Anyone who lives in a rural area understands that home life and wildlife sometimes overlap in unfortunate ways—birds nest on the light fixture by your front door, or your dinner guests’ appetites are spoiled by eau de skunk—but what about those times when an animal does actual damage to your home that will require expensive, professional repairs? Will your insurance policy cover it?
With most standard home insurance policies, the answer is yes, but there are caveats. First of all, some insurance policies may not include any damage done by a mouse, squirrel, or rat. Luckily, some animals you may think are rodents, like bats and opossums, actually aren’t. Opossums are marsupials, and bats are so unique they have their own classification: chiroptera. So in most cases you are protected against damage from whatever rodent or non-rodent critters are messing with your stuff.
A second caveat is that only wild animal damage counts—damage caused by pets is not. So if your nervous dog gnaws on your sheetrock, or your cat ruins an antique oriental rug, it’s up to you to cover the cost. If, on the other hand, you happened to be storing Girl Scout Cookies close to a sliding screen door, and a bear claws through the screen, tears open some boxes, and sits down to a sugary feast in your wrecked living room, your insurance should take care of the damage, once you’ve met your deductible. It might even cover the cost of the cookies.
The third caveat is that the damage must have been caused by a mammal. Damage caused by insects are not covered, as harmful infestations can almost always be prevented through regular pest control service. An exception might be made in rare cases, such as if a tree falls by your house in a storm and the insects living inside it migrate to your roof, but this will depend upon your individual policy.
In some cases, certain parts of your cost will be covered, and other parts won’t. For example, if you discover a family of raccoons living your attic, tearing up the insulation and stinking up the place with urine and feces, your insurance provider will cover cleanup, deodorization, disinfection, replacement of insulation, and repairs to any other physical damage done to your attic. The cost of removing of the animals themselves and the exclusion process, however, is entirely up to you.
Still, no matter what kind of animal causes what kind of destruction in your home, go ahead and talk to your insurance agent about it. You might be surprised by what’s covered. Even better, talk to your agent before anything happens, so you know where you stand in advance.
Donnan G. Oyler, President