Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold?

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold?

Mold and Insurance

If you have property damage such as from a flood or fire, most will either call their insurance company first or the repair person for an emergency fix followed by the insurance company. First signs of mold growth sometimes gets ignored or delayed in the cleanup either due the thought that mold isn’t harmful or due to the perception that mold removal isn’t covered by insurance. Mold may be covered outright, although this isn’t usual, it may be covered due to the cause of the mold usually referred to as covered “peril”, another option some insurance companies offer is an “endorsement” which is additional coverage for such things as mold.

Mold can damage your property just like water damage and can also be a hazard to your health and should be removed soon after discovery. Mold growth can “eat” away the surface it rests upon, which could mean damage that needs replacing on top of the mold removal which should be done by professionals to prevent mold spreading from improper cleanup or repairs. Mold could also be growing deep within a surface which may only detected by the smell, a moisture meter, or a professional mold test. Most insurance companies won’t cover mold remediation or damage repairs not done by certified mold remediation technicians or at the very least licensed contractors.

Homeowner's Insurance

Typically, homeowner insurance policies do not cover mold removal unless it comes from a source that they do cover. For example, if the water heater breaks and mold growth results, the mold removal is usually covered as the mold is a result of a damage or “Peril” that they do cover. This is also dependent on the insurance policy you have as some don’t cover water damage at all. Some policies have a limit to how much they will cover for repairs or specifically mention a limit on mold remediation. Some insurance companies will allow you to add coverage specifically for mold called an endorsement. There is also the option of purchasing a standalone mold policy even from another insurance company separate from your homeowner’s policy.

When Insurance won’t Cover Mold Remediation or Damage

Even with insurance there are a few reasons why they will deny the claim. It’s best to check your home frequently to check for small damage such as a leak to prevent more extensive damage that will not be covered by insurance as the damage was preventable if spotted early.
When you spot mold in your home you might think about removing it yourself to save money; however, generally any home repairs should be done by professionals for a few reasons:

  • Insurance Claim Denial of Do-It-Yourself Repairs
  • Failure to Maintain or Repair Small Damage
  • Improper Repairs or Removal
  • Neglected Report of Mold Issue
  • Mold from Flood Water

Insurance Claim Denial of Do-It-Yourself Repairs

If there is mold damage and it needs to be repaired or a new coat of paint is needed, insurance won’t usually cover the cost if you have done the repairs yourself and didn’t contact them before making the repairs. Some insurance companies will only cover cost if a licensed professional performs the work including a simple paint job.

Failure to Maintain or Repair Small Damage

Insurance companies won’t usually cover damage that could have been prevented. If there is a small slow leak that results in water damage, typically the claim would be denied as the damage could have been prevented with regular home maintenance. You should have regular home checks for damage and leaks, if you are inexperienced then a professional such a home inspector could be hired to find any damage or potential soon to be damage.

Things to check for:

  • Small leaks
  • Humidity issues
  • Landscape or Basement draining issues
  • Roof/Gutter Damage
  • Pipe damage
  • Bathroom condensation/ventilation issues
  • Sump Pump failure
  • Water backup valve and/or Sewage Check Valve
  • Crawl Space condition
  • Attic leaks, cracks, or holes
  • Vermin infestation
  • Cracked Tree Branches
  • Water Tank condition
  • Foundation Cracks
  • Uneven yard leading to water flow toward house or pooling
  • Window cracks or leaks
  • Water stains on walls, ceilings, or floors
  • Washer hoses condition
  • Appliance leaking such as air conditioner, dish washer, or refrigerator

Call your insurance company to check if any of the above repairs could be covered under preventative maintenance or any other parts of your policy however this is not usual. You may qualify for better rates or coverage if you have performed some repairs, home maintenance, or improvements, check with your insurance coverage and ask about a reevaluation. You also should contact your insurance company to check your coverage for inflation as you may not have enough coverage for today’s cost of repairs.

