Does your homeowners policy cover rodent damage?
Finding out you have rats or mice in your home can be a shock, but they're among the most common type of rodents you'll hear running around in the walls. Some home insurance policies will offer help in finding an exterminator if you discover you have unwanted guests, but you can also do a lot to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Home insurance may not cover damage caused by rats and mice, though, so it's worth taking steps to make sure they don't take hold. Here's some basics to get you started?
Block access. Mice and rats can fit through surprisingly small gaps, so make sure you don't leave them any entry points. Check for cracks around pipes and make sure all doors and windows fit securely.
Fill holes. If you do find any odd holes that could provide a way in for vermin, fill them with wire wool and expanding foam, which you'll find at a DIY shop. Also ask about guards for your drainpipes to stop rats climbing up.
Don't feed them. Store food in airtight containers and never leave crumbs or scraps out as they make tempting bait. Surprisingly, chocolate is popular with mice, so don't leave anything sweet out.
Watch your hygiene. Remove rubbish at the end of each day, and take it out to a bin well away from the house. Don't leave food debris around the garden, and avoid composting fish, meat, or bread as they attract vermin. Wipe up any spills, clean under your worktops, and don't leave crumbs on the floor.
Keep an eye out for signs that rodents are present. No one wants to think about rats and mice wandering around the house, but it's important that you watch out for signs that they've visited. Any new holes should be investigated, along with damage to skirting boards and carpets that may be caused by gnawing. You might also hear footprints, find droppings, or even see the vermin themselves, particularly late at night.
DIY treatments. If you suspect you have vermin, block nearby holes with newspaper and then check 24 hours later to see if it's been disturbed. Use traps or poison - which should be kept out of the reach of children or family pets - to control the problem.
Call in the professionals. Contact your local council's environmental health department, or call out an exterminator who can assess the problem and then lay humane traps. If left untreated, rats and mice can spread disease and cause damage to your property, so it's important that you act quickly.
Check your policy for specifics. When in doubt, call your insurance agent to discuss potential issues that may come up when seeking coverage due to rodent damage.