As It Happens

Squirrel 'had a party' at Georgia couple's new home, doing thousands in damage 

A Georgia man says his family is facing a $20,000 bill, after a squirrel found a way into their newly-purchased home over the holidays.

Insurance company says it doesn't cover damage done by 'birds, vermin, rodents and insects'

Dustin Drees, left, and Kari Drees, right, recently bought a home in Georgia. (Submitted by Dustin Drees)

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A Georgia man says his family is facing a $20,000 bill after a squirrel found its way into their newly-purchased home over the holidays.

"You know, he had a party," Dustin Drees told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"He ran through a bunch of different rooms … he chewed on probably 10 of the 13 windows … ran across both the beds. Somehow fell in the toilet. I don't know if he was doing the backstroke in there or something. But it was pretty crazy."

Drees and his wife Kari moved into the home in Buckhead, a residential district in Atlanta, about a week before they went on a trip to San Diego in December. 

The first-time home buyers returned at the end of the month. When they opened the front door, Drees initially thought a burglar had broken in while they were away.

"The first thing I saw was a bunch of wood chips all over the floor," he said. 

"Along the door jamb and along the door … you could see where the paint wasn't there and wood had come out."

Parts of the door to Kari and Dustin Drees's home that were damaged by the squirrel. (Submitted by Dustin Drees)

A few days before, something triggered the house alarm. His home security company sent the police to check if anything was amiss, but they found nothing.

Knowing that, Drees started to look around the house.

"The bottom half of the windows … looked like someone took like a chisel to it or something. It had all been really, really scratched up — and chewed up," he said.

To make things even stranger, the faucet was running.

After finding nothing had been stolen, Drees began to think the culprit was an animal.

"You could start to see marks along all the windows. … Then you could see sort of excrement, that sort of thing — what looked to be from some sort of animal." 

Unsure what he might find, Drees decided to get his nine-month-old daughter out of the area while dealing with the situation.

The couple also found dirt in parts of their house. (Submitted by Dustin Drees)

As he was preparing to leave, he saw what looked like a squirrel "jump" quickly from the couch to behind a mirror on the mantle.  

Animal control later found the squirrel in the house and took it away. Drees says he thinks the creature made its way inside the house through the chimney because the flue wasn't completely covered. 

'Rodent exclusion' means no coverage: insurance company

While the family hasn't been able to get a complete estimate on the damage yet, they guess — given the state of the windows — that it will be at least $20,000 to fix. However, it won't be covered by insurance.  

"I had gone through the summary of our policy and, you know, it was pretty comprehensive and figured it would be covered," said Drees.

Insurance won't cover the damage done to the Drees's home because of a 'rodent exclusion' rule. (Submitted by Dustin Drees)

In a statement to WSB-TV, Mercury Insurance said: "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.

"That said, Mercury Insurance is sensitive to the situation and has offered to pay for safe housing (up to two weeks) while their home is professionally cleaned."

Drees says misunderstood the policy because he didn't realize there was a "rodent exclusion."

"I guess my misunderstanding was the house was new to us, had been clean. We had just moved in and it wasn't a maintenance issue," he said.

"You can't exactly Google 'squirrel falling down a chimney, ransacking house.' There aren't a whole ton of examples like that. We thought it was a unique case."

Still, Drees is relieved that the squirrel is finally free and out of his home. 

"Maybe it ended up in a soup or something. But, [animal control] said he took him away and let him go."

Written by Katie Geleff. Interview with Dustin Drees produced by Samantha Lui.


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