Improper Repairs or Removal

Mold spores when sprayed tend to become airborne and spread. The best-case scenario would be just spreading to another area in the same room but it could also cause mold spores to enter your ventilation system and spread throughout the house which has happened and it’s not that uncommon. Should you have extensive mold growth around the house due to improper cleanup, they could deny the claim. There also might be mold damage where the area has to be removed and replaced. This could be mold in the carpet or drywall that needs replacing. If you further damage the area or do an improper repair, the insurance company have grounds to deny any future repairs to the area/room.

Neglected Report of Mold Issue

If you are a business owner or property manager and a tenant or customer has reported a mold issue and you delay or neglect to remove the mold in a timely manner, the insurance company most likely won’t cover it if there is documentation proving the neglect or delay. The additional mold growth from the time of the reported mold to the time the insurance company is notified isn’t covered by an insurance policy as insurance policies typically only cover “incidents out of your control” and the length of time after you were notified of the issue to the time you report it to the insurance company is within your control. The amount of growth would be impossible to determine so usually they will either deny the whole claim or only offer partial coverage if the mold growth’s source was from a covered peril as described above.

Mold from Flood Water

Typically mold from flooding such as from as storm and not flooding from a burst pipe isn’t covered by standard insurance policies, even those with water damage covered. You could request additional coverage for flooding, but mold growth from the added moisture of a flood still might not be covered by the additional flood insurance. Check with your insurance company about mold growth from flooding to be sure it is also covered with the additional flood coverage.

Renter’s Insurance

Renter’s insurance has pretty much the same restrictions as a homeowner’s policy with the distinction it mostly over covers the belongings and not the structure. The damage to the structure should be taken care of by the property’s owner’s insurance or “out of their pocket”. A homeowner’s policy won’t cover damage to a tenant’s property, unless the homeowner purchased coverage specifically for the tenant’s property but this is very unusual and it’s recommended for the tenant have renter’s insurance to cover their property. Sometimes this is a requirement in the lease.

There are a few extra’s that are typical of renter’s insurance policies. Some renter’s insurance will cover lodgings such as a hotel while the damage is being repaired. Some renter’s insurance policies will cover’s your neighbor’s property if the damage was a result of an event that happened in your residence such as a broken water heater or pipe burst in your residence and flooded a neighbor’s residence. This would be dependent on the source of the damage such as if it was a covered peril or neglected leak, which wouldn’t be covered typically, and if your policy specifies that it also cover’s other residence’s property.

Mold damage to the structure would also follow the same restrictions and damage repair costs would be the responsibility of the property owner. Any damage of your property due to mold would not be covered by a homeowner’s insurance as homeowner’s policies don’t typically cover the tenant’s property. Renter’s insurance like homeowner’s insurance don’t typically cover mold damage and would need either a standalone mold policy or additional coverage to your renter’s insurance policy if they offer such coverage.

Does Umbrella Insurance cover mold damage?

Not typically but it may cover mold damage repairs of someone else’s property or structure if the mold growth was your “fault”. Umbrella insurance is a liability insurance that typically is for liability coverage that will cover your assets in the event something happens and you are being held responsible. Most homeowner’s insurance has liability coverage but the limits are much lower than umbrella insurance limits. This insurance possibly would cover property damage from mold if the mold was from a burst pipe in your property and the water flowed to your neighbor’s property and the added moisture caused severe mold growth resulting in repair costs that are above the limits of your homeowner’s policy.

How do I File a Mold Damage Claim

When you find mold and are looking to file an insurance claim you could call the insurance company immediately, however it is better to be more informed before calling them. Having more information can help you give better details of the damage and source of the mold.

