Mold outbreaks can be messy and pose potential health risks, but they are only covered by renters insurance on rare occasions. Here are the most important things to know about how and when renters insurance covers mold and when your landlord may be responsible.
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When does renters insurance cover mold damage?
Renters insurance typically only covers mold damage to your possessions when the mold is caused by a covered peril.
For example, if mold forms after a fallen tree lets rainwater into your home, your renters insurance is likely to cover damage the mold causes to your belongings.
- A burst pipe
- Water released from a sudden breakdown of an appliance or your building's plumbing system
- Building damage from wind or hail that allows water into your unit
- Fire, if water used to suppress the fire leads to a mold outbreak
Renters insurance typically does not cover the costs of mold remediation that may be needed after a covered peril strikes, but your landlord’s insurance policy for the building might.
It’s important to check your renters policy or quote for details. Some renters insurance providers have stricter limitations on mold than those listed here, and others exclude mold damage altogether.
As you compare renters insurance quotes, make sure to account for potential differences in how each proposal covers mold.
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When does renters insurance not cover mold damage?
Renters insurance typically does not cover mold resulting from a gradual or persistent condition or a lack of maintenance.
For example, if an improperly sealed window or a pipe with a slow leak allows mold to form over several weeks or months, renters insurance is not likely to cover the damage it causes.
Although mold damage from floods and sewer or drain backups are usually not covered by renters insurance, additional insurance is available to guard against these risks.
Flood insurance for renters
A contents-only flood insurance policy generally covers flood damage to your belongings, including damage from a mold outbreak caused by a flood.
Contents coverage for renters is widely available through the National Flood Insurance Program, and a few private companies also offer it.
Water backup coverage for renters
Most standard renters insurance excludes sewer and drainage backups, but many companies offer a relatively inexpensive endorsement for water backups as an optional add-on.
There are many situations in which the relatively low cost of these water backup endorsements may be worth the price.
For example, if your rental unit has a basement living area, a water backup endorsement can cover damage to your furniture, rugs and other items from a sewer or drainage failure. This usually includes coverage for mold damage that may result from such a failure.
When is my landlord responsible for mold?
Your landlord is generally responsible for mold damage to structural elements of your rental unit, including mold remediation, and for fixing problems that may lead to a mold outbreak, such as a leaky roof or appliance.
Your landlord may also be responsible for mold damage to your items if the damage is the result of your landlord’s neglect.
For example, if your landlord fails to repair a leak that is causing a mold outbreak, they may be liable for damage the mold subsequently causes to your belongings.
What should I do if I have mold in my rental unit?
If you notice mold that you can’t easily clean in your rental unit, it is best to notify your landlord right away so they can remove it, inspect the cause and make any needed repairs.
Most states have rental housing laws that govern the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. Although these laws vary by state, they typically require landlords to keep their rental units in a condition that is safe to occupy.
Since mold poses potential health risks, landlords are typically required to remove mold and repair damage or deficiencies that allow mold to form.
In addition to reporting a mold outbreak to your landlord, experts recommend documenting the outbreak with photos and keeping a log of your communications with your landlord.
If your landlord fails to act, contact your local rental housing authority. You may also need to contact a legal expert about additional steps.
How does renters insurance cover mold I cause?
If you cause a mold outbreak in your rental unit, the liability coverage in your renters insurance can cover mold remediation costs you may be forced to pay.
For example, if you neglect to clean a water spill in your unit that leads to a mold outbreak, your landlord may try to make you pay for mold remediation.
The liability coverage in your renters policy normally covers an expense such as this, provided your insurance company determines that the claim is valid and the damage was accidental.
In addition to covering your potential liability for causing mold damage, your liability coverage also pays for legal expenses that may arise in defending you over a claim.
How much coverage does renters insurance provide for mold?
The amount of coverage renters insurance provides for mold damage depends largely on your insurance company and the cause of the outbreak.
In most cases, mold damage to your belongings from a covered peril falls under your personal property, or contents, coverage. However, you may receive less or no coverage if your insurance company has separate limits or exclusions for mold.
If the mold damage is the result of your landlord’s neglect, your landlord or their insurance company may be required to cover your costs of repairing or replacing the damaged items. You typically need to provide documentation to verify the value of your items, such as photos, receipts and/or appraisals.
On the other hand, if you are liable for mold damage to your landlord’s property, the liability coverage in your renters insurance should cover cleanup costs. Renters insurance typically comes with a liability limit of at least $100,000, which is usually more than enough to cover the cleanup costs for most mold outbreaks.
How does mold damage occur in a rental unit?
Black mold and other types of mold typically form on damp walls, floors and other surfaces in an apartment or other rental unit. If left unchecked, mold can spread to belongings such as rugs, sofas, beds, artworks and other personal items.
Removing mold from most of your belongings, particularly those with hard surfaces, may only require treatment with an over-the-counter cleaning product. However, mold damage to items with sensitive surfaces may be more difficult or impossible to repair.
How to prevent mold in a rental unit
The best way to prevent black mold and other types of mold from forming in your rental unit is to prevent moisture buildups in your home. Organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Cleveland Clinic recommend the following:
- Keep the humidity level in your rental unit below 50%. Consider purchasing a dehumidifier or asking your landlord to purchase one for your unit, if necessary.
- Use exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen.
- Allow air to flow freely throughout your unit.
- Bring leaks to your landlord’s attention immediately for repair.
- Clean bathrooms and other areas exposed to moisture with mold-killing products.
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