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Mold is one of the common issues that can plague a person's home, and whether your homeowners insurance policy will cover it depends on what caused the mold in the first place. Homeowners policies are very specific on what they cover or exclude, yet they are ambiguous on mold damage. Below we make it clear when you are and when you aren't covered by your home insurance policy.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold?
Mold is covered when the source of the mold is something that is already covered in your homeowners policy. The most common example is water damage. Standard homeowners policies protect you from damage in your home caused by water from burst pipes, broken ACs, forgetting to turn off the bath, etc - essentially any internal water damage. If the overflow causes the mold to develop, you'd be able to file a claim for money to fix the infestation because the claim would technically still be "water damage". Other causes of mold that would be covered would be from fires, lighting, and snow:
- AC pipe burst that caused mold to grow around in surrounding walls or carpet
- Partial fire damage caused mold to grow in parts of house
- Fire department used water to put out fire and mold developed from the moisture
Your Policy May Not Cover The Whole Thing
Mold can cost upwards of $30,000 to remediate, so insurance companies have enacted several measures to reduce their risk. One of them is reducing the amount they will pay for mold damage--even if it is caused by any of the things we say above. Typically a policy will only cover $5,000 of the remediation, though it can fluctuate from as low as $1,000 to as high as $10,000. It may be possible to buy a floater or endorsement to add extra coverage. You will need to speak to an insurance agent to determine whether you company offers it.
When Doesn't Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold?
Mold caused by neglect will most always be denied by your home insurance company. If your home has had a chronic history of water seepage or exposure to moisture which you did nothing to remedy, your homeowners insurance company will not reimburse you for remediation. It will specifically say on your homeowners insurance policy that you will not be covered for mold damage (except for reasons stated above).
Any mold that grows as a result of a flood caused by nature is also not covered. A flood is different from water damage in that is caused by natural, external occurrences like a storm surge, tsunami, heavy rains, etc. You will need flood insurance to be protected from floods, and any potential mold that grows from that flood. Below are examples of mold damage not being reimbursable:
- Your bathtub has leaked for years finally causing a mold infestation
- You live in a humid climate and mold grew in your basement as a result
- A flood due to a storm causes mold to grow in your home
How to File a Homeowners Claim When You Have Mold
Now that you know when and when you are not covered for mold damage, you can accurately assess whether you should call your insurer. So if a pipe in your home recently burst, or there is some other large internal water damage, you should be calling your home insurance company as soon as possible. You should take pictures of the scene, catalog all the walls and surfaces damaged and what it was worth. You should also have a mold remediation team get in there to properly dry the affected area. This will help prevent the mold from even forming, and can shield you from your insurer later denying a mold claim. The cost of the remediation team should be covered under the claim you are making for the water damage. We would recommend you just consult with your agent to make sure your policy doesn't have any restrictions.
If you are filing a claim some time after the initial water damage, but have only noticed mold growth, you should notify your insurance company right away--especially if the infected area is bigger than 3 x 3 feet. Although the mold may be unsightly, you need to leave it in place and throw nothing out that has mold on it. The mold may need to be sampled, and you need the claims adjuster to fully see the extent of the infestation. Hopefully you kept great records from the initial water damage claim; you are going to need to show that the mold is clearly a result of that damage. It is likely your insurance company will find any way to scrutinize the claim, but so long as you have kept solid records and can prove the mold was a result of the water damage, you should be fine.
As for the deductible, if you get the mold remediation or prevention in the initial water damage claim, you will only have to pay one deductible. If the mold develops later on, your company may either consider it a second water damage claim and not part of the first one, forcing you to pay a double deductible. You will need to consult with your insurance agent.
How to Prevent Mold in the First Place
The cheapest way to deal with mold is preventing it from growing in the first place. There are several proactive measures you can make in your home to prevent the growth of mold. Essentially the key is to minimize the amount of moisture in your home while also reducing the number of objects that can become moist. The Insurance Information Institute recommends the following to prevent mold growth:
- Keeping the humidity between 30% to 60% with air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers.
- Installing exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms
- No carpets in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms
- No water accumulation under house plants
- Bleaching your bathroom frequently
- Replace hoses to appliances like dishwasher and refrigerator every five years
By being mindful of the list above can end up saving you thousands of dollars at some point in the future. If there is a flood in your home there are also several measures you can take to make sure mold doesn't grow before you can get a mold prevention team into the effected area.
- Remove any standing water right away
- Disinfect the area with bleach
How to Spot Mold in Your Home
Another key way to prevent mold removal cost is to spot mold growth early. The larger the infestation the more costly it will be to remove it all. Mold can hide behind your walls, under your carpets, behind your fridge; you need to be able to use your senses to detect the growing danger to your home.
Mold has a distinct smell which most experts describe as "earthly must". That may seem vague, but it is commonly described as a rotting leaf smell which would smell out of place in most homes. The smell will be strongest in rooms where the mold is growing. If the smell becomes apparent when you turn on your home AC unit or heating unit, then the mold is likely in that system. If you smell it but can't see it, it is likely under or behind something, so you will need to call in a mold inspection team. As we say above, if the smell all of a sudden began after an internal flood, the cost of the inspection would likely be covered by your insurance should there actually be mold and you file a claim.
Mold is one of those things that can hide in plain sight. It can hide in between the grout of bathroom tiles and you may not even realize it. To quickly determine if it is in fact mold, you first need to ask yourself it makes sense for mold to be growing in that area. If the area is often humid (like a bathroom), poorly ventilated and lighted? If so then it is more likely it is mold. You can further confirm by taking a closer look. If you notice a 'velvety' or 'furry' texture, then it is likely mold. If the pattern is also uniform it is likely a mold colony.
Getting Sick From Mold
Another way to determine is there is mold in your home is if you are displaying physical symptoms as a response to the infestation. The following are common symptoms of mold exposure:
- Sore eyes
- Itchy skin
- Runny or blocked nose
- Sore throat
As you can tell, all of the above symptoms are related to a multitude of illness, especially a common cold. You will be able to distinguish between a common illness and mold however if you notice your symptoms are worse when you leave the home. If others in your home also display similar symptoms, as well as happening over a long stretch of time, you may have a mold problem.