This can seem a little complicated the first time you go through it. Some of this I may have covered on a previous blog. But because I keep running into this when I go on inspections I want to help people understand what they need to do in this process of a potential insurance claim especially if mold may be involved.
Each insurance company has a policy on mold coverage and it it is important for you to know what that coverage is for your particular insurance company and your particular policy. Realistically, most people don't know what their coverage is until they actually have a potential claim and then they have to call their agent and investigate to find out what their coverage actually is. Keep in mind when calling your agent they are not an employee of the insurance company. Their primary job is to sell you or provide you with coverage options for your insurance. And they cannot make a decision whether you have coverage on a particular issue or not. That would be the adjuster's job.
Many times insurance companies, through their agents, will discourage making a claim so they can keep their payouts lower. They may say things like 'if you file this claim then the risk of your policy being cancelled goes up'. Although, this might be true, it does not always reflect what will actually happen. It is true the more claims that are made in a short period, say in 3 years time, will likely result in your policy being cancelled so you need to decide which claims are more important to file. Normally you want to have a larger claim filed as opposed to filing claims for smaller amounts say like 2 or $3000 depending on your particular situation.
In my experience of handling insurance claims in water damage since 2005 it is usually best to report that you have found a leak of some sort as opposed to saying 'I have mold in my house'. Insurance companies that cover mold will normally have a cap on the mold coverage. For example, State Farm has a cap of $5000 to cover anything related to mold Including repairs related to mold. Where the insurance company Farmers does not cover mold, yet they will cover any repairs related to mold after the mold remediation has been completed.
However, that is not the same as water mitigation or dry out services. Anything to do with water mitigation or dry out services is handled separately as a different expense although it may be in the same claim. And the cap on water damage services is normally the policy limit whatever that limit may be. Say, up to the value of the house.
One more point I want to make is this:
Sometimes using an approved vendor or a vendor Of a particular insurance company is not always the best way to go. There are several reasons for this to consider In your particular situation.
Going to Court over a mold issue requires proper evidence. You need an inspector who is certified for mold and can do mold testing or sampling. In addition to the written report you will receive from the inspector the inspector will need to be in court to validate the report. This basically means that he is telling the court that he/she did the inspection and wrote the report. The inspector will also be deposed or questioned to confirm his/her credentials and the experience the inspector has by the lawyers present. Without the inspector being present in court then the written report will be of no value as the court can dismiss it.
Starting on April 7, 2018 a leak occurred in the wall between a garage and the kitchen at the hot water heater stand with the air handler/furnace were also located. The leak was fixed by the landlord just 2 days after being noticed by the tenant. However, the landlord left the area soaking wet. This is significant in that the uniform housing code says the property (rental in this case) must be maintained free of dampness and mold. Of course, dampness leads to mold growth and bacteria growth when not attended to promptly. The owner did not want to spend money or bring in a professional to dry the area as needed. The tenant dried the area with equipment on hand but the leak had possibly been going on for some 2 to 4 weeks by the time it was noticed due to the fact that the area experienced rain for several weeks which disguised the leak. It took about 7 days for the area to dry. A 2nd leak occurred in the same area about 3 weeks later on April 28.
Same thing happened again; the leak was repaired but the area was left soaking wet again. This time it took about 5 days to dry now that the weather was a little warmer.
But then some 7 weeks later on June 22nd the tenant was asked to vacate the property with a 60 day notice. Under normal circumstances this can be considered normal.
Next time I will talk about why this particular notice was not considered normal or legal.
An interesting situation has been developing since April 7th this year. It has to do with what happens when a landlord fails to fulfill his/her responsibilities under the law. And what do you do when mold grows in your home and its not your fault? Stay tuned. More will come in a few days here and on my Facebook page.
What are things you can do to minimize mold growth in your home? The following recommendations will help you do this.
1. Maintain good house hygiene; (meaning clean your home regularly).
2. Use a vacuum equipped with a hepa filter. This filter will remove up to 99.97% of contaminants, including mold spores, from the air.
3. Use Air Cleaning machines that have a hepa filter. As mentioned above this filter will remove up to 99.97% of contaminants, including mold spores, from the air.
4. Address any suspected leaks or mold growth promptly.
5. Use 'Damp-Rid' or similar product in closets and other potential problem areas where there is low air circulation or high humidity as this will absorb the excess humidity and thus reduce the chance for mold growth.
