Family says squirrel did thousands in damage to home, insurance denied claims

ATLANTA — A Buckhead family is warning other homeowners to check their insurance policies after a squirrel did thousands of dollars in damage to their home and their insurance company denied their claims.

Kari Drees told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik she and her family were out of town for the holidays when they received notifications their alarm had gone off.

“We had a friend come check it out and our doors and windows were intact so we just thought it was a software issue,” she said.

Drees said when they arrived home, they found the place in disarray.

“We saw wood chippings from the door all over the floor, and as we further inspected it, all the windows had been damaged,” she said.

Eventually, they found a squirrel nesting in their living room couch. They believe it had come down through the chimney and into the house through the fireplace.

“It seems like he was trying to make his way out of the house,” she said. “So, he started chewing every window, every door just trying to get out.”

Drees said she made a claim with her insurance carrier, Mercury Insurance, and an adjuster initially told them they’d seen this kind of damage before and would cover it, but after he inspected the house, she was shocked to find out they wouldn’t be covering it, citing an exclusion for “rodent” or “vermin” damage.

“They said if it was a raccoon it would have been covered, but since we saw a squirrel, droppings, that they won’t cover it,” she said.

Petchenik contacted Mercury Insurance, and got this statement:

“When Mercury Insurance received the claim on January 1st (last Wednesday), we sent an adjuster to the property and learned that -- in fact -- a squirrel had found its way into their home. This was confirmed by the ‘critter catcher’ company that removed the squirrel. Unfortunately, damage done to a property by birds, vermin, rodents and insects is not covered. This is explicitly stated in the contract and all insurance companies we know of have similar exclusions. That said, Mercury Insurance is sensitive to the situation and has offered to pay for safe housing (up to two weeks) while their home is professionally cleaned.”

Drees said what happened was not an infestation or maintenance issue.

“You would think insurance would cover you for something like this,” she said. “Insurance is supposed to provide a sense of security and it’s turning into it’s not providing that sense of security.”