Whether you're covered often comes down to the source of moisture and the wording of a policy.
Mold strikes fear into the hearts of those who've heard horror stories about toxic mold, expensive mold remediation, and denied homeowners insurance claims. Yet mold can be found anywhere, including in most homes.
It's usually harmless. Mold needs moisture to thrive. Problems can arise for homeowners when the presence of persistent moisture goes undetected or unresolved, leading to widespread mold growth.
Moisture can result from high indoor humidity, flooding, a leaky roof or leaks in a dishwasher.
Whether mold damage is covered by homeowners insurance often comes down to the source of that moisture. Take an hour or two to review the language of your policy, especially as it pertains to water damage. Look for mold exclusions or limitations. Call your agent if the wording is unclear.
Most basic homeowners 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 mold results from a sudden and accidental covered peril, such as a pipe bursting, the cost of remediation should be covered. Technically, the pipe burst is the reason for the claim, not the mold itself.
Claims are more likely to be rejected if mold is caused by neglected home maintenance – long-term exposure to humidity or repeated water leaks and seepage.
It's hard to put a precise dollar figure on mold damage because most insurers don't separate mold claims from water-damage claims. About 22% of all homeowners insurance claims result from "water damage and freezing," a category that includes mold remediation.
However, the average mold claim cost is between $15,000 and $30,000. After a rush of mold claims in the early 2000s, most states adopted limitations on mold coverage. Amounts vary, but a typical homeowners policy might cover between $1,000 and $10,000 in mold remediation and repair. Also, most policies won't cover mold-related flood damage.
It might be possible to purchase a mold rider as your existing homeowners' policy add-on. Ask your agent. A rider will offer additional mold coverage. Cost and your personal risk tolerance are the driving factors behind a decision.
Premiums will vary based on where you live and the value of your house. In general, older homes in humid climates where mold thrives will be more costly to insure than newer constructions in a dry climate.
The surest way to avoid having a claim denied is 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, take 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 the roof for leaks. Avoid carpets in wet areas like basements and bathrooms. Remove and dry carpet, padding, and upholstery within 48 hours of flooding.
Marlin Palich is president of Stark Trumbull Area Realtors, which serves Stark, Carroll and Trumbull counties. Visit www.star.realtor for a complete listing of Realtors and affiliate members. If you have any questions or comments on this article, contact Palich at [email protected].