Ask an agent: Spooky season

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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With Halloween just around the corner, we’re officially in Spooky Season (which, by our measure, runs from roughly when people stop talking about “hot girl summer” until the release of the Starbucks holiday cup). Working in insurance, we know that some of the scariest things are the things we most don’t want to think about — that is, all the myriad of perils that can befall our homes and automobiles. Fittingly, this month’s Ask an Agent is focusing on some of the creepier questions we’ve received. From rats chewing through your car’s seats to claims haunting your record after someone has died, follow along to see what our expert insurance agents had to say.

Question 1: Are my seats covered from damage caused by a rat?

I came back from a vacation to this absolute horror show. I opened my car, and it smelled like death. When I turned on the A/C, it smelled 10 times worse. A rodent definitely died in the vent system. According to the dealership, it is deep in there and will take 7-8 hours to remove. He even chewed a hole in the passenger seat. I called the insurance company and they said they will cover any damage caused by the rodent, but not the removal of the carcass. Isn't the smell that is preventing me from driving the car considered damage? How do I avoid a disastrous bill here?

-Nightmare in New York

That is definitely a nightmare in the making! Sorry you're having to deal with that. When there is an animal-involved incident, your comprehensive coverage would pay for the damages to your car. The insurance company will have to pay to repair the damage that was done to the car.

Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that they have to pay for the removal of the rodent. That is something that the insurance adjuster would determine. If you feel that the insurance company should pay for the removal, then you will have to dispute the claim with your insurance company. Technically the smell of a car is not a reason that will make the car undrivable. On a side note, there are sprays you can buy that will prevent animals from crawling into your car and chewing wires causing even more damage. 

Question 2: Can I insure my grandmother's home if it's vacant (and possibly haunted)?

My grandmother's home is vacant after she went into an assisted living facility. It's a spooky old Victortian home. It's absolutely gorgeous, but with no one living there we're worried about squatters. It's currently completely vacant. We don't go check on it as often as we should, because frankly I get a really weird vibe there and I'm convinced there are ghosts. My mom stands to inherit the house when her mother passes away. The existing homeowners insurance dropped coverage because it's a vacant home. Where can I find new coverage?

-Wary in West Virginia 

Vacant or unoccupied homes are still covered under many homeowners plans. You'll just want to specify that the home is vacant upfront as you search for a new plan.

That said, it is a common underwriting guideline that a company will either insure or not insure vacant homes. When you think about it, it makes sense because — as you say — you're not checking on it frequently and it's an old house. Were a pipe to burst, it would cause much greater damage because it wouldn't be noticed right away. You may also consider lowering coverage to just a dwelling plan if the home is empty of possessions. This will open the door to more companies being willing to insure it. 

The presence of paranormal energy shouldn't affect the insurability of the property one way or the other. 

 haunted house

Question 3: Can I remove my deceased husband from my claims history?

My husband had an accident while on my auto insurance and has since passed away (unrelated to the accident). How do I get him removed from my claims history? I'm tired of this accident that didn't even involve me affecting my rates.

-Perturbed in Pennsylvania

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to remove him from the history of the policy, but since you've had a major life change, it might make sense to check for new insurance quotes to see if you can find better rates. If you are getting new quotes, it would be best to obtain proof that the claim was not in your name. Most insurance agents will be able to dispute a claim if they are provided said proof at the point of sale.