When the unexpected happens to your house, you turn to your home insurance company to help with the costs of repairing the damage. But what if an animal’s destructive behavior is the cause of your claim? Find out how a quirky claim may play out.

It depends on the animal

From a deer breaking into a home on the hunt for food to your cat knocking over a candle and starting a fire in your home, animal-related claims present unique considerations. Depending on the situation, your insurance company may or may not cover the cost of repairs.

For instance, if your loss is due to a pest control issue, like damage from a rodent or insect infestation, the claim will not be covered. This is because standard homeowners insurance policy language specifically excludes insects and rodents. But, say a deer were to jump through your home’s picture window, the cost of repairs would be covered.

It depends on the damage

Let’s take a closer look at which types of damage caused by animals might be covered by your insurance. To start, a standard homeowners insurance policy has different guidelines for coverage to the structure (your home) and your personal property. The home is covered under what is referred to as “open perils,” or causes of loss. This means that if the cause of loss is not specifically excluded in the policy, you should have coverage for it.1 Your personal property coverage uses 16 “named perils” to verify if coverage exists. A peril is a specific risk or cause of loss covered by your homeowners insurance policy, such as water damage, fire or theft. If your personal property is damaged by something outside of those 16 perils, there may not be coverage.

This means if the deer that jumped through your window caused damage to your home, such as scratches to your hardwood floor, a standard home insurance policy would cover the damage to your window and flooring. However, if the deer also damaged your furniture and ate your food, these items would not be covered, as damage caused by animals is not one of the 16 named perils.

“A policy with broader coverage, such as our Platinum Policy, could provide coverage for your contents in this situation,” says Nick Macera, a senior claims examiner at Amica. That’s because it provides “open perils” coverage for your personal property in addition to your home.2

Now let’s look at damage caused by a pet. Let’s say your cat accidentally knocked over a burning candle that started a fire in your home. While most homeowners policies exclude coverage for damage to your home caused by owned pets, the ensuing fire damage to the home would be covered. Regarding the fire damage to your personal property, since fire is one of the 16 named perils, coverage would apply.

Filing a claim

If you find yourself dealing with one of these unpredictable situations, make sure you report the incident as soon as possible and document any relevant details. It can be helpful to snap some photos of the damage, if it is safe to do so. To aid in resolving your claim, “a claims adjuster will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the loss,” says Macera.

Most homeowner policies have conditions requiring homeowners to protect their property from additional damage. In an event like a deer breaking through your window, you should cover the window with a tarp or plywood to prevent the elements or strangers from entering and causing more damage. Of course, that’s only temporary.

When it comes to quirky claims, coverage may vary for home and condo owners. Learn how condo insurance differs from home insurance.