Because so many people rent now since the 2008 financial melt down it is important to understand what you are legally allowed to do as a renter in taking necessary action when your landlord is not available or cannot be reached. You can Google renter's rights and you will find a pdf that is authored by the California Department of Consumer Affairs which helps you understand what rights and responsibilities you as a renter and landlord have. I normally will reference pages 47 to 52 which covers items that are of necessity that a tenant can do in certain situations.
For Example: Let's say it is Saturday night and a pipe bursts in your property and the home is getting wet and flooded as a result. You do need to call your landlord and inform them so they can take appropriate action. But what if they are gone for the weekend or don't answer the phone? After leaving a message you then need to take necessary action to protect your family and home you are renting. Because of this being a safety concern the renter's rights document indicates you can do what is needed and basically take it off your rent. That means hiring an appropriate professional to take care of the immediate problem whether it be a plumber, water damage restoration company, mold inspections and many others.
This is not to say you have a blank check to do what you want. Do what is needed that can be reasonable justified per the renter's rights of California. Of course many landlords will not necessarily like this but they principally have to allow for it if they are not available to handle the situation or fail to take the needed action in a timely manner. You, as a renter, want to familiarize yourself with this document especially the pages mentioned. You will find that many times the landlord is not aware of these rights you have and will need to educate them on these by showing them the document and pointing out the items of concern.
If you have legal concerns or questions then click on the link on the main page of this sight for LegalShield which can provide needed and valuable legal advice, consultations and more.
What are Clearance Inspections? These are inspections done to ensure the work just completed, such as a mold remediation or category 3 water mitigation, has been done properly and the area is free of mold and/or the bad bacteria associated with category 3 water. (Category 3 water is water from any drain because of the bad bacteria and other contaminants that are present. I will use the phrase 'toilet water' when talking to clients to put it in proper perspective.)
When a mold remediation is performed sometimes a company (or its technicians) can get lax in following proper protocol when performing work. If a company knows you are not going to get a Clearance Inspection they may well not perform the work as well as it could or should be done. I have performed recent Post Mold Remediation Clearance Inspections where the company knew this inspection was taking place and it still failed inspection due to some missed preparation on their part.
Both types of inspections will involve verifying the areas are dry, visually acceptable and various types of samples are taken to ensure the bacteria is gone and/or the mold spore levels are within industry guidelines. A written report is prepared of the inspection documenting all related items and giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down. So help keep your family safe and have these Clearance Inspections performed.
Because of having several leaks in their home during recent years I was hired to do an inspection for potential moisture and mold issues. This happened to be done during a re-piping by a plumbing company which involved removing drywall from several ceilings and walls to accomplish the work. As a result this exposed wood members in the wall and ceilings with visible mold in many areas. Surface samples confirmed the presence of mold. Fortunately the family was staying elsewhere during this work.
The Basic Problem: How do you protect your family when work like this results in exposing the home to mold and thus the family? From a liability standpoint this is the responsibility of the contractor performing the work. However, most contractors doing this type of work rarely think about the work they do exposing a family to mold. And most people don't necessarily think much about it either. To a large extent this is realistically a scenario that has not been addressed in the general construction industry. Not to mention most contractors have no training to keep from exposing a family to mold in these situations.
The Solution: Because of contractors in general have no real knowledge of or training in protecting people from mold the home owner or tenant will have to bring the issue up prior to any work being done. It really should be done in the hiring or contract negotiation stage. It likely will involve having at least 2 contractors and one consultant (meaning someone who can write a protocol to follow to protect the family from mold exposure; this can be someone certified in Industrial Hygiene Management, an industrial hygienist or microbial consultant), one that does the work of re-piping (as the example in the opening paragraph shows) and one contractor has been trained or certified in following the protocol that will be written for that particular project.
An example of what a protocol may involve in this type of scenario could be:
1. Set up plastic containment for all work areas where the drywall will be opened so as to keep possible mold spores contained in that area.
2. Have an air scrubber (air filtration machine with a hepa filter) available to run when apparent mold is encountered to continually clean the air of mold spores.
