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Renters insurance generally does not cover bed bugs. Deterring and eliminating pests, such as bed bugs, is considered part of the standard maintenance of a home and the responsibility of a tenant. There are exceptions to this rule, depending on where you live and whether the source of the bed bugs can be determined, but you should be prepared to take financial responsibility for the infestation. Continue reading for some useful information and tips about bed bugs and renters insurance.
Are bed bugs covered by renters insurance?
No, with limited exceptions bed bugs are not covered by renters insurance. Policyholders cannot file a claim to cover the cost to exterminate bed bugs or damage caused by the insects, such as replacements of mattresses or other belongings.
Your renters insurance also won't cover any co-pays for visits to the doctor's office to diagnose the bug bites or medicine to treat any irritation or reaction to them. You'll have to use your health insurance for that.
Like other pests, prevention of bed bug infestation is considered part of the routine maintenance of a home for which tenants are responsible. Renters insurance, conversely, is primarily intended to cover losses stemming from events that are sudden and unexpected. Further, landlord and management companies are usually not responsible for bed bugs discovered in individual rental units. This leaves you to foot the bill for bagging your items and containing the spread of the bed bugs, getting a new mattress, and even staying elsewhere while your apartment is treated for the infestation.
Although major insurers, such as Allstate and State Farm, do not cover damage caused by bed bugs, some lesser known insurers may offer some form of coverage. For instance, Jetty, an insurance startup, offers renters insurance policies that include $300 of bed bug protection. This means that if a pest control professional confirms you have bed bugs, Jetty will cut you a check for $300.
How to identify and get rid of bed bugs
Given that renters insurance doesn't cover bed bugs, identifying their presence early is the best way to prevent an infestation from spreading and causing further damage. Generally, bed bugs are brown, flat, oval-shaped insects about the size of an apple seed. Adults have wings, but the bugs cannot fly or jump like fleas. They feed on blood and are found in cool conditions — usually in mattress seams, sheets and other areas near human hosts. They also leave behind shedded skins as they grow and small, dark excrement stains.
Bed bug bites are another sign of the pests, but the small, red welts can easily be misidentified, so it’s important to find other indicators. Anyone who sees a cluster of possible bites should inspect their bedding and look for other signs of bed bugs.
If you have bed bugs, you may need to contact an exterminator, but there are a number of steps you can take to eradicate the pests.
Bed bug removal checklist
- Vacuum to clean up the initial infestation. Just note that vacuuming alone is not enough to remove bed bugs.
- Clean your belongings with hot water. Bed bugs can't survive above 113 degrees Fahrenheit, so you should treat your infected items with your washer and dryer. You should take special care to do this with bedding, as bed bug infestations tend to gather around mattresses.
- Spray materials with insecticides that are safe for indoor use.
- Use tools called interceptors to stop bed bugs from climbing furniture.
- Inspect your home for any remaining bed bugs or eggs.
Do it yourself methods for bed bug removal are not guaranteed to work, as a bed bug infestation can be particularly intractable. If it's within your budget or if you have an extreme infestation, you should contact a professional exterminator.
Renters insurance and other pests
All of the above regarding bed bugs and renters insurance policies applies to other pests, too. Preventing rats, cockroaches and other critters from damaging a rental property also falls under standard home maintenance and is thus considered the responsibility of a property’s tenant by renters insurance companies.
When might a landlord be at fault for bed bugs?
Although unlikely, it is possible that your landlord or property management company could be at fault for bed bugs. This means that your landlord could ultimately be held responsible for the cost of the damage from the infestation.
But even if you've determined your landlord is at fault, you won't be able to file a renters insurance claim. Further, if your landlord refuses to cover the damages, you will likely have to pay for any related damages to your personal property and the cost of an exterminator out of pocket. If you want to be reimbursed and your landlord is uncooperative, you ultimately might have to file a lawsuit against the landlord or property management company.
However, the above circumstance is unlikely, as it is in the interest of landlords or management companies to address all issues with properties that they might be responsible for. If bed bugs infest a common area of an apartment building and they don't do anything about it, it would become increasingly difficult for them to attract new tenants.
Where landlords are responsible: Florida, Maine and select cities
Florida and Maine are the only two states that mandate landlords to exterminate bed bugs in a tenant’s residence when they are made aware of them. In these states, if a landlord neglects to exterminate bed bugs, that might be grounds for a tenant to withhold the rent they owe, break their lease or sue the landlord for damages. In all other states, landlords and management companies are not legally responsible for getting rid of the pests.
If you live in a city, you should research whether there are local laws mandating your landlord to take responsibility for a bed bug infestation. For example, in New York City, landlords are required to eradicate a bed bug infestation within 30 days.
Bed bugs and home-sharing services
Renters insurance protects the personal property of tenants who use home-sharing services, such as Airbnb. Those services have their own insurance policies, too.
However, neither renters insurance policies nor any coverage provided by home-sharing insurance policies covers bed bugs. For example, if you temporarily lease your apartment to a guest using Airbnb and bed bugs bite them or destroy their personal property, neither your renters insurance nor Airbnb host protection insurance will cover any expenses related to the event.