It's easy to assume that your Oklahoma homeowners insurance is there to protect from all things - including animal damage - but you may be surprised to find out that's not always the case. Different insurance policies will treat animal-related damage differently depending on the logistics of the loss and the policy wording.
Imagine this: One night, you hear scratching above you as you try to go to sleep. You get out of bed, hesitant to confront whatever is lurking above. Instead of the intruder that you expected, you discover that a harem of raccoons has made a home in your attic.
Situations like this can be scary to think about on top of the massive bills critters like this can cause. Curious about whether a situation like this is covered by your homeowners insurance policy? Keep reading.
Household Pets & Other Domestic Animals
Your homeowners insurance policy likely covers some incidents that have to do with your pets, but not all.
Sometimes it's easier to start with what is not covered by insurance. If you have pets or other animals that are in your care or that you’ve domesticated, they likely won't be covered by insurance. Dogs, cats, birds, and fish are not usually included in the types of personal property that are insured against theft, damage, or loss — such as your electronics and furniture. Your domestic animals – such as chickens, cows, horses or pigs -are also not likely included.
The above conversation is typically not going to apply if your pet or animal accidentally injures another person who is vising your home with permission. Typically, your policy will pay for that person's medical bills from that accident. This coverage may also apply if your pet injures someone outside of your home. For example, a stranger you encounter in the park might be covered.
Keep in mind that if you have someone babysitting your pet for an extended period of time, that coverage may not extend to them. This means that its incredibly important to make sure that the person watching your pet has their own insurance- especially if your pet has had aggression incidents in the past.
Insects can wreak havoc on your property in all sorts of ways, but the circumstances under which insect damage is covered by homeowners insurance are often very narrow.
While damage from little and big bugs alike can be quite extensive, typically insurance does not cover this. When you purchase a policy, part of the agreement you as the insured makes is to monitor and protect your property. Since insect damage is typically something that happens slowly over time, with home maintenance, the insurance company usually views it as avoidable.
However, there are some special situations that many policies cover. For example, if a part of your home is rendered unlivable due to structural collapse, and that collapse was caused by an infestation of termites, your policy may protect you if the termites and their destruction were hidden from view – that is, if you had no way of knowing that your home was being destroyed over time.
Another instance, if a large tree topples beside your house during a storm and its insect inhabitants take refuge in your siding. In cases like this, your policy may cover some or all of your damage.
Mouse In The House
Along with insects, vermin are usually another very problematic critter that can cause quite the mess. There are hundreds of varieties of rodents - including mice, woodchucks, squirrels, and gophers - to look out for.
Vermin refers not to a particular species of animal, but to small, destructive animals that are difficult to control. It can also refer to wild mammals and birds that are believed to be harmful to crops and farm animals or that carry disease. This definition includes rodents, but it would also include pigeons and bedbugs!
Your standard Oklahoma homeowners insurance does not usually coverage damage since removing and monitoring them is considered part of regular home maintenance.
As with the insects, there can be situations in which insurance may help. Damage you were not aware of that results from the presence of a vermin type creature could possibly be covered.
In more complicated scenarios, insects, rodents, or other vermin may cause gradual damage that in turn leads to a more dramatic event. For instance, rodents could chew through wires, creating the right conditions for an electrical fire. If a fire results, your policy may help cover damages because fire is usually covered.
So, What About Bats?
Vermin are going to be defined by the policy language. So, you may be surprised to find that animals you'd assume are vermin are not classified as such. But be careful! When they are covered, coverage issues can be complicated. Take bats, for example. Your policy may cover any of the damage they do cause – say, shredded insulation – but it may not cover the cost of cleaning up the guano they leave behind.
Whatever Happened With That Raccoon In The Attic?
Glad you still remember. Although they're small and can do some damage, typically they're not considered rodents or vermin. This means that possibly, if they destroyed your attic, it may cover necessary repairs.
It's crucial to remember that Vermin damage to personal property is likely not covered. So, if raccoons chewed your air conditioner cords, they won’t be covered.
What About Wild Animals?
While lions, tigers, and bears may have a more difficult time crawling down your chimney, of course, they can still cause significant damage in other creative ways. In most cases, that damage is likely to be covered by insurance.
Homeowners policies are much better about covering situations that are a one-time occurrence than from conditions that build up over time. Repairing wires damaged after a family of mice gnawed through the cabinet to get to them is probably not going to be covered. Then again, if a deer took an unfortunate flying leap through your sliding glass door, the damage might be covered.
For instance, say a bear damages your deck railing. Your homeowners insurance policy will likely help cover the damages. In comparison, other structures coverage can help cover damages done to your detached structures. So, if the bear damaged your detached garage, your other structures coverage may help cover the damages.
So Where Is My Auto Insurance Policy In All Of This?
Most people are probably familiar with wildlife damaging vehicles, as high-speed encounters with animals such as deer are common in many regions. Usually, the damage is covered under a standard auto policy as long as you have physical damage coverage to fix your vehicle. The vast majority of motor vehicle damage is covered by an auto insurance policy and not a homeowner's policy. Generally, auto insurers consider damage from contact with an animal to be an "other than collision" (often called comprehensive) loss, rather than a collision loss. This means that having comprehensive insurance coverage can help protect your car from damages not related to a collision.
For example, say a rodent nests in your engine and chews through some wiring. Comprehensive coverage may help cover the damages because they didn't result from a collision. In a similar example, say your dog chewed through your car's headrest. Comprehensive coverage may help cover these damages as well because they didn't stem from a collision.
The rules about what is covered vs. not covered when it comes to animals in and around your home can get complicated. So, while generally, this article explains what can be covered, depending on your policy, that may not always be the case. Always double check your specific policy language. If you need help, ask your insurance company or agent about specific questions. And lastly, it's always advised when animal damage is involved, prepare for the unexpected.