3. When apparent mold is encountered the workers would then follow OSHA requirements of wearing PPE.
4. The persons living in the home may vacate while the work is being done.
The above is only outlining some possible protocol steps and is not to be taken as a standard procedure for all to follow.
Of course these additional steps will cost more to do and increase the overall project costs for a typical re-piping or other similar projects. This will also add to the time it takes to complete the project. If you are serious about protecting your family from mold exposure like the example above then it is important to talk with your contractor before hand to insist that appropriate precautions be taken.
My company, or myself, is available to write the needed protocol for you home or office project.
Many times when a person discovers a leak in their home and a plumber will come out and repair the problem. In the process a wall is often opened up to repair the leaky pipe. The owner may then ask the plumber, 'did you see any mold?' or 'should we do anything else?'. And many time the plumber may say 'I did not see any mold' or 'just let it dry for a couple of days and it will be fine' leaving the interior of the wall exposed. This situation is not a good one.
Let me explain. When a leak occurs by the time the owner notices the problem likely a significant amount of building materials have gotten wet such as drywall, wood sill plates, wood studs, baseboard and so on. However, this not always noticed by the naked eye and wetness or moisture will likely be present for days if not weeks and months to come and mold will start growing (within about a day or so) if the area is not dried quickly with the right equipment.
Keep this in mind; most plumbers as well as Handy Men (and just about all other tradesmen) have not been trained or certified in water mitigation (or water damage) and mold remediation (normally referred to as applied microbial remediation) which also includes category 3 water (that is water from a drain or 'toilet') also called 'black water'. As a result cannot properly advise you of what you should do. Some plumbers, though, have learned from water mitigation companies a thing or two and some even carry a moisture meter so they can at least advise the owner to take additional action. Many even refer a water mitigation company that they network with.
The point I am wanting to make is that you need a professional who has been trained to be able to assess the area in question after discovering a leak and can properly advise you. Of course, that is what I, or my company, does. You want someone who will put in writing what needs to be done, if anything, so you and your family are protected health wise and property wise.
When an event like water damage, fire damage or other type of insurance covered damage occurs who gets to do the repairs on your home? The reason this is brought up is simply that many are not really sure what to do when it happens. Many will simply follow what their insurance adjuster directs since they may have a network of companies they use to do needed repairs. While there is nothing wrong with this there are definite pros and cons of doing so.
But know that by state law the home owner has the right to choose who does work on their home. There may be some exceptions with HOA communities depending on the agreements you sign when purchasing a home or condo. An insurance company does not have the authority to direct who does work on your home or even to direct the work itself unless you allow them to do so. Some insurance companies or adjusters may be a little over zealous trying to save their company money and may want to tightly control everything which at times can be at odds with giving the home owner the proper service and repairs they deserve and need. Most adjusters have not been contractors although many companies are training their adjusters in the field of water mitigation and such so they are better equipped to deal with your claim.
Pros: The insurance company vendor can get the job done and coordinate with the insurance company easier and will get paid directly by the insurance company possibly leaving fewer things for you to worry about. They also have met certain criteria to be one the approved vendor list to get your or the company's work. In some cases one company can handle both the water mitigation ( or dry out) and the repairs provided you ask them to do both. When a company is on a 'Preferred Vendor' list of an insurance company (depending on that insurance carrier) will initially send the 'Job' to perform the water mitigation or dry-out but are not allowed to offer to do repairs unless the owner asks them to do so. This can be easier on the home owner using just one company as a 'one stop shop'. The insurance company many times will have an approved vendor list for repairs and simply send one of them out to do your repairs which can still have a similar effect of the 'one stop shop'.
Cons: Using an insurance company's 'approved vendor' creates a conflict of interest for the company performing the work. This is so because in a sense that company (because of their 'vendor agreement with the insurance company) is to some degree working for the insurance company and at the same time working for you, the homeowner. What happens when there is a conflict between what should be done to repair damages a certain way and what the insurance company directs the approved vendor to do? Well, that is obvious, is it not? The insurance company wins out which is often times not told to the home owner and is communicated only between the approved vendor and the insurance company. Could that be referred to as a type of collusion? Hmm....
