Is Mold Damage Covered by Homeowner’s Insurance?

May 23, 2018

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When someone discovers mold in their home, one of the first things they often ask is if cleanup is covered by their homeowner’s insurance policy.

The simple answer is both yes and no! Homeowner’s insurance may cover the cost of mold damage to your property, depending on the cause of that mold, and on the policy itself.

To help you better understand if mold damage might be covered by your homeowner’s insurance, first consider some basics about homeowner’s insurance in general, along with some reasons why a policy might not cover mold damage, and what you can do to prevent this damage in the first place!

The Basics of Homeowner’s Insurance

As a homeowner, you might assume that your insurance policy is meant to help defray your costs if a home is damaged or destroyed, such as in a fire. This is true to a certain extent, but a basic homeowner’s insurance policy is often required by lenders to protect their investment in your home, not to protect your wallet!

A homeowner’s insurance policy usually reimburses you for repairs that are needed because of fire, lightning strikes, the weight of ice or snow on the roof, frozen pipes, and overflow of water from plumbing or home appliances. This damage affects whether or not the bank could resell the home if they needed to foreclose on the property, which is why it’s covered by most basic policies. As with any type of insurance policy, however, homeowner’s insurance will have add-ons that offer more coverage options. For example, someone with expensive jewelry or artwork might need an add-on to cover theft of personal items.

Other add-ons might cover damage caused by vandalism, sinkholes, earthquakes, or floods. A homeowner may request these add-ons, or a lender might require these additional forms of coverage if the home is on a floodplain or in an area prone to high crime or natural disasters.

When Mold Damage Is, And Is Not, Covered By Homeowner’s Insurance

Now that you know about the basics of homeowner’s insurance, you might note when mold damage is, and is not, covered by such a policy. Your costs for mold cleanup will likely by reimbursed by your homeowner’s insurance in the following circumstances:

  • Heavy snow on the home’s roof causes cracks or holes to form. Moisture then leaks into the home, and mold develops.
  • A pipe bursts and water is absorbed by drywall and other building materials. Even though you have the pipe repaired or replaced right away, mold still forms behind the home’s walls.
  • Your washing machine hose breaks and floods the laundry room. You have the appliance serviced right away, but the water is absorbed by the room’s drywall and mold eventually forms.

These scenarios are all what’s called “sudden and accidental” occurrences. This is important to understand, as mold cleanup and restoration is not typically covered if it’s the result of a homeowner’s negligence. Note a few instances when a homeowner is not likely to be reimbursed for mold cleanup because of their own negligence:

  • The home’s roof is well beyond its expected lifespan, and has holes or missing shingles that are not properly and readily repaired.
  • Broken tiles or missing grout in the bathroom allow water to seep behind the walls, or the bathroom’s ventilation fan breaks and you neglect to have it fixed or replaced.
  • Plumbing pipes are also well behind their expected lifespan, with obvious water leaks.
  • A burst pipe or broken hot water heater causes a flood in your basement, which you neglect to clean properly.

An insurance carrier expects a homeowner to properly maintain their home, so mold damage that results from these types of scenarios is often not covered by your homeowner’s insurance. This maintenance includes replacing or repairing the roof as needed, replacing broken bathroom tiles, replacing or repairing plumbing pipes, and ensuring a hot water heater is in good repair.

An insurance carrier also rightly expects a homeowner to clear flooded areas in the home and address water leaks as quickly as possible. If mold damage is a result this neglect, the insurance carrier is typically not obligated to reimburse the homeowner for any cleanup or needed restoration.

Also, note that poor-quality repairs that allow water to leak behind walls or to get absorbed by floorboards may also void your insurance policy. This is why it’s important for a homeowner to leave home repairs to a pro, rather than trying to replace plumbing pipes, repair a hot water heater, or do other such maintenance jobs themselves.

