Q

Does homeowners insurance cover termites?

A

Homeowners insurance generally does not cover termite damage or any other type of pest infestation, except for a rare set of circumstances.

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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 repairs. Unfortunately, termites — the wood-eating insects that cause up to $5 billion [1] in property damage each year — are generally considered exclusions and not covered by homeowners insurance.  

Key Takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance typically doesn’t cover damage caused by termites or any other type of pest infestation, like bed bugs, cockroaches, or mice

  • Insurance companies generally won’t cover damage caused by termites or other types of pests because they’re considered home maintenance issues that can be avoided

  • If a termite infestation causes your house to collapse, or something that’s covered by your policy — like a storm or burst pipe — directly leads to a termite infestation, your insurer may help cover the damage 

  • Infestations aren’t always the easiest to spot, but there are a few things they all have in common. Blistered wood and bubbles in your wallpaper can both be signs of a termite infestation

Why homeowners insurance doesn’t cover termite damage

If your house is damaged by something unexpected, like a fire or storm, homeowners insurance can help cover the cost of repairs. But insurance companies consider pest infestations to be a preventable maintenance issue and the responsibility of the homeowner. For that reason, homeowners insurance generally does not cover damage caused by termites, bed bugs, or other pests. Insurance also won't cover the cost of pest removal or extermination. 

Unlike property damage caused by bad weather — like a windstorm ripping the roof off your home — a termite infestation generally occurs over a long period of time, and insurers consider it something that could have been avoided with proper maintenance. Since maintenance issues aren't covered by insurance, if a termite infestation eats through your front porch or kitchen floors, any claim you file with your insurance company will likely be denied. 

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When might homeowners insurance cover termite damage?

It’s a long shot that your homeowners insurance will ever cover damage caused by termites, but it is theoretically possible under two rare circumstances: 

  • A storm, fire, burst pipe, or another covered peril directly causes an infestation

  • The damage is hidden away and causes your house to collapse 

If the termites are caused by a covered peril

If a termite infestation was the direct result of a covered peril, insurance may cover the termite damage. For example, say a pipe suddenly bursts and causes water damage, a covered peril, which then results in a termite infestation. Your insurance company could cite the internal water damage as the “proximate cause” of the termites, meaning the underlying cause of the infestation. This would mean that the termites would otherwise not be in your home were it not for the water from the burst pipe. In that case, your insurer may cover repair costs.

If the damage is hidden away 

It depends on your insurance company and policy, but if a termite infestation is hidden away from plain view, like under the floorboards, and you were unaware of it and it causes a portion of your home to collapse, your policy may help cover the cost of repairs.  

What to do if termite damage isn’t covered

If you notice termite damage in your home, you might be able to treat it yourself if you catch it early enough. Depending on the extent of the infestation, consider a termite inspection and extermination. The costs of termite treatment can run from anywhere from $200 to $2,500 [2] depending on the severity of infestation, the size of your home, and the type of treatment that's needed. 

Get multiple quotes from different exterminators to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If there’s extensive damage to the structure of your home, you’ll need to hire a contractor to make repairs. 

Signs of termite damage

While termites are more common in warm and humid climates, houses and buildings in all environments are susceptible. Termites are attracted to moisture and feed on all forms of cellulose, including wood, cardboard, paper, and even cotton. Known as silent destroyers, they can eat away at your home undetected. 

According to the National Pest Association, walls, support beams, cabinets, floors, and ceiling are the most common places in your home for termite infestations. They also have a list of examples of what termite damage looks like, including:

  • 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

If you suspect there’s termite damage in a home you’re planning on purchasing, try asking the seller to cover the cost of extermination. However if the damage is extensive, you may want to either reconsider your purchase or ask for a price reduction.

How to prevent termites

Vigilance and routine inspection can go a long way in preventing termite damage. 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