RISE of the squirrels running riot in roofs and causing £30,000 of damage
So will your home cover pay out if rodents strike?
GREY squirrels have long been regarded as a pest in Britain, largely due to the threat they pose to the native red squirrel.
But now insurers and pest control experts are warning of another danger grey squirrels bring . . . thousands of pounds worth of damage to homes.
One pest control expert says this winter has been the busiest he has seen for grey squirrel infestations. Previously a much smaller problem, his team are now attending call-outs nearly every day.
And claims for squirrel damage doubled last year at one insurer, leaving homeowners with eyewatering bills of up to £30,000.
According to LV=, one of the nation’s largest insurers, there was a 51 pc surge in squirrel claims between 2021 and last year. This year, there have already been 13 claims for squirrel damage.
Although small in size, the rodents can cause substantial damage if they nest in lofts.
This includes gnawing through wooden support beams, which can cause a roof to collapse, chewing through cables and destroying guttering — all can cost thousands of pounds to repair.
One of the most extreme examples LV= saw last year involved a £30,000 claim after a homeowner in Orpington, in the London borough of Bromley, had a squirrel gnaw through their master bedroom ceiling.
The squirrel entered the loft space via a hole in the roof at the back of the property and chewed through the ceiling, which was covered in an Artex casing that contained asbestos.
THE damage to the home was so extensive the family was forced to move into alternative accommodation while the repairs were conducted, which took more than eight months.
In another case, a customer made a claim for £2,600 after a squirrel chewed through the wiring of 17 solar panels and they all stopped working.
Daniel Golding, of Area Pest Control, says: ‘This has been our busiest January and February ever for squirrel infestations.
‘We think it’s because of an increase in new homes being built, which is displacing rodents. Weather patterns are also changing, with seasons crossing over, and rodents are adapting and changing their natural habits.’
The company now typically receives up to five calls about squirrels a week — far higher than a few years ago.
Mr Golding warns: ‘Squirrels are mainly a problem between October and March. They can cause huge amounts of damage to a property if they chew through wires as this can lead to a house fire, or get into a water tank and flood the property.’
Martin Milliner, claims director at LV=, says: ‘With an increase in the frequency and severity of storms, there is a higher chance of squirrel infestations in loft spaces, where animals can get in because of dislodged roof tiles.’ The typical squirrel damage insurance payout is £3,000, according to LV=, but homeowners can face five-figure bills if the building’s structure is damaged.
Insurers will usually only pay out for damage caused by rodents and vermin if the situation provides an ‘unforeseen risk’.
This is because most insurers expect you to keep on top of any routine home maintenance and ensure it is in good condition. They are also unlikely to cover the cost of an exterminator, unless you have a specific pest cover addon. There are several types of policy add- ons, including home emergency cover, which usually costs an extra £40 a year.
But only one in five buildings insurance policies include home emergency cover as standard, says comparison website Go Compare. The cover can be added for an additional cost to 53 pc of policies.
Claiming for damage on your home insurance is likely to affect your premiums when you come to renew, depending on your policy.
While homeowners are used to making checks around their property in order to prevent burglaries, keeping a regular eye on the roof area to protect against pests is just as important.
‘Making sure you check for any gaps which could let squirrels enter the home would help prevent the majority of damage we see,’ adds LV=’s Mr Milliner.
Holes in your vents or damage to your insulation are clear signs you have squirrels in your home, the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) says.
You may also hear scratching or rustling sounds in your loft or wall cavities, especially around four or five hours before daybreak.
If you suspect there are squirrels in your loft, then the BPCA recommends contacting a pest controller immediately. Squirrels should not be left to nest.
Prices vary between £90 and £300 depending on the treatment and number of visits needed.
Strong wire mesh is the best way to keep squirrels out of your attic. It costs from £20 per metre from garden centres and hardware stores. Fill any holes during the mid-morning or midafternoon as this is when squirrels typically go foraging. Metal plates may further help to reinforce your defences and cost around £25 online.
you should also repair eaves and holes in the roof to stop squirrels entering your property and cut back any branches that overhang your roof, the RSPCA advises.
It’s better to contact a licensed pest controller than to attempt to catch a squirrel yourself as it’s against the law to keep an animal in a trap without food and water.
To find a BPCA licensed pest controller visit bpca.org.uk/find.