Dry rot is not usually covered by standard home insurance policies. However, there are some exceptions, such as if the rot is caused by a specific incident, like a leak, that’s covered by the policy.
Homeowner’s insurance companies consider dry rot to be a preventable issue because it’s generally caused by humidity and poor ventilation. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover maintenance issues.
Epoxy resin can be used to fix small spots of rot. This can be done if the wood is still physically sound and the source of the water has been shut off. A fungicide called borate can then be used to stop the fungus from growing and protect the wood from more damage.
What is Dry Rot and What are the Signs?
Causes of Dry Rot
Dry rot is caused by a type of fungus called Serpula lacrymans, which can grow in damp and poorly ventilated areas of your home. The fungus produces enzymes that break down the cellulose and lignin in wood, making it brittle and crumbly. Dry rot can affect any wooden structure or item in your home, such as floorboards, joists, beams, furniture, doors, and windows. Dry rot can also spread to other materials, such as plaster, carpet, and insulation, and can even penetrate through masonry and concrete.
Some of the common causes of dry rot are:
- Leaking pipes, roofs, gutters, or appliances
- Condensation from poor ventilation or insulation
- Rising damp from the ground or walls
- Flooding or water damage
- Lack of maintenance or repair
How to Spot Dry Rot?
Dry rot can be hard to detect, as it often develops in hidden or inaccessible areas of your home. However, there are some signs that you can look for, such as:
- A musty or fungal smell
- White or grey cotton-like growths on wood or walls
- Cracked or peeling paint or wallpaper
- Brown or red spore dust
- Wood that is darkened, shrunken, or cracked
- Wood that is soft, spongy, or crumbly when touched
- Wood that sounds hollow when tapped
- Fruiting bodies that look like mushrooms or brackets
If you notice any of these signs, you should contact a professional contractor or surveyor to inspect your home and confirm the presence and extent of dry rot. They can also advise you on the best way to treat and repair the damage.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dry Rot?
Exceptions and Special Cases
As mentioned earlier, most standard home insurance policies do not cover dry rot, as it is seen as a preventable and gradual deterioration of your home. However, there are some exceptions and special cases where you may be able to get some coverage for dry rot damage, such as:
- If the dry rot was caused by a sudden and accidental event that is covered by your policy, such as a burst pipe, a storm, or a fire. In this case, you may be able to claim for the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged items or structures, as well as the cost of removing the fungus and preventing further spread. However, you will need to prove that the dry rot was directly and solely caused by the covered event, and that you took reasonable steps to mitigate the damage and report the claim as soon as possible.
- If you have a specific endorsement or rider that covers dry rot in your policy. Some insurers may offer this as an optional or additional coverage that you can purchase for an extra premium. However, this may come with certain limitations, exclusions, or conditions, such as a lower coverage limit, a higher deductible, or a requirement to perform regular inspections and maintenance of your home. You should read your policy carefully and consult your agent or insurer to understand the scope and terms of your dry rot coverage.
Coverage for Structural Damage
Even if you have some coverage for dry rot damage, you should be aware that most home insurance policies only cover the actual cash value of your property, which is the replacement cost minus depreciation. This means that you may not get enough money to fully restore your home to its original condition, especially if the dry rot has affected the structural elements of your home, such as the foundation, walls, or roof. These elements may have a higher depreciation rate, or may not be covered at all by your policy. You may need to pay out of pocket for the difference between the actual cash value and the replacement cost, or for the cost of upgrading your home to meet the current building codes and standards.
How to Handle a Home Insurance Claim for Dry Rot?
Steps to Take
If you have dry rot damage in your home and you want to file a home insurance claim, you should follow these steps:
- Contact your insurer as soon as possible and report the claim. Provide them with the details of the damage, the cause, and the estimated cost of repair. Ask them about your coverage, your deductible, and the claim process.
- Document the damage with photos, videos, receipts, invoices, and any other evidence that can support your claim. Keep copies of all the communication and correspondence with your insurer and the contractors.
- Hire a licensed and reputable contractor or surveyor to inspect your home and provide you with a written estimate of the repair work. You may need to get multiple estimates and compare them. You may also need to get approval from your insurer before you start the repair work.
- Cooperate with your insurer and their adjuster, who will visit your home and assess the damage. They may ask you questions, request documents, or perform tests to verify the cause and extent of the damage. They may also offer you a settlement amount based on their evaluation. You can accept or reject their offer, or negotiate for a higher amount if you think it is unfair or insufficient.
- Complete the repair work and pay the contractor. You may need to pay the deductible and any other expenses that are not covered by your policy. You may also need to submit the final invoices and proof of payment to your insurer to receive the reimbursement.
Dealing with Denial
If your insurer denies your claim for dry rot damage, you should not give up. You can try to appeal their decision by:
- Reviewing your policy and the denial letter. Check if there are any errors, misunderstandings, or inconsistencies in your policy or the insurer’s reasoning. Look for any clauses or provisions that may support your claim or challenge the insurer’s grounds for denial.
- Contact your insurer and ask for an explanation. Explain why you think your claim should be covered and provide them with any additional evidence or information that can support your case. Ask them to reconsider their decision or to escalate your claim to a higher authority.
- Hiring a public adjuster or a lawyer. If you cannot resolve the dispute with your insurer, you may need to seek professional help. A public adjuster or a lawyer can represent you and negotiate with your insurer on your behalf. They can also advise you on your legal rights and options, and help you file a complaint or a lawsuit against your insurer if necessary.