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Rising threat of pest damage to UK housing stock

Tuesday 28th February 2012

Britain's pest population is growing, according to research from LV= home insurance.

Two-thirds (65%) of pest controllers say the number of pests in UK homes has increased in the past year and report a surge in rats, mice, squirrels and bed bugs.

Pest controllers put this down to a combination of warmer, modern houses attracting rodents and poorer street hygiene since domestic rubbish collections have been reduced. The average British household now has the heating on their homes for close to half (5.8 months) of the year and rodents such as rats, mice and squirrels have sought shelter in houses from the recent harsh winters, which has led to a rise in rodent infestations in our homes.

Poor street hygiene has exacerbated the problem with over a quarter (27%) of households saying they have seen more rats and foxes in the past five years, during which time weekly bin collections have been withdrawn and food waste recycling has been introduced. This, along with the reduction and removal of free pest control services by cash-strapped councils has fuelled a pest pandemic in British homes.

Yet these pests are not only unpleasant and unsanitary, they are also damaging our homes. Among all households one in five (21%) has been damaged by rodents or other pests, which has cost more than £500million to put right.

In the past 12 months, the most common forms of damage have been caused by vermin chewing through cables (94%) or damaging insulation in the attic (93%), according to pest controllers.

Other common damage includes pests eating clothes or carpets (89%), gnawing pipes (77%) and damaging furniture (63%). Over half (53%) of pest controllers have even seen cases where pests have caused structural damage to the home.

In some of the worst occurrences one pest controller counted 220 rats in one property and another saw 500 mice in one house. One pest controller saw a bee infestation in which a nest blocked a chimney, causing it to fill up with gas, which later exploded causing significant structural damage to the home. One in ten (9%) pest controllers say they have dealt with properties damaged by fire caused by a rodent chewing through cables and according to LV= claims data, there have even been incidents where whole houses have been destroyed as a result.

Across the country, nearly three-quarters (73%) Brits say they have experienced pests such as ants, wasps, mice, rats, squirrels and moths living in their properties. The most noticeable increase in vermin sightings has been in urban areas. Pest controllers say that any home can fall victim to rodents and pests regardless of the type of property or the area that it is in. Older properties are more accessible to pests due to the increased likelihood of cracks in ceilings, outer walls, roofs and basements but no home is completely impenetrable.

Some home insurance policies exclude damage caused by vermin, leaving those who fall victim to pest damage without cover but LV= home insurance includes cover for damage caused by rats, mice and squirrels, within its optional accidental damage cover. LV= has also launched a new optional home emergency addition for its home insurance customers, which includes the cost of dealing with an infestation of rats, mice, squirrels, bees, wasps and hornets in the home up to £500.

John O'Roarke, Managing Director of LV= home insurance, said: "Pests are small but powerful and can wreak havoc in the home, from bees blocking chimneys and rodents chewing cables, which can destroy whole houses. The dangers of ignoring a pest problem can be devastating and those who find unwanted guests in their home should call in the experts before it is too late."

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Mike Jones

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