An Atlanta family is livid after their insurance refused to cover over $15,000 of damage to their home caused by a squirrel. Kari and Dustin Drees moved into their house last month but spent Christmas in California.
When they returned home from vacation, they were shocked to find the inside of the house had been destroyed.
"When I opened the door, I saw a ton of wood chips on the ground, so I initially thought someone had broken in and had broken through the door," Dustin told NBC News. "We initially thought we had been robbed, but then we started looking around. The TV was still there. A gift card that was left out was still there. Nothing was taken. Maybe someone had broken in, and our stuff wasn't interesting to them?"
Instead, they found their home in shambles. The baseboards and window frames were chewed up, the floors were covered in scratches, the kitchen sink was running, and their brand new sofa was turned into a nest by the squirrel. As they were inspecting the damage, the animal jumped out of the couch and tried to escape through their fireplace.
The couple called a pest control service, which managed to trap the squirrel. They believe it fell through the chimney and panicked when it couldn't get out of the house.
The Drees said they suspected something was wrong while they were on vacation because they kept getting alerts from the in-home security system. Responding officers found no signs of a break-in, and even their friends told them nothing seemed out of place when they went to check on the home.
The Drees' contacted their insurance company and were shocked when their claim was denied.
"The stress and the overwhelmingness started to settle in when we found out our claim was denied all due to legal jargon and the definition of a rodent and a vermin," Kari said.
They were even more upset when they learned that if a raccoon had caused the damage, the insurance company would have covered the cost of the repairs.
"It seems like bad faith. It's just not something you think about," Dustin said.
The insurance company defended its decision to deny to $15,000 claim.
"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," Mercury Insurance said in a statement.
Kari said that she believes they should cover the damage because it was the result of a freak accident.
"We feel like it's not fair. We understand why sometimes rodents aren't covered under insurance policies, because they consider it a maintenance issue - like if we had an infestation of squirrels because we weren't maintaining our home," Kari said. "But that wasn't the case with this. This was more of a freak thing that happened."
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