Photo: via Erin Drakeford
Joel Hirschhorn and his wife learned the hard way how far insurance companies will go to defend the myriad exclusions they tack on to policies.The couple was months into a plan to sell their Lake Tomahawk, Wis. vacation home when they realised they had a big problem on their hands: Bats.
Here’s what went down, according to InsuranceQuotes.com.:
“When the Hirschhorns arrived and went inside, they were overwhelmed by the smell. They hired a contractor, who determined that the odor was caused by bat guano – a slime made up of excrement and urine – that had built up between the siding and the walls. And, the contractor told them, cleanup would be expensive and might not remove the stench.”
When they filed a claim with their insurer, Auto-Owners, they were promptly denied. An exclusion in their policy let the company off the hook for damage caused by vermin, maintenance issues and pollution.
They took their claim to court, seeking more than $300,000 in damages – they had to tear the place down and rebuild – but it was no use. Wisconsin’s State Supreme Court ruled Auto-Owners was within their rights to deny the claim. Bat poop apparently didn’t fit under the pollution umbrella.
Don’t wind up in their shoes
It’s easy enough to spot infestations when you live in a space year-round, but in this couple’s case they were dealing with a home they probably saw a few times a year at most. In the months after they put the home up for sale, having someone drop by to inspect the place every couple of weeks might have been a simple solution.
In the interest of taking preventative measures, it’s important to realise insurers are coming up with all kinds of creative ways to dodge claims these days. That means it’s up to homeowners to sniff out the loopholes before they sign any agreements.
“Make sure to sit down with your insurance agent and determine what you need to be adequately covered,” says Zillow.com’s Leonard Baron. “Look into umbrella policies as well as earthquake, interior condominium HO-6 policies and any other coverage you need. Pick your real estate agent‘s brain so you have the proper coverage for your risks.”
Unfortunately, pest infestations are one area most insurers won’t cover, which is why having your home inspected before buying is one of the most crucial steps you can take.
For DIY steps you can take to keep your home pest-free throughout the year, see these tips from the National Pest Management Association.