Dealing with Mold Damage Insurance Claims after Hurricane Michael
Policyholders who experienced any type of water intrusion from Hurricane Michael may experience mold infiltration. When claims are delayed and repairs put on hold, it can become a real problem because mold can grow unseen for months and create a serious health hazard. Coming to an agreement with your insurance company on how to deal with mold can create major disagreements due to the fact that certain “fixes” can be expensive. So make sure you understand all your options.
Many of policyholders now contacting our firm report mold issues. Their message goes a little bit something like this: “Roof damage caused bedroom flood, water running down the wall, water came in the front door, sheet rock and crown molding are ruined, now mold growing causing health concern.” Most homeowners will have a limit on their mold coverage in their policy. But remember there would be no mold but for water and water loss is not limited. I am making this statement despite the fact that we have seen some insurance companies actually try to limit water loss coverage.
In the past, mold damage claims were covered under most property insurance policies when it resulted from a covered peril, such as a sudden plumbing leak, fire control, storm or other causes covered under your policy. However, some insurance carriers have been removing or scaling back mold coverage from their policy forms regardless if it results from a covered peril. Now some insurance companies are offering limited coverage for mold and fungus if you pay an additional premium payment.
Mold contamination should be taken very seriously. It can cause severe illness to some people and considerable damage to property. Before the changes to exclude mold coverage from policies, some carrier representatives would attempt to minimize the impact of mold often suggesting a little bleach as a solution. Unless you are dealing with visible mold in a very small area, this is far from an adequate solution. To get more insight about mold: Read our Frequently Asked Questions about Mold Claims.
So, what should you do if you suspect mold damage? Many homeowners who stay in their home may first detect mold when they start to experience throat or eye irritation. This is a red flag that something nasty is in the air. You might also detect a moldy odor or dampness inside the house. First understand that facts specific to each claim can be very different but these are some general guidelines you may want to discuss with your adjuster should you come back to a home with mold starting to appear.
Remove any contents remaining in the home and move to a storage area off property. This will allow you to inspect for damages to the contents and separate the damaged items from the undamaged ones. This will also allow you to get a better sense of what items are repairable verses a total loss and help you make your personal contents claim later on. Also by removing contents, it may prevent any cross contamination concerns.
Then you might consider getting a hygienist to come in and do a thorough inspection of the home to see what if any contaminants are present in the house. If they are present, then a repair estimate needs to be drafted to determine what needs to be torn out to rid the home of any findings from the hygienist.
This estimate along with the actual physical damages estimate is the one you need to either file a claim or go to appraisal if that is an option. The same hygienist should also inspect your contents and write a report on their findings. Typically, hard surfaces can be cleaned, but fabrics and electronics (in my opinion) are better replaced depending on the findings. See our previous blog for more tips on how to manage mold after water damage.
Once your claim is settled and your contractor follows the repair recommendations from the hygienist, you should consider having an air quality test done. If the house passes, then your are good to go. This report is important because if you ever decide to sell your home, you can prove that all repairs have been completed and you have a report (air quality final clearance) as an insurance policy of sorts for any prospective buyer. Remember, your home will now be in the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange), a database insurance companies use to memorialize a loss to an insured property that all carries have access to should future claims be made.
Now, if you have mold damage as a result of a flood claim that falls under your FEMA / NFIP flood insurance, that is a whole different story. According to the NFIP FAQ about mold coverage: “Damage from mold and/or mildew resulting from the after effects of a flood is covered, but each case is evaluated on an individual basis. Mold and/or mildew conditions that existed prior to a flooding event are not covered. After a flood event, the policyholder is responsible for taking reasonable and appropriate mitigation actions to reduce and/or eliminate mold and/or mildew. Reasonable actions taken to mitigate mold and/or mildew are covered (for example, the use of responsible drying-out techniques or application of mildicide at a reasonable cost).” The lesson here is to make sure you know what type of policy you are seeking coverage under and understand what is and is not covered under your policy.
One final note, beware insurance company representatives who quote the policy exclusions for mold even when some coverage may exist for your mold damage. Simple water damage claims can become complicated. Have someone who understands policy language review your policy. A public adjuster can help you manage your overall insurance claim, ensure your mold damage is assessed properly and advise the necessary course of action.
If you have questions regarding any property insurance related issue caused by Hurricane Michael please call 800-321-4488 or contact a licensed Florida Public Adjuster to submit a question to one of our insurance claim experts.