What’s toxic, dense, and hidden away in the darkest corners of a home?
Mold, of course!
If you think fungus on old bread is creepy, wait till you see a giant mold patch in a hidden corner of your house. Often found in areas with poor drainage and ventilation, mold can trigger an onslaught of severe health problems for you and your family. Think persistent headaches, aggravated asthma, and other debilitating upper-respiratory issues.
Besides, household mold makes for an unsightly, foul-smelling mess that can destroy your home for good. We’re talking discolored walls and decaying floorboards, among other things.
Remediating mold damage isn’t a cakewalk: it requires extensive renovations, and you’ll likely have to move out of your home until the project is complete.
Like most homeowners, you’re probably curious about one thing: does homeowners insurance cover mold? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always clear-cut. Standard homeowners’ policies only cover mold damage to an extent, subject to certain conditions.
To avoid expensive surprises, you may want to know which of your home insurance company covers instances of mold damage in the long run.
Let’s dive in.
1. Mold Damage Cases Covered by Homeowners Insurance
So, when does homeowners insurance cover mold? There are quite a few working parts to this query. Generally speaking, your home insurer will only pay for a mold outbreak if a covered peril causes it.
Mold Insurance for Covered Perils
First things first: what is a covered peril?
Any disaster the insurance company agrees to reimburse you for is considered a ‘covered peril’. These usually include:
- Fire and smoke
- Hail damage
- Lightning strikes
- Water damage from burst pipes
- Falling objects
- Weight of snow
- Theft and vandalism
Since mold formation directly results from moisture seeping into your home, you need to know the various water-related covered perils included in your policy.
The first one that comes to mind is sudden and accidental water damage. Mold can start to form in as little as 24-48 hours on damp surfaces. So, if there is any water damage to your home, chances are pretty high that it will lead to mold growth.
Here are a few real-world examples of when this would apply:
Burst Water Heaters
Residential water heaters are ticking bombs with the potential to blow up. Alarmingly, they can lead to significant water damage, causing black mold patches to grow on the surrounding walls.
Fortunately, your home insurance policy may pay for you to get the mold removed and the walls replaced, should you wish to file a claim.
Unexpected Washing Machine Leaks
It’s not uncommon for perfectly installed washing machines to act up all of a sudden. When this happens, a resulting leak may manifest a mold infestation behind or under the appliance. This is also typically covered under mold insurance.
Probably every homeowner’s worst nightmare, a glitching dishwasher can flood your kitchen in moments, creating mold colonies in multiple corners of your kitchen. But, again, this type of mold remediation is accounted for in most homeowners’ insurance policies.
Water Damage from Firefighting
Firefighters use gallons of water to extinguish house fires. Unfortunately, the excess moisture can quickly contaminate organic materials around the home with mold. However, once you decide to get the mold removed, you’ll probably be reimbursed under your homeowner’s insurance policy.
Does homeowner’s insurance cover mold in these instances? Yes – but there’s a catch.
Note that in each case, mold is a ‘resulting damage’ from a covered peril (that is, sudden and accidental water damage). Thus, your policy may shell out for the ensuing mold–related repairs, but not for the malfunctioning appliance or accident that triggered it.
Also, even if your policy pays for mold removal, the sum may not cover all the damages incurred. So, again, there are coverage limits to consider, so it’s best if you talk to your agent and weigh your options right out the gate.
2. Mold Damage Cases Not Covered by Homeowners Insurance
The thing is, mold doesn’t form overnight. Although it can start to form after just a few days, the damaging effects are a gradual process. This can take several months for mold to turn into an actual threat. At this point, you may find it difficult to identify the exact cause of the mold.
Unless you can produce compelling evidence of accidental water damage, your insurance company will most likely deny your claim, arguing that the mold results from neglect and lack of upkeep.
In their defense, there are ample reasons why home insurers hesitate to pay for mold repairs. First, mold removal can be expensive, and a large removal project could set you back thousands of dollars. Second, extensive mold growth is typically easy to prevent. All you need is a dehumidifier, and you’re good to go.
There are also specific incidents where insurance policies implicitly refuse coverage. Usually, homeowner’s insurance won’t cover damages from mold if it resulted from the following:
Ignoring Long-Term Leaks
More often than not, leaky plumbing is the prime suspect for mold growth. For example, if a leak in your kitchen sink pipe has gone unrepaired for years, your insurance company may not cover the mold damage that follows.
