Is Mold Damage Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
Does homeowners insurance cover mold damage? Not always. Keep reading to find out all you need about mold coverage and home insurance.
Mold is a huge danger to a house. It can occur indoors or outdoors, only takes 24 hours to start blooming, and the damage it does isn’t always visible. What’s worse, mold isn’t commonly covered by homeowners insurance. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get insurance coverage for mold damage. Keep reading to find out all you need about mold coverage.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold?
Mold damage isn't always covered by home insurance. Some policies put mold in their list of exclusions, while others only cover it under specific circumstances. Some policies will only pay for a limited amount of mold removal, and others just pay for mold testing. There are some comprehensive policies that cover mold damage, unless the cause of the mold itself is excluded. You will need to read your policy to see if mold is a covered peril. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your insurer.
The immediate concern with mold is to your health, but over time it can make your home uninsurable and unsellable. If you have mold in your home, there are steps you need to take to reduce the threat of it spreading. Then you’ll contact your insurance agent to start the claims process. This article will walk you through those steps and what you need to know.
When Does Home Insurance Cover Mold?
Unfortunately, most home insurance policies do not cover mold. The source of the mold is the key point to whether your claim will be honored. Incidences such as constant water leaks, continuous humidity issues, and other maintenance issues will not be covered. Furthermore, homeowners insurance normally excludes damage due to flooding.
However, if the mold was caused by a covered peril, that is a different story. If the mold is due to a busted pipe, for example, the claim should be honored because the pipe caused the damage. Sudden water issues are normally well within the scope of homeowners coverage. For example, if your roof should be damaged by a falling branch during a storm, the damage from it should be covered by your policy. If your homeowners policy includes sump pump and sewer coverage, you’ll have coverage for mold from those issues, as well.
How to Get Home Insurance Coverage for Mold
In a perfect world, you’ll have adequate mold insurance before mold strikes. But if you find yourself in need of mold insurance, there are options available. Some insurers offer endorsement programs where you pay more in order to get a limited mold coverage plan. If your home has a history of mold problems, finding a policy where its included can be very difficult. The same can be said for homes in humid areas or having other conditions prone to mold. On average, a mold endorsement can cost between $500 and $1,500 yearly.
If you’re looking for a home owners policy that covers mold insurance, you’ll need to do your homework. The best way to do that is by shopping around and comparing different homeowners insurance companies. Each company handles mold differently, so look for one that best addresses your potential risks.
How to File a Mold Claim
If your home is impacted by mold, it’s time to file a claim. Before doing that, there are some immediate steps you need to take. The mold isn’t going to stop for you, you’re going to have to stop it first. Your insurer will expect you to have taken these preventative measures, and it can save you a ton of money down the road.
Moisture control is the name of the game with mold control. A presence of moisture creates conditions for mold to grow, so you need to eliminate all moisture. This isn’t so simple. You have to find where the moisture is coming from. If you have a burst pipe, getting a mold remediation professional there in the first 48 hours is really your best bet for making sure a future mold threat is removed. If you can’t find someone right away, follow these steps:
- Take comprehensive photos of all the damages.
- Find and stop the source of the leak. This can range from turning off the water main to patching a hole in the roof.
- Whatever water remains, remove it. If there’s only a small amount of water, a mop or a shop vac should do the job. If the water covers more ground, you’ll need to hire a water cleanup specialist.
- Remove all items retaining water (rugs, carpet, insulation) and remove them from the interior of the house. Mold thrives in moisture. Do not throw away anything damaged. Wrap them in plastic and hold onto them until your insurance company can have them tested for mold.
- Open windows to get air circulation going. Use fans on the wet areas to start drying out the area. Dehumidifiers or sub-pumps may be useful here.
- Wash the affected area thoroughly. Use a non-ammonia based detergent and water mixture on surfaces. After you’ve cleaned the mold, use a water and bleach mixture on all surfaces to kill mold spores. Be sure not to mix ammonia and bleach as it’s toxic.
- After the main areas where the obvious water is, check for the less apparent affected areas. Search for a musty odor. Feel behind furniture and bookcases for damp or slick areas. Clean these by the above methods as you find them.
- After you’ve completed the cleanup, call your insurer and start the claim process. Give them a detailed description of the damage and what preventative measures you’ve take. Take pictures of every square inch of the damaged area. Make an inventory list of what was damaged along with their value. Your agent will need these.
Your insurer will likely send a licensed contractor out to perform a mold investigation. Avoid speculating on the cause of mold or agreeing with what your insurer says until the investigation is over. This will keep everything above level and thorough.
If your insurance agency states you have a claim, look at your declarations page and assess what benefits you have available. If the damage is extreme enough that you have to move out while repairs are done, look into what additional living expenses your coverage allows for.
