cause or the underlying reason for the presence of termites in your home and get an exemption.
To file a successful claim of this kind, you’ll have to provide evidence that the termites weren’t present in your home before the stated event. This is easier if you have evidence that your house suffered from an unpredictable event and you already filed for that particular event. It can take months or years before termites start causing visible damage in your home. If they appeared after a major storm or a flood, it’s likely that this was the cause and you can prove it by showing evidence from the previous case. Bring this evidence to your agent and claim it as the proximate cause to get reimbursed for the termite damage.
Can termites damage your house?
Don’t take termite control as an insignificant issue. Once out of control, the cost of repair can be incredibly high. Studies have proven that termites bring massive property damage each year with an estimated cost of $5 billion.
Since termites are fond of eating wood, they can damage the entire interior of your house. They feed on wooden floors and furniture and can eat almost anything. Without you knowing, termites might do massive damage. By the time you know termites have crawled into your house, it will be too late. The repair costs associated will be quite high as it will require you to replace all wooden items.
How To Discover Termite Damage
Termites are difficult to spot if you don’t pay close attention. They are not very visible unlike mice or cockroaches, but they leave behind certain signs that indicate their presence. The following are the main signs of a termite presence in your home:
- Yellow wing trails. Termites are similar to ants in appearance, but they have a mushy yellow color and a straight antennae. A termite has two wings that are identical in size. When they maneuver around the home, they tend to leave behind wings. If you spot yellow wings in your home, this is a good indicator you have termites.
- Tunnels. Termites create their own tunnels where they sneak through and penetrate the home. Start looking for tunnels in areas termites like such as the home foundation or exposed wood. The most common lactation is the home foundation as they penetrate from the ground. Termite tunnels have a cube-like entrance that resembles mud. The tubes should have a vine pattern and can sometimes be found on the walls.
- Wood patterns (holes/cracks). Termites love to feast on wood and they leave behind certain damage that appears like a carved maze on wood. Note: Not all wood damage patterns are the same. You can generally find small holes and cracks in the wood that were eaten by termites. If you have cracks on walls or beams, this is almost a definite indicator there is a termite presence.
- Hollow sounds. The sound of the wood can be an indicator you have termites. Get a screwdriver and try tapping on wood that you suspect is being eaten by termites. If you hear a hollow sound, this is an indicator the termites are eating on the inside and that’s why there is no visible exterior damage.
- Distortions in flooring. Termites can consume the flooring and cause distortions such as buckling. This gives floors an appearance similar to water damage, but it’s actually damage caused by termites.
Can You Buy Termite Insurance Policies?
Most home insurance companies do not offer termite insurance policies as an endorsement. The only option to insure yourself against termite damage is to contact a pest control company and schedule a yearly inspection for termites. This can be followed up by treatment in the event they discover termites in your home.
Pro Tip: If you’re buying a new home, always inspect it for termites. If there is termite damage, you can either re-negotiate the deal for a lower price or have the current owner repair the damage. The house will have to be prepared for fumigation which is much harder if you’ve already moved in.
How To Protect Your Home From Termites
The best way to eradicate termites is to have inspections carried out. This can be done on a monthly or yearly basis. Other factors to consider while deciding on the frequency of inspections include the location of your house and the condition you have kept it in.
It is better if you identify pests in the early stages to prevent damage from happening. A termite control plan is crucial to ensure your house is free from pests. A lot of agencies are providing quality pest control services that can keep your house protected.
Besides these measures, other preventive measures include being careful. Avoid storing firewood near your home as this attracts termites. If you still want to place firewood, it is best that you consult a termite expert. Keep wooden structures in a sealed environment and have a storage shed where wooden items can be kept. Remove any dead trees near your house to prevent the termites from feeding.
These preventive measures can save you from repair expenses. Prevention is better than clean up, especially if you want to go easy on your pockets. Termite control is also crucial for the stability of the house.
Homeowners insurance will not cover termite damage and it’s up to the owner to carry out regular maintenance and arrange removal services. As a homeowner, you should always be aware of the dangers termites pose to the structure of your home and catch them before they cause significant damage.