MOLD. It’s the new four-letter word in real estate and property management. This one syllable word can strike fear and panic in the most experienced Realtor and property manager. Of course, usually when the word is hurled towards an agent, it also includes the adjectives “black” or “toxic” and sometimes followed up with threats of lawsuits, attorneys and local TV stations, certainly increasing the fear factor. Let’s examine five common myths and realities of mold.
1-) “The mold problem is new.” Myth. Mold problems have been around since the beginning of time. In fact, during my own research, I uncovered the first mold remediation manual for eradicating mold in a residential structure is found in a very old book: see the Bible in Leviticus 14. Mold is old. This original manual could very well be used as a procedural manual today for disaster restoration companies. However, remember if you have a mold mitigation situation, don’t try to fix it on your own! Be sure to ask your HRRA Restoration Affiliate members for help getting rid of your mold problem.
2-) “Mold is everywhere.” True. Mold spores really are everywhere, both indoors and outdoors. The problem comes into existence when interior mold concentrations are greater that outside concentrations, and the mold proliferates, causing damage to property and potential health risks. Mold grows when mold spores land in moist conditions and are left unchecked. Building trends in the last several decades have increased the mold problem in our dwellings by making them air-tight, which aids in retaining moisture. The use of gypsum board, or drywall, also increases the prevalence of mold, as the material wicks and retains moisture and becomes conducive to mold growth. Without moisture, though, mold is generally not a problem.
3-) “All mold is dangerous.” Yes and no. It’s true that any mold can be problematic if someone is exposed to elevated mold levels for extended periods of time. Of course, each person is affected differently even by non-toxigenic molds. Those with autoimmune diseases, asthma, or other health problems may be much more sensitive to the presence of mold than a person who does not suffer from these health risks. For that reason, there’s no defined acceptable measurement of mold concentration, or for that matter, legal definition of a safe amount that I could find in any research.
However, it should be reassuring to know that only a small percentage of mold creates mycotoxins, which present the most threat to one’s health. These are the molds that get all of the attention, but are in fact, very rare. Another important point is that you cannot tell by looking at mold which is dangerous and which is not. “Black” mold may not actually produce mycotoxins (FYI: mycotoxin-producing mold may be black, gold, yellow, green, or any other variation of color). Molds that look “bad” or “dangerous” because of their shape and texture may not be mycotoxin-producing and yet, a mold that doesn’t look so bad, might be. Not all mold is bad! Remember, without mold, we wouldn’t have cheese or penicillin. Mold is a critical part of the ecosystem and has numerous industrial uses. To play it safe and reduce liability exposure, be sure to contact one of your HRRA restoration Affiliates to help mitigate any cases of mold you may find.
4-) “Visible mold treatment in homes is the same, no matter what.” True. Two things must happen when mold is discovered. The mold must be removed and the source of moisture must be corrected. All visible mold should be removed through proper cleaning, treatment, and/or replacement of building materials, including in areas that you may not see such as behind walls or in the attic. The source of moisture is typically a plumbing or roof leak. In order to prevent additional mold, the source of moisture must be identified and eliminated. Because of the legal liability assumed in remediating the mold correctly, it is recommended to hire a professional company (there are several who are HRRA affiliate members) for any significant presence of mold, such as over 100 square feet.
5-) “Mold is covered by insurance.” Yes and no. There are two types of insurance coverage that exist in reference to mold. First part property coverage is what will pay to repair somebody’s own property following damage by mold. Generally speaking, mold is excluded. However, if the mold results from a covered primary loss such as a wind-damaged roof or burst pipe, then the cost to remediate as part of the claim may exist, depending on the conditions. Third party liability coverage protects a property owner from legal exposure if a third party, such as a tenant, claims damage to their property or injury to themselves due to negligence. Generally, mold (and other “pollutions”) liability is excluded from liability coverage. This liability coverage may be purchased as an endorsement or as a separate policy. However, due to the cost, it is not common for property managers or landlords to acquire this coverage. It is important to review your policy and consult your insurance professional. It’s also important to hire professional remediation companies and require them to provide a certificate of insurance to confirm that the company has pollution liability coverage as part of their coverages.
All The Best,
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