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Is that right? Bed bug fixes not covered by insurance?

When I blogged last Friday about bed bug infestations and how hard it is to safely combat the little critters, a reader offered this comment (to read it in full, click the link to the blog and scroll down to the fifth comment):

Did you know that bed bug infestations are NOT covered by ANY property insurance; Renters, Homeowners, etc. The cost of treating bed bugs and the resulting loss of furnishings, clothing, rugs, etc., plus hotel time, is akin to a fire. Renters, who are much more at risk and have much higher incidence of bed bugs, are generally least able to properly afford extermination and replacement of item, thus, their apartments are not properly cleaned thus causing more infestations throughout the properties.

I beg each and every reader here to contact your state senate rep and state delegate, asking them to pressure the State Bureau of Insurance to require Insurers practicing in the state to offer a bed bug supplemental for renters as well as homeowners.

I thought that bore checking out.

But someone beat me to the punch. Consumer Reports devoted a September 8 blog entry to this matter. In short, CR confirmed that homeowners policies do not typically cover such situations as bed-bug infestations or the often expensive cleanup they require. The blog conveniently included a link to the Insurance Information Institute's explanation of what homeowners' insurance does cover.

I followed up with the Institute; Vice President Loretta Worters told me that bed bug infestations, whether they occur in homes, rentals or businesses, are -- like infestations of roaches or vermin -- considered matters of maintenance and are thus not covered by insurance. She knows of no insurance companies that are considering offering supplemental policies to cover bed bugs, either. (She reported this in all good cheer, even as she told me that her own apartment had been infested by bed bugs and that it was "very costly" to get rid of them.) But she did send me links suggesting that legislation requiring insurers to cover bed-bug infestations could be in the offing; there's a bill before the New York state assembly calling for a tax reimbursement to cover property damage inflicted by bed bugs.

New York City recently passed a new law requiring landlords to tell potential tenants whether there have been bed-bug infestations in their building during the past year.

What do you make of all this? Should bed-bug-related costs be covered by insurance? Or should folks just bite the bullet when it comes to bed-bug damage?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  September 10, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right?  
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Of course bed bug elimination should not be covered by home insurance. There are an enormous number of very costly home issues that are not covered by insurance. Home insurance is basically to cover a catastrophic loss. Unless someone has some sort of full coverage home insurance (does that even exist?) that would pay for every repair/replacement/extermination, they should expect to pay for all those expenses. It is one of the costs of being a homeowner.

As for renters, they should NOT be responsible for extermination costs. It should be the responsibility of the property owner. Landlords can be cited by the Board of Health for not adequately addressing any sort of infestation.

Posted by: SweetieJ | September 10, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

As a landlord, I expect the renters to cover the costs of extermination since I provide a bug-free home (and they acknowledge it in our lease).

Posted by: lrw2a | September 10, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I've had a few of problems with my home over the years, all of which were very, very expensive to fix. Although I had a comprehensive homeowners policy, not one of those problems were reimbursable by insurance. So why would I expect bed bugs or other vermin to be covered? Insurance companies like to take your money but they never pay out. Insurance companies are no different than mortgage companies, big banks and yes even your friendly IRS. They all take but never give.

Posted by: georgettec28 | September 10, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Come on georgettec28! Get you facts straight. Insurers "never pay out?" Ask the fire victim or the tornado victim. Insurers paid out many tens of billions of dollars in claims related to Hurricane Katrina alone. Insurers pay out every single day, they make risk manageable and that encourages all sorts of activity like the jobs people have or the homes or apartments they live in. Get your facts straight.

And as for the main point, of course people say bed bugs should be covered ... people with bed bugs who face the expense of clean up. I'm sympathetic because its expensive, but the real question is whether bed bug clean up is covered by the policy language, which is a contract. Your premiums are based on what is covered. So, running off to the legislature or regulators with demands to cover bed bugs may be fine but everyone will bear that burden down the road if the law changes the policy language.

Posted by: lovinliberty | September 10, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I had bed bugs and paid to rid my home of them. Also, the treatment required that a great number of household items be replaced.

I travel a great deal and only stay in the best places. But as I learned, bed bugs stay at the best places as well.

Getting bed bugs is like getting the flu, it can happen to any of us. If we can buy health insurance for our pets, we should have the option to buy bed bug insurance. I think it may be a money maker to insurance companies.

Posted by: diahann1 | September 10, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Occurs too frequently to be insured. Fire and wind damage occur infrequently, so these can be insured against.

A federal response is needed when the consumer market and insurance markets fail.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 10, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I agree with diahann1 - insurance companies should consider selling "Bed Bug Riders" to homeowner's policies!

Posted by: kbockl | September 10, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

It is highly likely that the recent invasion of bedbugs was caused by biological terrorism. With no way of extermination there will be thousands of bedbugs in every mattress. Rather than spend endless nights of being bitten up, millions will commit suicide. The only survivors will be those that require no sleep.

Posted by: morristhewise | September 12, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

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