Along those lines, Mold can cause health problems such as eye irritation, skin problems, or respiratory issues. Document any doctors visits you need as a result of the mold.
Once your claim is completed and the repairs are finished, get an air quality test done. This is good to have should you ever decide to sell the home. Houses with a history of mold problems are notoriously difficult to sell. Furthermore, a claim on a mold problem will get recorded in the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). This is a database that insurers use to record losses that all insurance agencies can access when future claims occur. If you have a documented air quality test done, this can put both a buyer’s or insurer’s mind to rest about mold problems.
How to Prevent Mold
The best way to avoid a mold claim is to prevent it from happening in the first place. The places that are most at risk in your home are locations that are warm and damp. Basements, bathtubs, and showers are going to be the key threat areas. Here are some simple steps to maintain your home and avoid a mold problem.
1. Scan your home for moisture
Moisture is the key thing that mold needs to thrive. Doing a routine check for water leaks and excess condensation can help you avoid mold. Turn off or fix leaking taps and showers immediately, wipe down any condensation you see on surfaces or windows, and make sure rooms stay warm enough to keep moisture from collecting in the first place.
2. Eliminate humidity
Mold can bloom if humidity in an area stays consistent for long enough. Keeping proper ventilation going is the best way to reduce humidity to non-risk levels. Open your windows when it’s warm out and close them when it’s raining.
Steam can build up in the kitchen and the bathroom. Run your exhaust fans when showering, cooking or washing dishes in order to keep moisture from collecting.
If possible, invest in a portable dehumidifier. Most of them can fit in a closet and you can bring them out when you need them. Look for the most energy-smart model, as letting one run for extended periods can ding your electric bill.
3. Starve the mold
Mold grows on organic material like wood, cotton and carpet. Clean these surfaces regularly to keep mold from having a food source. 80 percent of mold can grow on dust so removing dust is a must.
4. Let the sunshine in
Dark areas are mold’s favorite breeding grounds. Letting as much natural light as possible into rooms will keep mold from having any sort of foothold. While light is a good disinfectant, warmth and humidity are a bad combo. Mold needs temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher in order to bloom. An air conditioning system can go a long way to keeping the temperature stable.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mold
Q: Will my home insurance cover mold?
Homeowners insurance often does not cover mold. It will, however, cover it if the mold is the result of a covered peril. For example, if a tree falls and damages your roof, and water gets in and causes mold, the mold would be take care of as a result of the roof’s coverage.
Q: Where does mold grow?
Mold can grow almost anywhere. Mold carries in dust particles, so mold can go almost anywhere dust goes. In order to thrive, mold just needs moisture, oxygen, and a cellulose base food source like fabric, cardboard, wood, and carpet.
Q: What are the risks of mold?
Mold can damage both your property and your health. Over time, mold can cause structural damage to your home. Mold can breed in wood and cause decay, otherwise known as “Dry rot”. Dry rot can cause damage ranging from trivial to major. The spores that cause dry rot are viable for up to twenty years, so any moisture could activate it again in that time.
On a personal health level, mold can cause respiratory problems, lung and skin infections, and digestive problems. Mold affects humans and animals through a process called Mycosis, and it doesn’t stop until the active mold bloom stops.
Q: What kinds of mold are dangerous?
There are five main molds that can occur in the home that can cause problems:
- Alternaria: This mold strain can cause problems such as skin rashes, eye irritation, and respiratory difficulties. It can cause serious infections for people with compromised immune systems.
- Aspergillus: Aspergillus is particularly dangerous to people with past lung problems. It can cause serious problems in people who already have asthma or cystic fibrosis. It also can cause growths in the lungs of people with a history of tuberculosis or lung abscess.
- Cladosporium: Not usually pathogenic, but has been known to cause lung, skin, and sinus problems. It can cause serious problems for people with asthma and other respiratory issues.
- Penicillium: Despite being the source of the first antibiotic, Penicillin, some strains of the fungus can cause problems for people with autoimmune deficiencies.
- Trichoderma: On top of being a prime cause of wood rot, Trichoderma can cause multiple respiratory, skin, and eye problems.
Q: How do I spot mold?
Look for groups of small, black dots in your basement or bathroom or white thread-like fibers anywhere it is dark and cold. A musty odor can also be an indicator. Symptoms of mold allergies include congestion, eye irritation, sore throat, and respiratory problems.
Q: How do I control mold?
While it’s impossible to eliminate every mold spore in a home, you can eliminate their effect. Repair leaks immediately. Make sure your home has proper ventilation, and keep humidity in your home low. Cleaning surfaces in cold, dark areas with a bleach and water mixture can help also.
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