Renters insurance is financial protection for you and your personal property when renting an apartment, condo, or house. Renters insurance will reimburse you for the replacement cost of your personal belongings if they are stolen, destroyed, or damaged by a covered peril. Some covered perils include fire and smoke damage, damage from a leak, damage by aircraft, theft, and more.
If your home becomes unlivable due to a covered peril, your renters insurance loss-of-use coverage will help pay for you to live elsewhere, like at a hotel, until your rental becomes habitable again. Renters insurance also protects your personal liability, so if someone gets hurt in your home your policy can help pay for their medical expenses or any legal fees if it comes to that.
Some landlords require you to purchase a certain amount of renters insurance, which will be outlined in your lease. Renters insurance is one of the cheapest insurance products you can buy, costing an average of $16 a month.
Basically, renters insurance is a smart investment if you want protection for your personal property and liability while renting your home, especially because your landlord is not responsible for reimbursing you for certain damages or situations. Your landlord is responsible for their building, not for you or your stuff.
What perils does renters insurance cover?
Renters insurance covers your personal property and liability, as well as covering your additional living expenses if you get booted out of your home due to damage. Some of those covered perils include:
Freezing of heating, air conditioning or plumbing
Windstorm and hail
Lightning and fire
Weight of snow, sleet, ice
Short-circuit damage caused by electrical appliances
But when it comes to pest infestations, like termites, who is responsible for destruction to your stuff or your apartment? Will you get reimbursed if termites decide to invade your home?
Does renters insurance cover termite damage?
Renters insurance will not cover the cost of preventable perils, and a termite infestation is considered preventable since you should have an exterminator coming semi-regularly. It’s usually your landlord’s responsibility to get the pests exterminated if you have an infestation, but it’s still not necessarily your landlord’s responsibility to reimburse you if any of your belongings get destroyed by the termites. Renters insurance only covers a loss when it is a direct, suden, physical loss. Since termites infest your home over time, it’s not considered a direct or sudden loss, like a fire or theft would be.
However, there are certain times your renters insurance might be able to help you out if your apartment and stuff is destroyed by termites. Like most things when it comes to insurance, it depends on a few factors.
Exclusions for termite damage
Many renters insurance policies will explicitly state what they do not cover on the policy. The perils your provider does not cover will be listed under exclusions. Your policy may not explicitly state that it excludes termites, or other pests like bed bugs, but it may state it excludes damage caused by “nesting or infestation, or discharge or release of waste products or secretions, by any animal.” Here, termites fall under the “animal” category.
How to get coverage for termites and pests
There are two types of renters insurance policies: all-risk policies and named-perils policies. If you want coverage for termites or other pets, you should look into purchasing an all-risk policy that does not contain any exclusions for pests or infestations. You should check with your provider to make sure this is outlined in your policy before you purchase.
An all-risk renters insurance policy will reimburse you for a loss regardless of how it was caused. A named perils policy will only reimburse you for a loss if it was caused by a peril specifically outlined in your policy.
All-risk policies tend to cost more because you are more likely to suffer a loss and then file a claim.
Termites and loss-of-use coverage
The loss-of-use coverage or additional living expenses sections of your renters insurance policy will pay for you to stay elsewhere if your home becomes uninhabitable. However, if termites infest your home, it probably won’t qualify as a covered peril. This means your renters insurance will not pay for you to stay at a hotel if you have termites.
If you have a major infestation that damages the infrastructure of your building, it will most likely be your landlord who is held responsible. Meaning the landlord’s insurance will pay for the damage to the building itself, and in some instances even relocation costs for tenants. Under certain circumstances, if there is extreme damage, like a beam breaks from the termite infestation and your ceiling collapses and ruins your furniture, your renters insurance might reimburse you for some of the damage to your belongings. When it comes to ceiling collapse from termites, it depends on your policy — you should check with your provider to see if it is a named peril on your policy or if it is explicitly excluded.
Special circumstances when renters insurance might cover termites
There are a few unique, special circumstances when your renters insurance policy might cover termite damage. Basically, if another peril, like a water leak from a busted pipe, causes you to then get termites, your renters insurance hypothetically could cite the water damage as “proximate cause” for the termites. Termites are attracted to water and moisture, so keep an eye on leaky faucets as well.
This is a pretty rare case. If it does happen, you will need to prove that the termites were not already in your home before the leak happened. Basically, you will have to prove that the covered peril was the direct cause of the termites.
Signs of termite infestations
Termites spread fast. They usually enter your home by air or ground and they are tiny, so it’s hard to spot them. If the termites are in your wall, your drywall and paint may begin to flake. If they’re in your hardwood floor, there’s a good chance the floor will begin to buckle or swell. Here are a few other signs:
Evidence of termite colonies, like discarded wings or pellet droppings
Termites or their wings trapped in spider webs
The wood in your home may begin to sound hollow
Splintered wood floors
What to do if you have a termite infestation
Most of the time, termite prevention is the responsibility of your landlord or property manager. You should have regular pest inspections. If you have a feeling you might have termites, you should contact your landlord right away and get a professional pest inspector to assess your property.
Termites can cost your landlord a lot of money, so you should contact your landlord to hire a professional ASAP. You are better off getting an exterminator to get rid of the termites than waiting to do it on your own.
If your landlord is unresponsive about your infestation, they may be violating the terms of your lease. Most leases include sections about how often your landlord should be getting your rental inspected and that they’re responsible for hiring exterminators. If your landlord continues to violate your lease by not exterminating the termites, you might have grounds to move out and break your lease. If this is the case, you should seek professional legal advice from a lawyer or tenant’s rights advocate.