Gray squirrels have long been considered 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 gray squirrels bring…thousands of pounds of damage to homes.
A pest control expert says this winter has been the busiest he’s seen for gray squirrel infestations. Previously a much smaller problem, his team now sees calls almost every day.
Threat: Insurers and pest control experts warn of growing problem of gray squirrels causing thousands of pounds of damage to homes
And claims for damage caused by squirrels have doubled in the past year with one insurer, leaving homeowners with sky-high bills of up to £30,000.
According to LV=, one of the nation’s largest insurers, there has been a 51% increase in squirrel claims between 2021 and last year. This year, there have already been 13 claims for damage caused by squirrels.
Although small in size, rodents can cause significant damage if they nest in dovecotes.
This includes chewing through wooden support beams which can cause a roof to collapse, chewing up cables and destroying gutters – all of which can cost thousands of pounds to fix.
One of the most extreme examples LV= saw last year involved a £30,000 claim after a landlord in Orpington, London’s Bromley, had a squirrel chew through his master bedroom ceiling .
The squirrel entered the attic through a hole in the roof at the rear of the property and chewed through the ceiling, which was covered in an Artex casing containing asbestos.
The damage to the house was so extensive that the family was forced to move to another accommodation while repairs were carried out, which took more than eight months.
In another case, a customer claimed £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: “It was our busiest January and February ever for squirrel infestations.
“We believe this is due to an increase in the number of new homes being built, which displaces rodents. Weather conditions also change, the seasons intersect, and rodents adapt and alter their natural habits.
Today, the company typically receives up to five calls about squirrels per week, significantly more than a few years ago.
Mr Golding warns: ‘Squirrels are mainly a problem between October and March. They can cause tremendous damage to a property if they chew through wires, as this can start a fire, or enter a water tank and flood the property.
Martin Milliner, Claims Manager at LV=, says: “With an increase in the frequency and severity of storms, there is a greater chance of squirrel infestations in attics, where animals can enter due to storms. dislodged tiles.”
Damage: In one case, a customer has made a £2,600 claim after a squirrel chewed through the wiring to 17 solar panels and they all stopped working (file photo)
According to LV=, the typical payout for squirrel damage insurance is £3,000, but homeowners can face five-figure bills if the building structure is damaged.
Insurers will generally only pay for damage caused by rodents and vermin if the situation presents an “unforeseen risk”.
Indeed, most insurers expect you to oversee the day-to-day maintenance of your home and ensure that it is in good repair.
They are also unlikely to cover the cost of an exterminator unless you have a specific pest cover top-up. There are several types of policy top-ups, including home emergency cover, which usually costs £40 more per year.
But only one in five building insurance policies include emergency home cover as standard, according to comparison site Go Compare. Coverage can be added for an additional cost at 53 pc of policies.
Claiming damage on your home insurance is likely to affect your premiums at renewal time, depending on your policy.
While homeowners are used to doing checks around their property to prevent burglaries, it is equally important to regularly monitor the roof area to protect against pests.
“Making sure you checked all the spaces that could let squirrels into the house would help prevent the majority of the damage we see,” adds LV=’s Milliner.
According to the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), holes in your vents or damage to your insulation are clear signs that you have squirrels in your home.
You may also hear scratching or rustling noises in your attic or wall cavities, especially around four or five hours before dawn.
If you suspect there are squirrels in your loft, the BPCA recommends contacting a pest controller immediately. Squirrels should not be allowed to nest.
Prices vary between £90 and £300 depending on the treatment and the number of visits required.
A sturdy wire mesh is the best way to keep squirrels away from your attic. It costs from £20 per meter in garden centers and hardware stores.
Fill in all the holes in the middle of the morning or mid-afternoon, because that’s when squirrels usually go to feed. Metal plates can additionally help bolster your defenses and cost around £25 online.
You should also repair eaves and holes in the roof to prevent squirrels from entering your property and cut off any branches that overhang your roof, advises the RSPCA.
It is best to contact a licensed pest controller rather than trying to catch a squirrel yourself, as it is illegal to keep an animal in a trap without food or water.
To find a BPCA licensed pest controller, visit bpca.org.uk/find.
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