Wildlife is appealing — at a distance. It loses its charm fast when it invades your home and causes structural damage, increases your heating costs, and introduces health hazards. Here’s what to know.
Structural damage. Wildlife can cause significant damage by chewing holes in your roof, siding, interior walls, ceilings, and floors. Electrical systems are also vulnerable — animals that chew through wires can create shorts that damage appliances or cause house fires.
Added costs. Animals looking for a nesting spot are likely to tear and move insulation material to make nests — potentially leading to increased heating costs due to less-efficient insulation. Ice dams are another potential side effect of disturbed insulation. They form when the edge of a roof is cooler than other areas and meltwater freezes. The ice traps water and can force it back under your shingles and into your home.
Biohazards. Urine and feces can contaminate expensive, impossible-to-clean insulation. It also has the potential to be a fatal biohazard. Parasites are an additional threat when infested wildlife brings disease-carrying ticks, lice, and fleas into your home.
Homeowners insurance — what’s covered and what’s not.
Usually covered: discrete incidents of wild animal-created damage. Most home policies cover sudden, unexpected damage caused by wildlife. For example, if a raccoon gets into your house and trashes your kitchen while you’re at work, your policy would usually cover the damage.
Usually not covered: damage related to nesting (including raccoon and possum nests), infestation, or the body waste or secretions of any animals. For example, if you suspect that squirrels or other wild animals have been living in your attic over a period of time (nesting), your policy will not cover the related damage.
Never covered: any damage caused by rodents, birds, or insects or caused by your own animals. (Did you know? Raccoons are not rodents, they belong to the genus Procyon).
The best defense is a good offense
It’s far easier to keep animals out of your house than to get rid of them once they’re in. Since the damage they cause may not even be covered, any costs you incur to prevent access is apt to be a good investment.
Here’s a few things you can do.
- Identify and block potential access points. Check and block holes or cracks in:
- Attic vents
- Overhangs and eves
- Window wells
Tip: Make sure there are no animals inside before you seal possible entry points. Trapped animals can do a great deal of damage when they try to chew their way out.
What to do: Plug suspected entries with loose, easily moved material such as paper or cloth. If the material has not been moved in a few days, you can safely plug the entry.
- Work with a professional to install a screen that prevents animals and birds from entering your house through your chimney.
- Check your home’s exhaust, foundation, dryer, and roof vents; consider adding animal-control screens.
- Remove sources of food, water and habitat:
- Secure your trash inside a shed or garage and/or securely latch or tie down trash can covers.
- Feed your pets inside to avoid spilled food and food odors that attract wildlife.
- Keep the area under your bird feeders picked up.
- Keep your grill clean — cooking grease attracts everything from raccoons to bears.
- For gardeners: Cover and secure your compost pile; never add meat or dairy scraps.
- Store firewood away from the house and off the ground.
- Keep the area around your house free of debris that animals could nest in.
- Remove rotten wood from your property as soon as possible — it’s a major attractant of carpenter ants.
- Keep tree branches at least six feet away from your house if possible. A tree branch is an easy way for squirrels, raccoons, and opossums to gain access to your roof — and roof and attic vents.
While you cannot totally eliminate the possibility of wildlife getting into your home, you can greatly reduce the chances — and the potential for expensive repairs.
Our Risk Coaches are licensed insurance professionals who are trained to look at coverage from your perspective.* They’re glad to help you navigate the often-perplexing world of insurance coverage. Contact your local Risk Coach™ professional or call us at 800.342.5342, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET.