Q

Does homeowners insurance cover termites?

A

Homeowners insurance generally does not cover termite damage aside from a rare set of special circumstances.

Elissa

Elissa Suh

Published April 5, 2019

If you’ve just discovered termite damage in your home’s foundation, you may be wondering if homeowners insurance will cover the cost of treatment and repair. Unfortunately, termites, wood-eating insects that cause up $5 billion in property damage each year, are not covered by homeowners insurance, except in very rare circumstances. While homeowners insurance is meant to protect your family’s belongings, assets and the dwelling itself against common hazards and perils, termite damage is not a covered loss.

Read on:

Why doesn’t homeowners insurance cover termites?

In order for your homeowners insurance policy to provide financial protection in the event of damages, the cause usually has to be sudden and accidental. This is called a peril, and most common types covered by a homeowners insurance policy include:

  • Fire
  • Smoke
  • Windstorms
  • Lightning Strikes
  • Hail
  • Explosions
  • Theft
  • Vehicle collision
  • Certain types of water damage

Perils that aren’t covered include:

  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Power failures
  • Neglect
  • Mischievous acts
  • Bed bugs
  • Termites
  • Mold
  • Sinkholes

Read more about what homeowners insurance covers.

Termites, bedbugs, and other similar nuisances like carpenter bees, are typically excluded from homeowners insurance coverage because they are a preventable problem that can occur because of neglect. A lightning strike isn’t preventable and happens unexpectedly, but a termite infestation grows steadily and could potentially have been avoided with proper maintenance.

This means that you cannot file a claim on the cost of any damage caused by termites, like collapsed beams or broken stairs, with your insurance provider. Even furniture, books, or clothing that sustain termite damage would not be covered by your personal property insurance, since it only protects your items from those same covered perils mentioned above. Personal property insurance is the component of a homeowners insurance policy that protects your belongings and valuables, inside and outside the home.

Special circumstances when homeowners insurance might cover termites

If you get termites because of a covered peril, like a water leak from a busted pipe inside your home, the insurance company could cite the internal water damage as the “proximate cause”, or true underlying reason for the presence of termites in your home. Meaning the costs of the termite damage could be covered.

For this to happen, you would need to prove that termites would not otherwise be in the house, were it not for the water leaking from the pipe, or another type of related damage. In other words, the insurance provider would have to believe that the internal leak (a covered peril), is the direct and sole cause for the termites, in which case you could claim the termite damage.

While this is a long shot, it is theoretically possible. If you’re one of the lucky few to have termites covered by your insurance policy, here’s how to file a homeowners insurance claim.

How do I know if I have termites?

While termites are more common in warm and humid climates, houses and buildings in all environments are susceptible, as termites are attracted to moisture and feed on all forms of cellulose, including wood, cardboard, paper, and even cotton. Known as silent destroyers, termites can eat away at your home undetected. Here are some tips from the National Pest Association for all things termite.

The most common places in your home to check for termites:

  • Walls and wallpaper

  • Support beams

  • Cabinets

  • Floors

  • Ceiling

  • Furniture

  • Carpet

    Examples of what termite damage looks like:

  • Blistered wood that looks splintered or carved

  • Soft or hollowed wood that sounds hollow when tapped

  • Bubbled and uneven paint or wallpaper

  • Mud tubes or small tunnels, the width of a straw, that start at the exposed wood’s foundation and snakes up the walls in a vine-like pattern

  • Evidence of termite colonies like discarded wings, which may signal a new swarm

  • Pellet droppings, essentially grains of wood, that resemble coffee grounds or sawdust

  • Termites themselves, which vary in appearance. Look at your own risk!

If you suspect termite damage in a home you’re planning on purchasing, try asking the seller to cover the cost of extermination. Fumigating is much easier in an empty building. However if the damage is extensive, you may want to reconsider your purchase, or ask for a price reduction because of the infestation.

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How to prevent termites

The costs of termite treatment can run from $500 to $2,500 depending on the severity of infestation and the size of your home. This is excluding the cost of damage to your home, like broken cabinets or collapsed walls. But you can avoid these costs; vigilance and routine inspection can go a long way.

Your home is most vulnerable to termites in springtime, as the weather warms up, the snow melts, and termite mating season begins. Take these steps to help prevent termite infestations in your home:

  • Repair rotted roof shingles
  • Repair leaking pipes, faucets, and air conditioners
  • Reduce moisture by diverting water away from the house with gutters or downspouts
  • Keep mulch and soil away from any wooden parts of the house
  • Store firewood raised above the ground and away from the house
  • Routinely inspect the foundation, windows, and doorframes
  • Schedule annual pest control checkups

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.