Does insurance cover the costs of bat removal?
What this article covers…
- Before you contact your agent about your bat problem
- Understanding your policy as it relates to gauno, removal of bats & exclusion
- Helping your agent understand what it means to have bats and not rodents or vermin
- When not to file a claim if you have bats
- What if your claim gets rejected?
If you’re wondering what is covered by your policy regarding bats, bat removal, and the cost of the cleanup you may be surprised at what is and what is not covered. In fact, even your agent might be surprised!
There are a couple of things you will need to understand prior to even asking about your specific policy in regards to getting a claim covered or rejected. I will go over the current state of things as seen by many people around the country regarding bat removal and the associated costs and whether or not it is even worth it to file a claim. I will also go over what happens when a claim is denied, and what your next steps could be. If you have already had a claim rejected or an agent told you verbally that you do not have a valid claim or a covered loss, make sure you request their decision in writing. This is actually not the end of the road as many agents will then have to go in and state exactly why the claim was denied. This denial letter can work in your favor to get you the results you want and the claim approved.
Before contacting your agent
One of the most important aspects you need to know prior to submitting a claim is understanding what could potentially be covered and what might not be and the fact that words matter. The terminology can make or break a claim when it comes time to get an estimate. Keep in mind that an agent has a set of rules and software that helps them determine what can be covered. For instance “get rid of bats” is NOT a line item that they can easily look up in their software and include in the claim, however, any work done to “prevent further damage” can be such as the pre-sealing of the exterior to stop bats from getting in anywhere else and causing more damages. Often the adjuster will need to see some sort of loss or covered loss to even begin the claim. Many policies do not cover damages caused by “pollution” or “waste” and there have been court cases where this exact reason was used to deny coverage. Some policies are now written to specifically exclude any damages caused by wildlife in general, while others simply say they do not cover “vermin” which by definition is not related to bats or damages caused by bats. This is why reading your policy is the first thing you should do, looking for wording as it relates to a pollution clause, or specifically not covering wildlife. This is also why if your claim gets denied for “vermin” you must be sure to get the denial in writing, and yes this can work in your favor because they cannot just keep looking for reasons to deny it. Eventually, it is in their interest to just pay the claim.
Understanding your policy
Again, as I said in the last portion of this article, understanding your policy is key to deciding when to file a claim, how to word that claim, and when not to file a claim. There are certain aspects of a claim that have an excellent chance of being paid while certain parts not so much. Most often an insurance company will not pay a claim to simply get rid of bats basically just like they wouldn’t if you suddenly had an ant problem. Also the cost of getting rid of the bats themselves using a one-way door is not worth filing a claim because a one-way door is usually less than 1k. It is the additional work that must be done to make sure they simply don’t infest another area of the house that can start to cost much more, again wording is everything and you would of course need to show damages worth the costs of filing the claim in the first place. A lot of people have deductibles that make a small claim worthless, and don’t forget that for the most part if you file a claim, you will probably pay higher premiums or in the case of your first year of coverage you can be dropped. So again, and this is worth repeating look at your policy for a pollution clause and or wording that specifically excludes wildlife related issues. It is far better to call and ask if a bat problem would be covered – simply that and no more. The agent will review your policy and get back to you. Let them decide what the reason is for denial. I have seen many times that the knee-jerk reaction is that they do not cover “vermin”. This is actually great, ask the agent to put it in writing and send it to you. Once you receive it you can then start the process of fighting this with an attorney who can easily fight this and get your claim paid often with just a letter as bats are not legally “vermin”. At this point I must say that I am not an attorney but I have seen many times where this exact situation has resulted in the claim being paid without further issue. You may also find that in asking the agent to put it in writing they consult with other agents and determine that they will pay it before you even get the actual denial letter.
Insurance companies cannot deny you the same coverage they have already covered for others with the same policy. After consulting with other agents, they discover this themselves. If you are dealing with an agent who is very familiar with bat issues you may find that they already know what is covered and what isn’t in this case this agent will be very helpful and probably pay the claim or deny it for a very valid reason. I always tell people that they should have something worth actually filing a claim for in the first place, before they even think about going down this road. One thing you should be on high alert for though is someone or a company that wants to speak on your behalf to the agent, or get power of attorney or worse yet charge you a percentage of the claim if approved and you decide to do it yourself or hire someone else. I don’t see it too much anymore but it has happened! Always remember, in the end, it is you who may face higher premiums or get dropped by your carrier. File a claim when it is necessary, but do not get taken advantage of!
The biggest cost of a bat exclusion to include cleanup might be the complete removal and installation of new insulation. Bat guano and urine can cause odors and fungus to grow. Insulation replacement by insurance companies is very rarely done by spot replacement, they will often insist that all of the insulation be replaced and the whole attic cleaned and disinfected. Doing this properly can get costly, and this is the main reason most people file a claim.If your policy includes a pollution clause and your agent invokes it for denial, you might find this is all on you at this point. This is a real problem as the smell bats can leave behind along with the potential growth of fungus can make a house very difficult to sell in the future. The one thing you got going for you is that desiccation ( drying out) does occur in hot dry attics and can help with this on it’s own in helping to solve this issue. Every house varies in regards to this so yes, this is the time you want an expert to help deal with this issue!
Helping your agent understand
Always remember this is a legal argument as to whether or not a claim is paid. Letting your agent know that you have a bat problem is just the first step. Ask them if they have ever dealt with this before, get to know their experience with this. Again, I would not recommend filing a claim for a small issue. Insurance should be for covered loss, not nuisance. You might be pleasantly surprised to find they have dealt with this before and they already know whats next! I have seen many jobs where the agent just pays the claim and moves on but again keep in mind your agent can only pay a claim for a covered loss. Rental properties may have additional restrictions and coverage. Do you research after looking at your policy and then convey this to your agent.