The above are some solid things you can do to help safeguard your home from potential mold growth. It I impossible to stop all mold growth in the home but you can maintain a relatively much safer home with very little mold growth.
Since It can be a challenging at times to be able to live up to all the legal and implied obligations of a property owner, it is important that if you lease or rent property you be thoroughly familiar with what is required of you as a landlord. Although, much of it may seem like common sense that can change depending on how any one person views a particular situation. Senate bill 655 that came into affect January of 2016 states, among other things, that the property must be maintained free of dampness and mold.
For example, what happens if a small leak has developed and it is reported by your tenant, business or residential? Obviously the first step is to find and repair the leak or source of water intrusion. Once that is accomplished many may feel that is the end of it and simply leave the area(s) to dry out on their own. Some will leave the wall open (such as after a plumber has cut out some drywall to repair the leak) to 'air it out' so it can dry. Is that really the wise course of action? No it is not.
The reason is that you really don't know how much moisture is there and were it has gone to. Keep in mind that mold starts to grow about 24 hours after getting a water source. So the longer the moisture is there trying......to dry out, then mold will continue to grow for that period of time. Let's say it hypothetically takes 2 weeks for the area to dry. At that point mold can be said to have been growing for almost the same amount of time.
Mold starts out microscopic (from 2 to 100 microns) so you can't see it until the growth accumulates to a certain extent. Just because you don't see any mold does not mean it is not there. There are mold spores in the air we breath all the time. And especially in newly opened walls where a repair has been made there area already mold spores present from when the house or building was built. Once the wall is opened up these spores now are released into the living area of the home or office even though you can't see them. Too many mold spores can cause breathing and other health problems depending on the person's immune system and the type of mold spore, mold or even mycotoxin they are exposed to.
So the point I am trying to make is that you just can't leave to chance an area to dry on its own. Have a professional like my company or another evaluate the situation and listen to their recommendations to address the situation. What about the potential costs of this scenario. We'll talk about how to deal with that next time within the next two weeks.
California Senate Bill No. 655 was passed October 9, 2015 and went into effect January 2016. While this bill says many things we will focus briefly on the obligation of the property owner to maintain the property free of dampness and mold. If any area of the property you rent is 'damp' or 'wet' then you need to make your landlord aware of it. This way they have the opportunity to take the needed action. If you don't notify them in a timely fashion, depending on how wet things are, then the landlord cannot be held liable for the property being wet or mold growing as a result. You would not be able to collect 'damages' from the owner in that case. Of course, you may want to consult legal counsel on this as needed.
Once you inform the owner and no action is forth coming on his/her part then you have the right to take necessary action to correct the problem that poses a threat to you or your families health. A code enforcement officer or health officer can enforce compliance from the owner on the matter of active moisture or leaks. Some renters are able to 'repair' the situation and then send the invoice to the owner and take it off of their rent but you are only allowed to do this twice in a year. And in this context we are talking about situations that pose a risk to the health and welfare of your family and property.
I have performed many inspections for tenants that had large amounts of moisture or dampness in their unit that was not being addressed by the owner properly, if at all. In a case like that talking with the building department of the city you live in and specifically with a code enforcement officer can help get things rolling to force owner compliance on matters like this especially if you are not in a position to pay for it yourself and then take it off the rent. Be sure to look up 'renter's rights in California' pdf which has valuable information on these issues and more specifically on pages 47 to 52.
Contacting the Fair Housing Foundation for the area in which you live can provide valuable information and insight as to how to address such issues with your landlord. Within 1 to 2 days you will have good information you can use to deal with this type of situation and start the ball rolling to getting things corrected.
In an era where many of us are following online tutorials to make our home improvement dreams come true, it’s important to know when a DIY will turn into a living nightmare. Unless you’re a professional, you can run into a heap of trouble, risking your home, health, and safety. Before you grab your tools and roll up your sleeves, be aware of these home improvement no-no’s.
Handling asbestos. If you own a home build prior to 1980, chances are it contains asbestos. The asbestos would be in the form of ceiling texture, siding, insulation, or adhesives. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it’s disturbed and you can breathe it in, at which point it could damage lung tissue. The experts at Redfin explain that if you do a remodel or renovation, you will need to budget for a professional to handle asbestos remediation.
