Bed bugs are a particularly invasive pest. They can, and will, turn up just about anywhere. Apartment buildings are especially prone to infestation. With multiple families living in close proximity, each with their own habits and exposure rates, it’s easy to see how a colony of bed bugs could gain a foot hold in the building. And when one apartment becomes infested it doesn’t take long for these blood-sucking pests to spread throughout the entire complex.
Many landlords expect their tenants to carry renters insurance. Some even require proof of insurance before they’ll agree to a lease. But does your renters insurance cover bed bug infestations? And if not who’s on the hook for dealing with, and paying the costs of, a large scale bed bug infestation?
Does Renters Insurance Cover Bed Bugs?
The short answer is – “no”. In most cases renters insurance will not cover a bed bug infestation. That’s because standard issue insurance policies are only designed to cover emergencies. As a general rule these are confined to theft, fire, flood, and damage from tornadoes or hurricanes. Basically, what an insurance underwriter would term an ‘act of God’.
While you and I may well consider a bed bug invasion an emergency the majority of insurance companies look at it as a maintenance issue. As such they won’t cover any costs associated with the actual infestation or its ramifications. That includes but is not limited to:
The costs of professional pest control treatments
The costs of cleaning or replacing infested furnishings
The costs of relocating while your apartment is being treated
Costs of medical treatment for bed bug bites
Insurance Options for Renters
While most insurance policies won’t include coverage for bed bug infestations that doesn’t mean that renters are entirely out of luck. A growing number of companies are now offering additional coverage options for their customers. These ‘riders’, or ‘endorsements’, are available as add-ons to your standard renters policy and provide much needed financial support in the event of a large scale infestation.
Bed bug endorsements aren’t standard operating procedure for insurance companies, and you may need to shop around before you find a firm offering the service. But in the event of a large scale infestation a bed bug rider can provide some much needed financial assistance right when you need it. In general, a bed bug endorsement will pay to:
Treat the bed bug infestation at your residence
Dispose of infested property
Clean and sanitize your residence
Clean or replace infested furnishings
Some policies even provide funds to rehouse you while your primary residence is being treated for bed bugs.
Landlords, Bed Bugs and Insurance Coverage
If you currently have renters insurance it’s a good idea to check your policy to confirm that it does indeed cover bed bugs. If not you may wish to consider contacting your insurance agent to see if an endorsement is available to add bed bug coverage to the policy. If you can’t secure coverage on your current renters policy you may still have some protection.
In some states landlords hold some measure of responsibility for the elimination of bed bug in their rental units. The level of responsibility varies greatly according to state. Under most circumstances your landlord is NOT responsible for bed bugs when they are only found in a single unit. This is because tenants are generally responsible for maintenance of their units and that typically includes pest control. If the infestation has spread throughout the apartment complex the building’s owner or management firm is usually responsible for treatment.
A few states place the responsibility for bed bug control entirely on the building’s owners and landlords. For example in Florida, New York and Maine landlords are required to exterminate bed bugs within 30 days of being notified by their tenants. Failure to do so can result in legal action being taken by the state. Landlords in these states are also required to disclose a property’s bed bug history to all potential new tenants. Again, failure to comply will lead to sizable fines being levied against the property owners and their management team.
Take Steps to Protect Yourself from Bed Bug Infestations
Bed bug infestations are on the rise throughout the country. Whether you rent an apartment or own your own home it is important to take steps to protect yourself from these invasive pests. Learn to recognize the signs of a bed bug infestation and consider scheduling regular inspections of your home to prevent the possibility of a full-scale invasion. The steps you take today can help you avoid a costly pest control nightmare in the future.
Published by Scott Palatnik
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