McQuiston: Mold Is A Four Letter Word In Insurance

By ALLEN MCQUISTON
The Jemez Agency

 
I was talking with a home owner the other day when the topic of mold came up.
 
Mold strikes fear into the hearts of those who’ve heard horror stories about toxic mold, expensive mold remediation, and denied home owners insurance claims. Yet mold can be found anywhere, including in most homes. It’s usually harmless. Mold needs warmth and moisture to thrive.

Problems can arise for home owners when the presence of persistent moisture goes undetected or unresolved, leading to widespread mold growth. This moisture can result from high indoor humidity, a leaky pipe, roof or dishwasher.

Whether mold damage is covered by home owners insurance often comes down to the source of that moisture. Most basic home owners insurance policies exclude coverage of damage caused by mold, fungi, and bacteria. Yet that doesn’t mean a mold claim will be denied automatically.  

In most cases, if the mold results from a sudden and accidental covered peril, such as a pipe bursting, the cost of remediation should be covered. That’s because technically the pipe burst is the reason for the claim, not the mold itself.

Claims are more likely to be rejected if the mold is caused by neglected home maintenance: i.e. long-term exposure to humidity, or repeated water leaks and seepage.
 
After a rush of mold claims in the early 2000s, most states adopted limitations on mold coverage. Amounts vary, but a typical home owners policy might cover between $1,000 and $10,000 in mold remediation and repair.  

Some insurance companies will allow you to purchase higher limits. Most policies won’t cover mold related to flood damage. It’s also  hard to put a precise dollar figure on mold damage because most insurers don’t separate mold claims from water-damage claims.  

About 22 percent of all home owners insurance claims result from “water damage and freezing,” a category that includes mold remediation.
 
The surest way to avoid having a claim denied is by keeping mold at bay in the first place. Preventing mold and eliminating mold when it does occur are critical to protecting the value of your home.
 
To help prevent mold growth in your home, I suggests taking the following steps:
 

  • Lower indoor humidity with air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and exhaust fans.
  • Inspect hoses and fittings on appliances, sinks, and toilets.
  • Use household cleaners with mold-killing ingredients like bleach.
  • Opt for paints and primers that contain mold inhibitors.
  • Clean gutters to avoid overflow and check roof for leaks.
  • Avoid carpet in wet areas like basements and bathrooms.
  • Remove and dry carpet, padding, and upholstery within 48 hours of flooding.

To be certain what protection your current home owners policy provides, contact your insurance professional.

For more insurance related columns, visit the blog on our website at www.thejemezagency.com.

We welcome your feedback and comments at amcquiston@thejemezagency.com

We have started a weekly drawing to give away two tickets to the Reel Deal Movie Theater to one of our loyal clients. It’s our way of saying thanks to the folks of Los Alamos for more than 50 years of their support.

This week’s winner is Robin Davidson of Jemez Springs! Please stop by the office to pick up your tickets.

 

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