If you've ever had mice or other pests in your home, you'll know the extent of damage and mess they can cause. Not only are chewed wires and pipes an expense to replace, they can pose a serious threat of fire or explosions.
So, will your home insurance pay out if vermin wreak havoc in your house?
I'm still scarred from a mice infestation in my London flat about five years ago. A genuine phobia of the furry little creatures was worsened by the fact that the landlord refused to accept responsibility, forcing my housemates and I to pocket the huge bill for numerous attempts at getting rid of them.
We didn't think to look to our home insurance policy – yet recent research by the Financial Mail found cover varies considerably when it comes to pests in the home.
Steve Foulsham of the British Insurance Brokers' Association says: "The vast majority of household policies exclude damage by vermin, including rats, mice, squirrels and foxes. Pet damage is also usually excluded."
The Financial Mail reports that according to insurer LV=, birds or squirrels falling down the chimney are the most common problems but claims related to wild animals average only 50 a year. It says bamage would be covered, but only if the policyholder had opted to include "accidental damage."
Aviva operates similar rules. It will pay out for damage caused by wild animals provided, as with LV=, the policyholder has full accidental damage cover as part of the buildings and/or contents insurance.
But Gareth McChesney of Allianz Retail says: "Our household product does not cover loss or damage caused by insects, woodworm or vermin." Co-operative Insurance operates a similar exclusion where damage inflicted by vermin, including rats, mice, squirrels and foxes, is not covered. The exclusion refers to "animals that are destructive in their natural behaviour, or considered pests or nuisances".
The rules become more complex with a number of other insurers. For example, at More Than, with home contents policy you cannot claim for damage caused by small animals such as rats, mice, squirrels or pigeons, but you would be covered for accidental damage by other wild animals such as foxes or badgers.
Home contents and buildings policies with Churchill and Direct Line exclude damage caused by vermin – defined as any wild mammals or birds believed to be harmful to crops, farm animals or game, or that carry disease, such as foxes, rodents and insect pests. But the insurers would provide cover if a stray domestic animal, such as a cat or dog, damaged your home.