Removing mold. Homeowners are sometimes confused about mold, since most of us remove mold in places like bathrooms on a routine basis. However it’s important to understand some forms of mold are dangerous for you to remove yourself. According to HouseLogic, mold spores found growing on studs, drywall, or subflooring could be hazardous, and you should hire a professional to manage the removal.
Plumbing. Leaking showers and dishwasher installations indicate you should call a plumber. Any time you feel pipes need to be disassembled or assembled, some experts warn you are in over your head. Pipes are actually complex and require specialized expertise, so don’t DIY plumbing-related projects.
Wall removal. Open floor plans are all the rage, but you better think twice before tearing out a wall. If the wall is load-bearing, removing it could cause your ceiling to collapse and potentially endanger you and other members of the household.
Roof repairs. Replacing a few shingles or fixing a leaky roof may not sound like a big deal, but if you don’t do it correctly you can exacerbate your problem. Roof leaks and repairs are more complicated than they seem, and you need to be able to accurately locate where damage occurred in order to fix it properly. Besides, lots of homeowners fall off roofs in an attempt to save a few bucks. Call in a contractor before creating more headaches or a trip to the emergency room.
Electrical issues. If you don’t handle electricity properly, you risk a house fire or electrocuting yourself. Unless you have necessary skill and knowledge, you shouldn’t install your own light fixtures. Even more dangerous is tampering with your electrical panel. As HGTV explains, repairing or changing your electrical panel is not only hazardous, it requires a special permit. Hire a certified electrician to navigate electrical additions and repairs.
Waterproofing a foundation. Wet basements are difficult and costly to fix, so sometimes homeowners try to save money doing the work themselves. However the job is a major undertaking, involving removing the soil around your home’s foundation and installing a special membrane and drainage tiles, and sometimes a sump pump is required. This isn’t a job to skimp on; look for a waterproofing contractor that offers a 15- to 25-year warranty on the work.
Tree removal. Working on trees is hazardous in many ways. Climbing can leave you open to a dangerous fall, decaying trees can crumble unexpectedly, and limbs can fall on people or structures nearby, so some professionals recommend hiring a tree removal service instead of attempting the work yourself.
Don’t DIY. You may enjoy doing certain home improvements yourself, but it’s vital not to get in over your head. When the job exceeds your ability and knowledge, you can create more problems or risk health and safety. Recognize your limits and know when to call in a pro.
Mold spores range in size from about 2 to 100 microns with most being in the 2 to 20 micron range. To put this into perspective 1 inch = 25,400 microns. Mold spores are what germinate or grow actual mold once these get a water source. And it stands to reason that when mold first starts to grow you cannot see it with the naked eye.
Why this is important:
Mold spores are, for the most part, everywhere and originate outside. When a house is built many mold spores are trapped inside the walls. When water or moisture penetrates the wall then mold Will Grow!
Whether a person sees visible mold when the wall is open or not there will be mold because science says that within about 24 hours of getting water to these mold spores mold starts to grow.
The reason I emphatically point this out is because most people are not aware of this fact and if a wall is opened in your home for any reason mold spores will be released into the common air of that room and the home. In most situations this will not even be noticed except some of the symptoms of exposure to excess mold spores or the wrong type of mold spores depending on the immune system of the person being exposed. This can range from no noticeable symptoms to mild allergic reactions and even to extreme health symptoms that can make breathing more difficult and more.
In a recent inspection moisture was found in the ceiling and walls of a home as a result of a air conditioning condensation line leaking for an unknown period of time but likely several weeks. When the company removed the wet drywall of the affected areas no Visible Mold was found and informed the owner of such. However, this was misleading since when air samples were taken in the area (under containment) there was an excessive amount of mold spores in the area, specifically Aspergillis/penicillium in the 8,000 count range. This happened because the company performing the remediation work did not seal the opened wall cavities which allowed 'extra' mold spores to enter the contained area and eventually the home when a containment breach occurred by accident. Subsequently more work had to be done.
So please keep in mind, especially if you have health concerns or conditions, that when walls are opened for any reason you can be exposed to excess mold spores for this reason and you should take precautions. Downloading my Special Report on this site at
http://www.ocmolddetection.com/landing.html will help you to know what precautions to take.
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