Steps for filing a claim:

  1. Access the Situation for Danger and Source
  2. Contact the Insurance Company
  3. Select or Accept the Contractor

Access the Situation for Danger and Source

The first step is to assess the situation. First thing is to assess is how bad the damage is and if there is structural damage and the area or house isn’t safe to be in. This could also be if there is a large amount of mold which could be dangerous to breathe in. Once you have accessed the area is not in immediate or short-term danger of falling apart or causing harm, then you should try to determine if you can see the source.

A few questions might help:

  • Do you notice water around the mold?
  • Was there a storm a few days before the mold growth?
  • Is the surface around the mold wet or damp?
  • Is the room humid?

If the mold source is hard to find or attribute to a certain event, then the insurance company will probably only cover it if the insurance policy directly covers mold. If you can find a leak in the water heater it may be covered depending on how long the leak was going on before you noticed it.  You should also document the situation with notes with dates and times on when you noticed it, suspected sources and take many pictures, with timestamps, of the area. If you suspect rainfall was the source, try to get documentation of the weather around your area at the time of the storm.

Contact the Insurance Company

Gather you details about the mold and its source if possible and any documentation you have such as your policy and pictures of the mold and potential source and read your policy before giving them a call. Read through your “Declarations Page” to determine if you have a section for that specifies mold. It may be on its own or fall under the section for water damage. The source will determine if it may be covered under another covered peril. Try to match your suspected source to where it would fall in your insurance policy to help get an idea of how much might be covered. It’s up to the insurance company though to determine the source and if it will be covered, however your documentation will help you fight your case for a claim and potential appeal if it is initially denied. Even if you don’t think it would be covered but there is significant mold growth or damage, it’s better to call your insurance company as they have professionals to properly diagnose the mold source and also determine if it’s in their best interest to cover a small repair before it becomes a bigger issue. When calling the insurance company if you cannot definitely point to the source of the mold being a covered peril, it’s best not to say the source and let them determine the source as they might deny the claim before sending someone out if you claim the source is from something they don’t cover.  You should state facts and provide pictures rather than speculate the issue or damage. You also shouldn’t take to long to document and assess the situation because if you take too long you risk getting the claim denied for being negligent to disclose damages in a timely manner.

Select or Accept the Contractor

Your insurance company may have a few choice contractors that they know and approve of their work that they will suggest. You should still check reviews and contact them to determine if the contractors are the right company for your situation. You have the right to choose your own contractor, but check with the insurance company to determine if they fit their criteria of an acceptable contractor as they might not approve the claim and payout if they don’t accept the contractor. Do your research but remember to choose in a timely manner as the insurance company may require repairs or removal in a certain time frame.

Ways to prevent getting a claim denied:
 

Documentation of mold growth from covered water damage

Pictures with timestamps of condition of your home after an inspection or authorized repair. If you have water damage repaired and covered your insurance, you should take pictures after the repairs and keep documentation on the repairs and should mold growth occur after the repairs you can use the documentation to be sure the insurance company knows the mold is from the original water damage.

Maintenance Records

If you perform regular inspections of your house, you should take pictures with timestamps and document conditions of the rooms to help create a timeline of when the mold wasn’t there. This might not be acceptable as it’s not the same as an inspection by a professional such as a home inspector, but it may help document that the mold growth wasn’t from neglect.

Proper repairs and fixes of issues

If you have any repairs done on your home such as a leaky faucet or pipes under sink, having documentation that the repairs were performed by professionals and the date they were performed will help in the event mold growth happens in the area of the repairs. You should also have documentation of any other home maintenance upgrades you have to deal with issues in your environment. This would be using a dehumidifier in an area known for humidity. You could call your insurance company to provide them with the receipt with the date of purchase and to let them know that you are addressing humidity issues to prevent future claims getting denied for an issue you have corrected.

Suggestion

Call your insurance company to see if there are any inexpensive ways you could improve your home and protect it from issues happening such as humidity. They not only might provide ideas on ways to protect your home, but may lower your rates if you have the issues corrected and provide them with documentation of the fixes.

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 13:40 by kdonnelly

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