ARE YOU COVERED FOR MOLD?
Charles and Danielle Dobbs
While we are being entertained by the media
that claims that global warming causes hurricanes and one
month later it claims that the opposite is true, we homeowners
better be prepared that hurricanes will come
our way when environmental conditions are right - global
warming or not.
Since 2004, southern states residents have
suffered a great deal from hurricanes. Naturally, insurance
companies had to pay a lot of claims related to water damage
and mold - well beyond what they could have ever anticipated.
In 2004, there were more than 2 million claims in Florida,
totalling $18 billion. This came at a time when people were
more informed about mold and its effects on buildings and
health. Homeowners received a crash course on the effects
of large water intrusion by experiencing first hand what
it meant to live in a mold-infested home. Some got lucky
with minor damage but many people had at least one room affected,
thus they lived in other parts of their house while waiting
to get the situation assessed and remediated.
Insurance companies knew that mold
remediation has to be handled in a special
way so as not to contaminate the rest of the home during
removal of the contaminated material by having mold remediators
mitigate the situation under containment, and using air scrubbers
to clean the air of excessive mold spores. But before this
was done, insurance companies needed proof that a mold problem
existed in a home. Thus, mold inspectors were called
to assess the situation and write a mold remediation protocol.
Then after the remediation was completed,
the mold inspector went inside the containment area to test
the air to make sure that the remediation had been carried
out properly and the air quality in relation to mold spores
was within the normal range compared to an outside control.
Mold inspectors gave their approval for reconstruction once
testing passed air clearance.
The insurance companies paid a great deal
of claims for water damage and mold. In fact they felt they
spent too much. Their knee-jerk reaction was to simply eliminate
mold claims altogether, or limit the amount to $10,000.
Many people do not read the fine print of
official documents, especially when a current insurance policy
is renewed. People assume that nothing has changed.
We recommend you read your homeowner's policy carefully.
If it does not specifically say that you are covered for
mold, chances are you are not covered. If
it says you have a $10,000 limit on mold, you must decide
whether it is enough or whether you need to increase that
limit. If you are not sure of whether you are covered or
not, call your insurance company and find out now - before
the next hurricane.
This exclusion does not make sense because mold can grow
only when moisture is present. This action will undoubtedly
cause much grief to all concerned. Mold contaminated
materials will be handled by handymen, not by trained mold
remediators. Lack of personal protective gear will
expose workers and occupants to potentially toxic mold and
possibly make them sick. Lack of proper equipment and
lack of containment during the demolition will cause millions
of mold spores to be released into the air and contaminate
the rest of the house. Lawyers will be busy.
The chances of a home being burned down
is slim compared to suffering large water intrusion due to
hurricanes, especially in southern states. Hurricane season
happens every year, thus chances that homes will suffer water
damage is quite high because there is little we can do against
the forces of nature. Residences are not built as fortress
and wind-driven rain will come inside homes in ways that
defy laws of gravity. Yet, there are things homeowners
can do to control water intrusion and mold.
There are simple preventive maintenance tasks that homeowners
can do throughout the year and there are also certain actions
homeowners can do to prevent, or at least, minimize the spread
of mold once water has forced its way in, as in the case
Many hardware stores and local communities
have programs on hurricane preparedness, it behooves every
homeowner to attend these classes to make your home more
resistant to hurricanes. Other programs sponsored by the
State of Florida are worth looking into: http:www.mysafefloridahome.com
as well as http://www.fema.gov. It is always a good idea
to perform an inventory of your home. Free inventory
software can be found at: www.knowyourstuff.org.
Hurricanes preparedness starts with your
looking at your homeowner's policy to see whether you are
covered for mold. Then, try to learn all you can on how to
minimize water damage and mold by learning what to do under
specific circumstances. These tips can be found in a complete
book on mold: MOLD MATTERS - Solutions and Prevention, available
at your favorite bookstore or at http://www.iipmi.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Danielle Dobbs and Charles Dobbs are
principals of Dobbs Enterprises, Inc. a mold
inspection and sampling company based in Maitland, Florida. They
are authors of MOLD MATTERS – Solutions
and Prevention, and has written many articles. They
both founded the International Institute of Professional
Mold Inspectors, http://www.iipmi.com, where they offer online
give onsite and online classes to engineers and maintenance
crew to teach water intrusion and mold management. A
unique telephone consulting service, a first in the nation
provides homeowners and building owners with an unbiased
expert opinion or guidance about their particular mold problem.