Persistent Mold Can Present a Home Insurance Nightmare

mold in your homeEver noticed a small dark spot on your beautiful carpet, or in the lower corner of a wall somewhere in your home and thought, It’s just dirt. I’ll scrub it out? And after successfully scrubbing it off, you notice it has returned in just a few days? What you’re dealing with is actually not dirt — it’s mold that has made a home in your humble abode.

Unfortunately, removing mold in your home is not an easy task because of its persistent nature and the inherent dangers that it presents. But before you think you can simply solve the problem by calling your homeowners insurance company, think again. More challenging than dealing with mold itself is trying to get your insurer to resolve the issue.

How Mold in Your Home Grows and Impacts Your Health

Mold is one of those issues no one wants to see arrive. Much like pests (termites, mice, etc.), once mold comes, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of it without help. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold grows in warm, damp and humid conditions, spreading and reproducing by making spores. While no one knows exactly how many species of mold fungi exist, some estimate a range of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

Mold can grow in your home for any reason from a burst pipe to a flood. Any warm, dark, wet areas of the home serve as a playground for mold, helping it grow and spread in no time.

It’s important to note that the presence of mold can’t be taken lightly. While it may appear relatively harmless, it can cause a host of health issues. According to the CDC, a short list of problems include:

  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Eye irritation
  • Wheezing
  • Skin irritation
  • Shortness of breath

More severe reactions to mold buildup in the home can include fever and chronic lung infections.

Why Your Home Insurance Probably Won’t Cover Mold

If you have mold in your home and carry a home insurance policy, you may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief, believing that your insurer will pay for the problem.

But don’t move too fast to pick up your phone and file a homeowners insurance claim. While homeowners insurance policies cover a lot of issues, including damage caused by most natural disasters, your mold problem may not be on the list.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, in the world of insurance, mold is included in the loss category “water damage and freezing” — if covered.

The institute’s website explains that “every state except Arkansas, New York, North Carolina and Virginia has adopted an ISO mold limitation for homeowners insurance coverage.” This limitation allows insurance companies to exclude mold coverage, unless the condition results from covered peril.

This means, in most cases, its up to each insurance company whether it wants to cover your mold issue. And because the cost of repairing damage is so high, many companies opt out of paying, if possible. According to a white paper on mold from the I.I.I., the average mold claim in 2003 was between $15,000 and $30,000, which was at least five times the average non-mold claim at the time.

The best way to know for sure whether mold is covered in your policy is to take time to look for mold exclusions or limitations. And if the language in the policy is unclear, be sure to call your agent for more information.

Is Mold Insurance An Option?

While many home insurance companies choose not to cover mold damage, some opt to either provide it on a limited basis in their standard home insurance policies, or offer a mold insurance rider. If a company does offer a mold insurance rider, it’s likely that the rider will still only cover specific instances in which mold has caused damage to a home.

There are also a few companies that offer standalone mold insurance policies, but reports show that the annual cost of these policies can push upwards of $5,000.

Getting Rid of Mold and Mold Prevention

If you have discovered that mold may not be covered in your homeowners insurance policy, or have decided that it would be cheaper to do the work yourself rather than pay a deductible, it’s important to know that getting rid of mold on your own in more severe instances is no simple task.

Removing Mold in Your Home

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), small mold infestation can be controlled by removing all items in the home affected by mold (carpeting, furniture, food products, bedding, etc.) then wash impacted areas (while wearing gloves, a mask and eye protection and ventilating the home properly) with non-ammonia based detergent and hot water and allow to dry.

It’s also important to disinfect cleaned surfaces with solution of a cup and a half of bleach in a gallon of hot water. The solution must remain on the surface for at least 10 minutes, then be rinsed with clear water and allowed to dry.

On the other hand, if mold infestations are severe, FEMA recommends having a qualified professional treat the damaged areas. The cost of remediation can range from $500 to $30,000, but typically falls into the $3,000 to $6,000 range, which is a hefty sum.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), once mold has entered the home, it is impossible to get rid of all spores indoors as some will be found floating through the air and in house dust.

But to prevent another full-on infestation, it’s important to to fix the issue causing the mold to arise in the first place.

How to Prevent Mold

Mold prevention is challenging in most homes, but not completely impossible. The CDC offers a number of steps homeowners can take to reduce moisture in homes, which will in turn reduce the likelihood of a mold infestation:

  • Keep humidity levels as low as possible (no higher than 50 percent)
  • Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid months
  • Ensure the home has adequate ventilation (including exhaust fans)
  • Add mold inhibitors to paints before application
  • Clean bathrooms with mold killing products
  • Don’t carpet bathrooms and basements
  • Always remove or replace previously soaked carpets and upholstery

There’s no doubt that mold in your home presents a challenge that most people hope they never have to face. Because an infestation can be quite the home insurance nightmare, it’s best to take as many steps possible to prevent it from ever entering the house.

(Image: carlpenergy)