Mold- How it Can Cost You

 As seen in “Our Colorado News.” Written by John Kokish.

Your shower and commode are partitioned off your master bathroom and can be closed off when you are using that area.  You notice some “dirt” or “soot” in the ceiling above the commode, but you are not concerned.  You can wipe it off another day.  Wrong.  It is not dirt or soot; it is mold, and although it is only small, if you do not do something immediately, the mold will continue to spread and create a potentially serious health hazard to you and your family members.

Mold forms in places that either are naturally humid, or where there has been a water problem caused by a leaking roof or pipe.  Some mold may be hidden behind wallpaper, under carpets or in other areas not easily seen.  If not remediated quickly, mold can spread and cause neurological symptoms such as headaches, trouble concentrating, short attention span, memory loss, dizziness, or it can cause or worsen allergies or allergic reactions causing skin irritation, rash, or pulmonary disease.  It can even cause or aggravate life threatening chronic conditions, such as asthma, cancer or hypersensitivity pmenmontis (HP).

A judge in Elbert County suffered severe pulmonary reactions not too long ago which were finally diagnosed as being caused by mold that formed in the Elbert County courthouse.  Ultimately, the mold was remediated, but not before the judge went through a hellish experience fighting the symptoms.

Mold can grow indoors and outdoors, and it more prevalent in localities that have high humidity problems, unlike the dry climate that favors Colorado. Nonetheless, mold does grow in Colorado and is especially prevalent in areas affected by water and structures built with damp or wet building materials.

The Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) does not recommend sampling for mold, since although there are many different types of mold, all of them present a health hazard.  Mold can readily be recognized by a damp or musty smell, and the areas that have been subjected to water leaks and improper drainage will generally have tell-tale water stains and marks that one can be sure either contain mold or will contain mold.  To help prevent the growth of mold, the following steps are recommended:

  • lower indoor humidity with air conditioners, de-humidifiers and exhaust fans
  • inspect hoses and fittings on appliances, sinks and toilets
  • use household cleaners with mold-cleaning 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

Once discovered, the mold should be remediated quickly.  Depending on how big the mold infestation is, the cost of remediation will vary from several hundreds of dollars to many thousands.  In any case, drying out the affected areas may not be enough; the requirement may be that all affected areas must be removed and replaced.

Mold damage has resulted in some monstrous jury verdicts including $14 million in Florida, $18 million in California and $32 million in Texas.  Some well-known individuals have initiated mold law suits including Michael Jordan, Ed McMahon and Erin Brockovich.

As a result, insurance companies now often have disclaimers for mold damage, so it is important to read the policy to determine if such an exclusion exists.  If it does, the insurance adjuster will generally attempt to deny coverage claiming that the homeowner caused the mold or contributed to its spread by allowing wet areas to fester.  However, if the mold is caused by a sudden and accidental incident, such as a pipe bursting, the cost of remediation probably will be covered by insurance.  The reasoning is that technically the pipe burst and that caused the claim, not the mold itself.  Roughly 22% of all homeowners’ insurance claims result from “water damage” and “freezing”, which includes remediation.

Some insurance companies also offer mold riders to the general homeowners  insurance policies.  However, a mold rider could cost an additional $500 to $1,500 a year on an existing policy, and more in humid climates.  If your insurance carrier refuses to provide a rider because of the increased risk, some casualty companies might sell you a standalone mold policy if you are still concerned.  However, the premiums for a standalone mold policy might range from $5,000 to $25,000, making the cost of the policy disproportionate to the value of your home.

In short, the prevention of mold through safeguarding measures is, in the long run, far less expensive than remediating mold or carrying expensive insurance.  The homeowner must make that choice.