A case in point: I once went to estimate repairs where one company had performed the water mitigation but also provided an estimate for the repairs as well. There was some damage to the faux painting on one wall just above the baseboard which normally requires re-fauxing the entire wall and even room since it is not assumed the owner has that same paint and the painter can produce a matching look with the existing faux finish. The approved vendor was estimating only to 'touch up' the damage to the faux paint apparently to save the insurance company money. Having been a painting contractor for 13 years I knew this was not the proper way to address the paint damage. I then informed the owner of what should be done and put in the estimate to re-faux the whole room in that instance which the insurance company did accepted.
The use of a quality contractor not on the 'approved vendor' list has advantages and possibly more so than the approved vendor. When I have met with home owners (when I worked for other companies) I inform them that part of my job is to make sure repairs are done properly and therefore I put in the estimate what should be done to accomplish that. So I was not hindered by 'vendor program rules' which restricts what the approved vendors could do. Of course, it does not mean I have a blank check but have a lot more latitude to negotiate with the insurance company to get the needed funds do to the job right.
I feel the need to really emphasis certain safety precautions that everyone should be aware of but many, if not most people are not. I have come across recent situations whether it be property owners where part of the property is the HOA's jurisdiction, tenants where the landlord has total jurisdiction or even the regular homeowner where apparent moisture and mold is obvious but proper procedures were not followed by someone. When Established Industry Standards/Protocol are not followed then the health of the occupants is potentially put at risk.
Example: There is an obvious leak or water intrusion of some type getting a wall wet. It may not be noticed for several hours but usually several days if not longer. A plumber is called to fix the leak, assuming it is from the plumbing. You ask the plumber 'is there any mold?'. Because the plumber has no training in water damage or mold remediation he may say any number of things but may well not tell you the truth and certainly what you need to know. Some may grab some bleach to clean the area and call it a day. But that is not the end of it. You see, after 24 hours mold will start to grow once it has a water source. The plumber does not want any liability for opening up drywall that may well have visible mold on it but he/she does not see it until the wall is open. At that point the plumber (or whoever opens the wall) becomes liable for any mold exposure to the occupants so they naturally will not likely tell you this.
As long as wetness remains mold will continue to grow and cause you problems. If a company comes in to handle this situation You can insist they follow established water mitigation and mold remediation protocol. Part of what I mean is this; If a wall is obviously wet and has been that way for some days protocol dictates that containment be set up (that is a plastic barrier) to protect the health of the occupants while work is being done in that particular area. In principle tenants and owners (where HOA has the obligation to water mitigate and mold remediate) have the right to insist on this. You will have to observe to see if this is actually done before walls are opened all over the place where you are still occupying that space, meaning you are still operating in the space where the work of this type needs to be done. The idea is that you don't want to be needlessly exposed to potential mold when it can be prevented.
Many inexperienced property managers and owners have not been educated about these dangers and simply may not know about it. So as an occupant of a residence you need to do your part and be proactive to help prevent exposure to mold and even bacteria that can be growing as a result of water intrusion or leakage. If you see the workers or company are not following basic protocol you have the right to stop them before letting them go further n the work. Keep in mind that I am referring to walls that have been wet for some or several days or longer since mold has likely grown at that point.
Feel free to send in a question.
This can depend on several factors besides what the policy actually says such as:
1. By the adjuster assigned to your claim. Many times the interpretation of the circumstances of your water loss and water damage is determined by what the adjuster perceives or 'wants' to perceive. I have seen instances with the same company where one claim was covered (that I knew should not have been) and one that was not covered (that I knew should have been).
2. By what "You" say or volunteer to the adjuster: This is often very important and even critical when initially telling your insurance company what happened. Often the phrase 'a sudden release' of water or similar wording will normally get you covered assuming the investigation of the loss by the adjuster supports this to at least some degree or at least does not disprove it. The Plumber's report is a big factor when determining this.
