Just thinking about bed bugs can make your skin crawl. If you’ve got these nasty little bugs in your house, you’ve got trouble.
You might notice burning or itching red welts on your skin from bed bug bites. They feed solely on the blood of people and animals. As they grow, you might notice they shed their skin that will appear as small flakes. You might also see smears or stains on your sheets that appear dark brown or black.
While they don’t pose a serious medical threat, you do want to get rid of them as quickly as possible and then take precautions to prevent them from returning.
When you find bed bugs in your home, you might wonder if a bed bug infestation is covered by your homeowners insurance. The short answer is no.
Taking care of bed bugs and other insects are considered part of home maintenance. In many policies, it would be excluded as preventable damage. The concept is that a home that’s being properly cleaned and maintained would not lead to an infestation. Also, it takes time to go from a bed bug or two to an infestation. Eggs take 10 days to hatch. From there, it can take one to two months to go from the nymph stage to become an adult bed bug that can mate.
An infestation starts slowly so it doesn’t qualify as sudden and accidental damage. This means you’ll be responsible for the cost of:
Any damage caused by bed bugs
Replacement of items you have to get rid of
Living expenses during treatment
It’s not just bed bugs that likely won’t be covered by your homeowners insurance. Other damage from insects, such as termites, won’t be covered either unless you carry special coverage that is typically provided by pest control companies as part of their termite control plan.
If you’re unsure what is covered and what is not covered by your homeowners insurance, it’s worth taking out a copy of your policy and reading up. The two most common types of policies are named perils and comprehensive.
Named Perils: This type of policy only covers you for specific things that are named in the policy
Comprehensive: Also called an all-risk policy, this provides coverage for everything that’s not specifically listed as excluded.
Named peril policies will be less expensive since they don’t cover as many things. Unfortunately for homeowners, bed bug infestations are excluded under both types of policies.
It would have to be a very unique situation where your homeowners insurance would cover bed bugs.
Most policies have a clause known as proximate cause. If an insect infestation occurs because of another covered act, it might be covered. For example, let’s say a tree falls on your home and breaks through your roof. This leads to an ant infestation that spread from the tree to your home. In this case, the roof damage and the extermination might be covered.
Bed bugs, however, are usually brought into a home when they attach themselves to your clothing or other objects. You might encounter them somewhere else – without even knowing it – and transport them home. This wouldn’t be applicable under the proximate cause part of your policy.
Most renters insurance policies do not cover bed bugs either.
In some states, such as Colorado, the landlord is responsible for all costs associated with treatments except in rare exceptions. That’s typically the case in a multi-unit dwelling where it would be difficult to pinpoint where the infestation started since bed bugs can travel through ducts, vents, and cracks.
In a single-family rental, we’re sorry to say that you probably brought the little guys home with you. In that case, the landlord may be able to avoid responsibility.
Some companies have started offering bed bug policies. While these mainly cover property owners, there are some policies for renters available in some areas.
Bed bugs are tiny creatures and difficult to see. They can survive for months and they reproduce rapidly. A healthy female bed bug can lay as many as 500 eggs. When you find one or two, you’ve likely got more.
The first step in getting rid of bed bugs is finding them. They don’t just live in beds, although mattresses are a favorite breeding ground. You can find them in baseboards, between couch cushions, inside electrical outlets, books, magazines, or even inside walls or electronics.
If you’ve got an infestation, you’ve got to gather up all the hiding places. Throw out what you can but be careful not to spread bed bugs from one location to another. You’ll need to wash any bedding or clothes in hot water. High heat above 115 degrees can kill them. A steamer can help on mattresses, couches, or other fabrics.
For other items that can’t be washed, sealing them up in black bags and leaving them outside when temps are above 95 degrees can help kill off bed bugs. Temperatures below freezing can also kill these nasty insects.
It’s also a good idea to place bed bug resistant covers over your mattress and box springs. This can trap any remaining bed bugs inside and kill them. It also prevents new ones from getting into your mattress.
There are EPA-registered pesticides you can use, but even the EPA itself suggests you may want to hire a pest management professional to do the job. Pest control companies typically spread coverage out over a couple of weeks. Exterminators will typically spray at the beginning and then return for another treatment after two weeks. You’ll need to vacate the property while the treatments are taking place but you can often return on the same say.
If you have bed bugs, the good news is that you can effectively get rid of them. The bad news is your homeowners insurance or renters insurance won’t pay for treatment.