Across the nation termites are swarming. Now is a good time to refresh on proper documentation of wood destroying organisms (W.D.O.) inspections to prevent claims on missing information. Most calls for termite work happen when swarms are visible, but maintaining a solid W.D.O. inspection program will help prevent these costly claims that continue to plague the industry.
When it comes to termites or W.D.O. inspections "Best Practices" include the following: knowing when to begin the inspection, having the proper tools to perform an inspection, understanding where to inspect, and recognizing conditions conductive to termite infestation.
When does the inspection begin?
As soon as you pull into a customer's driveway, the inspection begin. To help determine the level of inspection needed to reduce the chance of missing an area of the home includes observing:
- Plants and landscaping near the house
- Trees overhanging the roof
- Excessive moisture in the yard
- Any lattice work
- Various construction features
Tools needed for proper inspectionThe following are important tools to have in discovering damage or a live infestation in an area prone to W.D.O.:
- High quality professional flashlight
- Sharp tool used to probe soft wood
- Moisture probe
- Two sets of ling sleeved coveralls
- Bump cap
- Measuring tape
- Magnifying glass for identifying wings, pellets and frass
Where to inspect
Each state has specific guidelines stating what areas of a property must be inspected to comply with pest control commission codes. These usually indicate inspecting, "all areas accessible by normal means, except those areas that are enclosed or inaccessible." In order to protect against claims alleging negligent inspections technicians should inspect:
- Crawl space
- Storage sheds
- Home perimeter
- Attached decks and lattice work
When an area is inaccessible it is extremely important to indicate the inaccessible area and why it's inaccessible on the W.D.O. Inspection Reports.
Conditions supporting W.D.O. infestation
Moisture and wood are the only two requirements for the potential of W.D.O. infestation. Areas that can cause problems are:
- Leaves left in the gutters that can decompose into dirt and can allow termites to travel
- Leaves and dirt up against wood siding along the base of a home
- Foliage and landscaping materials against the base of a home allows termites access to exposed wood
Proper reportingMost states have requirements for pest control operators to complete W.D.O. inspection forms upon completion of an inspection of any H.U.D. home or multi-tenant dwelling. Most real estate transactions involving loans require completion of W.D.O. inspection forms prior to the closing of the purchase or sale of the real estate. The failure to accurately depict inspections of W.D.O. forms is the most common reason claims against pest control operators exist.
Proper reporting detailing:
- Areas of inaccessibility
- Areas of prior damage
- Signs of prior W.D.O. treatment to protect the company from performing the inspection
When prior termite damage or live infestation is discovered, the W.D.O. report is the primary source of protection for the reporting operator.
The leading type of claims is related to missing evidence on W.D.O. reports. Contracts where operators offer repair bonds can be an area where insurance companies pay claims not originally anticipated in the insurance contract. Another area showing up in recent claims related to damage from W.D.O. where operators are unsure if the damage is pre-existing or from the recent infestation. Contracts using a "live infestation" clause before agreeing to repairs can protect against these types of claims.
*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.