Home Insurance

Bed bug cases soar 23% in a year with pest control prices a postcode lottery

Bed bug cases in the UK have risen 23%, new figures suggest.

Councils in the UK saw an increase in callouts from 11,819 in 2022 to 14,587 in 2023.

Local authority pest controllers also made 272,122 visits to homes with rat and mice infestations in 2023 - equivalent to 745 a day.

Cockroach callouts increased 3% over the same period, from 8,455 visits to 8,706, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Direct Line home insurance.

Pest infestations are not generally covered by standard home insurance, although some optional extras can be added to policies for some protection.

Instead homeowners can contact their local council, but Direct Line found a postcode lottery when it came to charges - if a pest control service was even available.

Does home insurance cover pests?

Most standard home insurance policies don't cover removing pests but there are a few add-ons which can help.

Insurers expect homeowners to maintain their home and prevent damage from pests but will usually pay for unexpected damage such as flooding or fire caused by a pest. They will typically only cover the damages related to the flood/fire etc, but not the damage the pest caused which sparked the incident, such as replacing the electrical cable a pest chewed through, as this is considered preventable.

Home emergency cover helps homeowners when a home becomes uninhabitable. It typically includes a 24/7 emergency helpline to call out a tradesman and covers the cost of call out, labour and repairs for emergency events such as a burst pipe, broken down boiler, faulty electrics and can cover pest control if one or more rooms are uninhabitable.

Some home insurers offer pest insurance as an add-on which usually covers a call out, labour and fees to control or exterminate bedbugs, rats, mice, wasps, hornets and even grey squirrels.

Only 8% of councils that responded to the FOI request offer free pest removal, with others charging anything from £10 to £264.

And there is no obvious regional pattern to pricing either, with the highest charges at Oxford City Council (£264), Southwark in London (£226.98) and Kirklees in Yorkshire (£210).

Some councils offer a reduced fee for those on benefits, such as in Shetland in Scotland and Welwyn Hatfield, Herts, while others charge a flat rate to all.

More than a quarter of councils - 104 out of 397 - do not provide any pest control service. It means 26% of homeowners must rely on private contractors in regions including Bradford, Middlesborough and Chichester.

Rodents can cause significant structural damage to a property by eating their way through stud walls, drywall linings, under floorboards and loft insulation which can cause condensation and rot in the joists.

Rats and mice also love to chew through wires and plastic water pipes putting a property at risk of fire or flooding.

They can even spread salmonella and listeria, especially if they scurry over food preparation areas.

Hospital admissions data shows 48 people were admitted to hospital after being bitten by a rat in 2022/23, the Mirror reports.

The responsibility of pest control largely falls to the homeowner unless they have a specific policy in their home insurance.

Maria Lawrence, product manager for Direct Line home insurance, said: "The public will understandably be squeamish upon learning about the scale of pest problems faced by authorities in the UK, particularly as they can create real issues for people's health.

"Across the UK there is a huge difference in the costs people face, depending on where they live, with either free services or significant charges to tackle these issues."

Cheap Home Insurance in Your Area

Quickly compare up to 50 UK insurance providers. Powered by QuoteZone.

{"applyCallToAction":"Get Quotes","defaultSelectedItem":"home","description":"Quickly compare up to 50 UK insurance providers. Powered by QuoteZone.","formType":"Insurance","onCurrent":true,"options":[{"label":"Car Insurance","url":"https:\/\/quote.nimblefins.co.uk\/car-insurance?id=76f4ecd6e1ca7c2f442633593566fdaa","value":"car"},{"label":"Home Insurance","url":"https:\/\/quote.nimblefins.co.uk\/home-insurance?id=76f4ecd6e1ca7c2f442633593566fdaa","value":"home"},{"label":"Motorbike Insurance","url":"https:\/\/quote.nimblefins.co.uk\/bike-insurance?id=76f4ecd6e1ca7c2f442633593566fdaa","value":"motorbike"},{"label":"Pet Insurance","url":"https:\/\/quote.nimblefins.co.uk\/pet-insurance?id=76f4ecd6e1ca7c2f442633593566fdaa","value":"pet"},{"label":"Travel Insurance","url":"https:\/\/quote.nimblefins.co.uk\/travel-insurance?id=76f4ecd6e1ca7c2f442633593566fdaa","value":"travel"}],"title":"Cheap Home Insurance in Your Area"}

How to get rid of bed bugs

Bed bugs are dark yellow, red or brown and measure about 5mm so they are visible.

They can be hard to get rid of because they are resistant to some insecticides so you may wish to contact a professional such as your local council or a private pest controller.

If you think you have bed bugs, the NHS advises washing bedding and clothing at 60C, tumble dry on a hot setting, and clean and vacuum regularly.

You could also wrap affected bedding and clothing in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for three days to try and kill the bugs.

Read more:

Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.