Not Using a Dehumidifier
Homes in humid climates are prone to mold growth. Ideally, it would be best if you used a dehumidifier to balance your indoor humidity. But in case you fail to do this, and the subsequent dampness leads to molding, your insurer will see it as an act of negligence. Consequently, you won’t be reimbursed.
Water Seepage into the Home
Wait, isn’t water damage a covered peril? Well, it is, but only if the water comes from inside the home. Allow us to explain.
Suppose a pipe outside your home is bust due to a construction blunder. Even after the water damage is fixed, you may find mold growing in different areas of your home. However, unlike before, this mold damage will not be covered by homeowner’s insurance.
Floods and Other Natural Calamities
For those wondering, ‘does homeowner’s insurance cover mold caused by natural floods and storm surges?’ the simple answer is: no.
This is because standard homeowner’s insurance policies do not pay for flood-related water damage. You’ll need additional flood insurance to make the cut. Homeowners with flood insurance may file a claim for mold formation and other repairs after their homes are flooded by a torrential downpour, cyclones, and similar acts of God. Flood insurance is a sweet deal, especially if you live in floodplains or along the coast.
3. How to File a Foolproof Mold Insurance Claim?
By now, we must have answered your question: ‘does homeowners insurance cover mold?’ As you see, it both does and doesn’t. It’s best if you ask your insurance agent for the coverage details and limits to avoid confusion. Once you determine that your loss is covered under the policy, you can take the following steps to file a claim.
Go Through Every Detail in Your Policy
For starters, secure a copy of your policy from your insurance agent. Go through every inch of the ‘declarations’ page to understand your coverage, policy limits, and dates. Do not miss the fine print: it usually includes details on what’s insured and what’s not. If your policy has certain additional endorsements, see if they alter your coverage in any way.
Document the Damage
The first time you come across mold spots, whip out your phone and record the damage. Take ample pictures from multiple angles to play it safe. Additionally, be sure to provide your insurance agent with updated maintenance records.
File a Claim As Soon As Possible
When you have everything documented, call your insurance agent to file a claim immediately. Keep a written account of the details discussed in each conversation. Most importantly, confirm every agreement in writing.
In some cases, a call may not be enough. Your insurance agent may choose to give you the run-around. If this happens, do not relent. Instead, follow up the initial phone call with a fax, letter, and email.
Prepare to Defend Yourself
Bear in mind that home insurance companies are fairly quick to dismiss mold insurance claims. However, if you believe the mold damage stemmed from a covered peril, stand your ground firmly.
Also, avoid guesswork unless the source of the mold is apparent. Making wrong assumptions can hurt your claim in more ways than one. Instead, you can ask for a formal investigation, such as a mold inspection and assessment. This will provide you with factual evidence which supports the location, type, and cause of the mold growth.
Minimize Further Damage
Upon filing the claim, try to fix the damage without disturbing the mold. Simply put, you can remove objects from the space and install a dehumidifier, but do not start permanent repairs before meeting a claims adjuster. This official will inspect the damages in person and chalk out an estimate.
Follow instructions to a Tee
As obvious as this sounds, you must heed your insurer’s instructions diligently. The more you co-operate, the higher your chances of getting the claim approved.
Be Wary of Lowball Offers
Understand that your insurance company will do everything in its power to stick you with a lowball offer. To avoid falling into this trap, try and get a second or third opinion on what the actual repairs should cost.
4. Steps to Take if Your Mold Claim is Denied
Not to be a Debbie Downer here, but your claim may get axed even if you have all the requirements down pat. This can be due to a host of different reasons, a few of which we have already discussed.
When this happens, you can:
- Appeal the denial provided your insurance company has an appeal process in place.
- Reach out to licensed environmental experts for a second opinion on the damage.
- Contact your state insurance commissioner for help.
Mold remediation is stressful. Not to mention, it can easily burn a sizable hole through your pocket. But, instead of being at the mercy of your insurance company, you can take active steps to limit mold growth within your home. Remember, a little proactive maintenance can go a long way!
Do you spot an ugly patch of black mold on your walls? Then, trust GreenWorks to deal with it. Our expert mold inspection and remediation services can get rid of dangerous mold patches before you can Google ‘does homeowners insurance cover mold’. So feel free to contact us today!