3. When it comes to Mold: Some companies simply do not cover mold cleanup (or mold remediation). Most, however, do have at least some coverage for this. Although I have not worked or dealt with every insurance company State Farm has one of the better coverages which ranges up to $5000 on mold related cleanup which includes the Mold Clearance Inspection. This figure does not include repairs of the damage as that is set forth in your individual policy which should be up to the value of the property depending on what you have chosen.
Keep in mind that even if your current insurance company does not cover 'mold', so to speak, does not mean it does not cover the needed repairs. One case I dealt with some years ago involved Farmer's Insurance which did not cover any of the mold remediation and such. But they did cover all needed repairs from that damage. So it is important to understand what coverage you have and what you may need.
It is the Insurance Agent's responsibility to advise you on this and give you the appropriate options. If the agent fails to do this and you are 'under insured' the agent is liable for this which is one reason they are required to carry 'Errors and Omissions' insurance.
I was managing repairs for a property where the agent had volunteered to pay for these for the home owner apparently realizing that the he did not advise the owner on the appropriate coverage to purchase and therefore there was not sufficient coverage under the policy to do repairs. By doing this he kept his insurance license in good standing and avoided a potential lawsuit and hit to his E&O insurance. He was very 'proactive'.
In the last few weeks I have come across Mold Inspection Reports provided by clients that are less than clear about what has been found during the inspection in regards to moisture and what to do about it. For example one report said 'moisture was found' but no specifics on how much moisture was actually there. A good report will specify how much moisture was found such as 20%, 35%, 75% and so on. Normally a picture of the actual reading on the moisture meter should be in the report as support when such a claim is made.
This is important since how much moisture is found in building materials (such as drywall) determines what action, if any, needs to be taken. Example: Say 11% moisture is found in drywall below a window near the floor. This is considered to be well in the normal or acceptable range since it is well below the 18% threshold of what can be considered 'acceptable' depending on the material and location of the reading. But let's say 22% moisture was found in the same area. This would at least call for further investigation such as possibly removing some drywall in the affected area to inspect inside the wall along with trying to determine the source of the moisture.
The reason this is being mentioned is that there are some companies that are just trying to get some work and may make claims of moisture being present with no real supporting documentation. That is one reason why whatever company inspects should not be the one performing the work as it is viewed as a 'conflict of interest', although there is no law against doing this.
I was called in to inspect a property where 'claims of moisture' had been made and areas marked out as to where the moisture was allegedly supposed to be requiring a Mold Remediation. During the inspection I performed I found no moisture ( I mean no significant moisture above 15%) in most of the areas that were inspected by another company and no evidence of mold growth was found inside the suspect walls that would have been present had actual significant moisture been there to begin with. Sometimes it is pays to get a second 'opinion' or inspection in this case.
I did an inspection this week for a landlord for a tenant occupied property. The tenant had complained of mold being found. The inspection found surface mold on the walls inside a closet although no moisture was detected that contributed to this. The tenant found mold on some of the personal belongings in the closet.
Because of no moisture being detected it appears to have been accumulated ,humidity that caused the mold growth, especially in view of the rains for about the last 3 months and with no ventilation in the closet. This in itself is not unusual. What is unusual is the landlord putting the tenants up in another lodging until this matter can be taken care of.
It appears the tenants assumed it was automatically the landlord's obligation to take care of the surface mold in this situation.
Because of this particular inspection I feel it is prudent to advise property owners/managers and tenants alike what their responsibilities may be under current law. Because of not being a lawyer I am providing my understanding of what the law text says. It appears that tenants have the responsibility to maintain the property such as in this case from surface mold that apparently grew because of humidity and not a leak that came about that would have been out of the tenant's control and responsibility. This would seem to be reasonable and basic common sense.
Or in other words all of us (including tenants) who occupy a residence need to regularly clean and maintain our residence including surface mold that will grow in various places because of humidity and other causes that are not the landlord's responsibility. Both the landlord's and tenants need to understand each of their individual rights and responsibilities in this area.
The title of the law in California is SB-655 which you can Google, Bing or Yahoo your way to find and read.