does homeowners insurance cover rodent damage?

Your home is supposed to be a sanctuary away from the rat race of everyday life — not a hotbed for literal rats, mice, and other rodents (not to mention the health risk and destruction they can leave behind).

rats, mice, and your home insurance

Whether you see a mouse scurry across the kitchen floor or hear rats crawling in your home's walls — rodent infestations are downright creepy. And once you find out about one, it's hard to focus on anything else besides getting the rodents out so you and your family can sleep soundly again.

But beyond the "ick" factor, rat and mice infestations can cause all sorts of destruction in your house, from messy piles of droppings to structural damage, and more. And it's not just mice and rats that are to blame — pests like squirrels and chipmunks can cause problems for homeowners too.

Generally, rodent damage and removal aren't covered by most homeowners insurance policies. Since infestations and the damage that results from rats and mice are usually considered matters of home maintenance, the onus is typically on the homeowner to pay for repairs or pest control measures.

But what if a rat or mouse chews through some of your home's wiring, say, and a fire results? Your home insurance could kick in to help restore your place, since fires are a covered peril under the vast majority of homeowners policies.

It's always wise to speak with your insurer about what kind of protection your specific home coverages can provide. If you're an Esurance policyholder and have any questions, feel free to give us a ring at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262). Our licensed agents are available at these times.

how to locate rodent intruders

These pests are most common in wall and roof spaces, cupboards, and other storage areas, and may not be immediately obvious. If you have a sneaking suspicion that rodents may have made your house home, there are a few things you can watch out for (other than an actual critter) that may signal an infestation.

Droppings

Probably one of the more common signs you have rodents in your home is the presence of droppings, which can range between 3 and 6 millimeters long, depending on whether you're dealing with mice or rats.

You'll often find droppings in areas where food is kept, as well as under sinks, along baseboards and on top of wall beams, and even inside cardboard boxes. Since mice droppings can trigger allergies, carry harmful bacteria, and even transmit serious diseases like salmonella, it's important to use gloves and some antiseptic spray to quickly clean up the mess and dispose of it outside your house — right before you call pest control.

Odd noises

Definitely one of the creepier signs of an infestation is the sound of rodents scurrying around in your walls, attic, or heck, right across your living room — mainly at nighttime. Rats and mice are especially fond of wall and roof spaces since they're secluded areas where nests can easily be built.

If you're worried about critters getting to family heirlooms or other valuables in your attic or storage areas, it's best to store those items in sealed plastic containers rather than cardboard boxes, which can be easily chewed through.

Gnaw marks

Believe it or not, rodents can cause major damage just by chewing. And they can chew through materials you wouldn't even suspect — including plastic and lead pipes, electrical wiring, and more — leading to pricey repair bills and even safety hazards. If you see gnaw marks around your place, there's a good chance pests are inhabiting your home and it's time for further inspection.

Nests

Typically built in secluded areas like attics or wall spaces as to remain undisturbed, you won't necessarily see a rat or mouse nest right off the bat. What you may see first are the materials typically used to build them, seemingly strewn randomly throughout your place (since rodents generally operate at night). These items may include shredded paper, packing materials, cotton, pieces of fabric, and wall insulation.

Tracks

Upping a rat's nasty quotient is its naturally oily fur, which attracts all kinds of dirt and grease. After a few trips between their nest and their food source, they often start leaving dark tracks or rub marks along your home's floorboards and walls. These tracks are often signs of rats as opposed to signs of mice, which can help you narrow down which rodent you're dealing with.

getting rid of mice and rats

Of course, trying to prevent a rodent infestation in the first place is always your best move — and it often involves just simple home maintenance, like good sanitation and patching up any openings in your house that may provide an opportunity for these critters to enter.

It's also wise to mouse-proof areas where you keep food, using plastic and glass containers as opposed to easily chewed through cardboard ones.

But if you already have a full-on infestation on your hands, you're probably going to need some help from the pros — for a few reasons.

Trying to use poisonous baits to kill pests can lead to even further issues. Not only are they inhumane, but the animal will often crawl into your wall space to curl up and die — an issue you often don't find out about until a horrendous odor arises.

But what about good, old-fashioned dogs and cats, you ask? With your pet's natural hunting abilities, you'd think your four-legged friend could quickly eradicate your rodent issue — but not so fast.

Even though your canine or feline may be able to kill some of the critters, you can't rely on Fido or Fluffy as an effective way to control the problem. Plus, mice and rats may be able to get much if not all of their diet from your pet's food and water bowls, possibly compounding the issue.

And sound devices don't do much good either. Ultrasonic sound loses its intensity pretty quickly with distance, and it can't penetrate behind objects like furniture or walls. Any critters that are already established in your place will likely stay there despite the presence of one of these devices, since they can quickly get used to any sounds that may initially affect them.

Calling in some professional help is typically your safest bet. A pest control company will know what to look for and where, and they'll also have the proper clothing and equipment to thoroughly extricate the rodents from your place. This helps keep you and your family from being exposed to health hazards during the removal and cleanup process (and saves you a ton of hassle too).

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