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Termite Damage and Your Homeowners Policy: Are You Really Covered?

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

No, homeowners insurance typically does not cover termite damage. Termite damage and termite removal is rarely covered because it happens slowly over time, and it can generally be prevented with routine maintenance and care. For the same reason, damage from pests in general — including insects and rodents — are not covered by standard home insurance policies.

However, there may be some coverage for damages caused by termites if a covered peril introduced the termites into your home or if a covered peril damages your home as a result of termite damage. Learn more about your options if you make the unfortunate discovery of termites living in your home’s structures.

What Termites Can Do to Your Home

Two common types of termites pose a threat to your home: drywood and subterranean termites. Drywood termites live in wood, whereas subterranean termites live in dirt and soil and tunnel into homes through the ground. Both types of these small insects live in large colonies and feed on dead plant matter and wood, which can be a big problem if they eat the wood used to frame and build your home. Some termites have even been known to damage wooden furniture.

A homeowner with termite damage can expect to spend about $3,000 to repair the damage and eradicate the infestation. Termites can do significant damage if left untreated, including compromising your home’s structure which can lead to collapsed floors and ceilings. Regular inspections are critical for homeowners because it can take up to 8 years to detect termite damage otherwise, by which time there may be multiple termite colonies.

When Would Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

Standard homeowners insurance policies will not cover pest damage, such as issues from termites. However, there are some exceptions where termite damage may be covered:

  • A covered peril led to termites infesting your home. It is uncommon, but some covered perils may occur that lead to termites entering and damaging your home. For example, a pipe bursts in your home and the leak results in termites making their way inside.
  • Termite damage caused a covered peril to occur. If a covered peril happens as a result of termites, your home insurance may cover the damages directly caused by the covered peril. For example, if termites cause damage to the wiring in your home which in turn causes a fire, your home insurance may cover repairs related to the fire. However, it will likely not cover termite issues unrelated to the fire, such as removal of the termites or the damaged wood untouched by fire.
  • You experienced a sudden home collapse caused by termites. If your ceiling, floors, or another portion of your home collapses because of termite damage, you might be covered under your homeowners insurance policy. However, this is not guaranteed, especially if routine inspections and maintenance could have prevented the damage from occurring.

When Is Termite Damage Not Covered?

Aside from rare instances, homeowners insurance does not cover termite damage. Termite issues can be prevented through routine maintenance, including professional inspections and keeping your home’s structures sealed and protected. In addition, termite damage usually takes time to develop, and home insurance is designed to cover damages that occur suddenly and accidentally.

As such, termite damage can be considered an issue caused by lack of maintenance, which homeowners insurance excludes. This is also the case for damage caused by other pests, such as rats, mice, and ants.

How To Spot Termite Damage

Early detection of termite damage can save a lot of money and significant repairs. Hire an exterminator to routinely check your home, and also look for indications of termites yourself. Signs to keep an eye on include:

  • Look for blisters or buckling. If ceilings, walls, or any wood in your home look blistered or buckling, that can be a sign of termite damage.
  • Scout for swarmer wings. Swarmer termites shed their wings and burrow into wood. A pile of wings could indicate that you have a colony nearby or in your home.
  • Investigate termite droppings. Drywood termites leave droppings behind that look a bit like sawdust. There might be piles of their droppings at an entrance hole.
  • Check wood for termite tunnels. Tunnels are not always easy to spot, but sometimes you’ll see them in wood structures, especially in your foundation. Subterranean termite tunnels will have a muddy-looking tube while drywood tunnels are clean or contain droppings.
  • Rap to find hollow-sounding wood. When thumping on wood causes a hollow sound, it could be that termites have been slowly eating it from the inside.
  • Check how your doors shut. Termites can cause blistering and bulging, affecting the seal of doors, drawers, and other wood surfaces. Water can also cause swelling of wood which can attract termites to these areas.

Preventing Termite Damage

Preventing termite damage before it occurs is the best approach to keeping these insects out of your home. Prevention steps include:

  • Do routine home maintenance. Termites can find their way into your home from foundation cracks, poorly sealed vents and ducts, and loose pipes or gutters.
  • Keep your foundation dry. A wet foundation is an invitation to termites. Get any drainage problems fixed so you can avoid termites.
  • Eliminate their food. Termites eat cellulose in plants, firewood, mulch, and other wood materials. Keep these away from the exterior of your home as much as possible to discourage them from moving from those food sources into your home.
  • Have annual inspections by an exterminator. This is one of the best ways to stop an infestation before it has time to damage your home and your property.
  • Consider a treatment barrier from termites. If you’ve had termites in the past, having a treatment barrier performed annually will keep them from returning.
  • Do not use untreated wood. If you’re building a deck, fence, or other wood structure that will touch or be next to your home, make sure you use treated lumber to prevent termites.

Your Options If Termites Have Damaged Your Home

If you have termite damage, your options are to file a claim for the damage if it is one of the situations where your policy may help pay for repairs, or prepare to pay for repairs out of pocket.

How to File a Claim for Termite Damage

If your termite infestation was caused by a covered peril or if the termites caused another covered peril to occur, your homeowners insurance may cover the relevant repairs. If this is the case, you would file a claim for the damage following these general steps:

  1. Document the damage. Make sure you document the damage as much as possible and keep records of your expenses for extermination. Your insurance will cover up to your policy’s limits after the deductible, but you will need to provide proof of damage first.
  2. File a claim following your insurer’s process. Many home insurance companies allow claims to be filed online using a standardized form. If you are unsure about how your insurer prefers for you to file a claim, contact their customer service department. Have your damage documentation ready to expedite the process.
  3. Speak with an insurance adjuster. If your claim is approved, you may work with an insurance adjuster to get further details about the damages that need to be repaired.
  4. Get repair estimates from several approved contractors and exterminators, if applicable. Depending on what your policy agrees to cover, you may compare quotes from contractors that can complete the necessary repairs.
  5. Complete the repairs and notify your insurance company. Once you have selected a contractor and informed your insurance company, the repairs can begin. When all work is finished, remember to tell your insurer. It is also good practice to ask the contractors at this time what maintenance treatments they recommend to prevent future infestations.

How to Repair Termite Damage Without Insurance

In most cases, you will have to repair termite damage without your homeowners insurance to help. In fact, if your home continues to suffer termite damage, your insurer may consider this neglect and decline future claims. But whether or not you have insurance coverage for your termite damage, you need to act quickly to remove the termites and prevent further issues:

  1. Use an exterminator to get rid of the termites. This is the first thing that homeowners with termites need to do. It’s a good idea to ask a couple of companies to give you an estimate and ask what their process is for eradicating termites. Select your preferred exterminator based on cost, reputation, and extermination method. Once this is complete, you may begin repairs.
  2. Use contractors to make necessary repairs. Compare a few contractors to get price estimates on what needs to be done before selecting your preferred contractors to complete the repairs.
  3. Schedule regular termite inspections. Prevention can go a long way in keeping termites out of your home or minimizing the amount of damage they can do. Schedule an annual inspection to stay on top of your home’s maintenance needs.

What This Means For You

Protecting your home against termites is crucial to avoid severe damage and costly repairs. Termites are destructive insects that feed on wood, and their infestations can go unnoticed for a long time, which can lead to collapsing walls, floors, and even roofs.

Termite damage is not typically covered by homeowners insurance except in rare cases, which can leave you with significant repair costs. Taking preventive measures, such as regular inspections and treatments, is essential to keep your home safe and secure from termite infestations.