How to Maintain Your Home to Prevent Mold

Since reimbursement for mold cleanup may depend on whether or not a homeowner actually maintains their home, note some tips on how to keep your home in good repair and prevent mold from forming in the first place.

Have the home’s roof inspected annually, and fix any holes or other damage immediately. A roof coating can quickly and easily plug holes and leaks, and is an affordable way to avoid water seeping into the home through the roof.

  • Be sure to have the home’s gutters inspected as well, and invest in larger gutters if needed, to keep them from flooding and allowing water to get absorbed along the roof edge.
  • Replace broken or missing bathroom tiles as needed, and freshen the grout and caulk in the bathroom when you notice it’s brittle or pulling away from a surface.
  • Ensure your home has adequate ventilation in the kitchen and bathroom, to keep steam and humidity from being absorbed by the home’s building materials.
  • If the home’s basement often floods, or if the space always seems overly damp, install a sump pump, and have the home’s foundation checked for cracks that need patching.

It’s also good to have the home’s plumbing inspected regularly for leaks, and to have the pipes professionally cleaned as often as needed. Also, when the home’s carpeting needs heavy-duty cleaning, consider a dry cleaning method versus standard shampooing. This will help avoid mold that might otherwise form along the carpet padding and subfloor.

Avoiding Mold After Water Damage in your Home

Even a well-maintained home in good repair may suffer damage or accidents that could lead to mold growth. Consider a few important tips for reducing the risk of mold in these cases.

  • If you notice a leaking pipe, shut off all the water to the home while waiting for a plumber.
  • Use a heavy-duty wet-dry vacuum to clean up after any flooding, rather than relying on a standard household mop. This will ensure you remove as much water as possible from flooring tiles and from the home’s subfloor.
  • Don’t simply patch and then paint over water stains on a ceiling, but replace that damaged material with fresh drywall or ceiling tiles.
  • If area rugs have gotten wet, be sure that their undersides are completely dry before you set them out again.
  • If you spill something on wall-to-wall carpeting, use a hair dryer to thoroughly dry smaller spills, or a high-power dryer meant for wet carpets for larger spills. Keep this dryer running for several hours, even overnight, to ensure both the carpet and padding are completely dry.

You also don’t want to throw away anything that might have caused the flood, such as a leaking pipe or broken washing machine hose. These might be needed to prove to your insurance company that you were not at fault for the flooding and any resultant mold.

It might also be good to take photos of the flooded area and whatever may have caused the flood, such as a damaged roof or broken hot water heater. Remember, too, that you should call your insurance carrier as soon as possible after a flood or any type of water damage is discovered, so they know you’re doing everything needed to help prevent mold growth.

Mold and New Home Inspections

It’s a common misconception that a new home inspection will alert you to the presence of mold in a home you’re thinking of buying. However, a home inspector will check areas of the home that need to be built to certain local building codes, and that may affect the home’s overall structural stability. This would include the home’s wiring, plumbing pipes, foundation, roof, and the like.

A check for mold is not typically covered in standard home inspections, so you might consider arranging for a separate inspection for mold. This is especially important if:

  • The home is on a floodplain
  • The area in which the home is located was known to have suffered a flood sometime in the past
  • The home is very old
  • The basement feels damp and clammy or the attic seems overly humid
  • The home is in the tropics or any area with high humidity levels

If a new home inspection shows that the home has old and leaky pipes or cracks in the foundation, note that these problems might lead to eventual mold growth. While you may want to have all needed repairs performed on a home as soon as you buy it, consider that fixing those pipes or foundation might be a priority, to help reduce the risk of mold developing over time.

Get Rid of Mold Yourself, or Hire a Pro?

If your home’s mold damage is not covered by insurance, you may be tempted to tackle this cleanup yourself. This can be a mistake, as improper cleaning methods can cause mold spores to become airborne and then settle onto other areas of the home.

While calling a professional mold cleanup and restoration company is recommended, if you do tackle this job on your own, be sure you wear full protective clothing, as well as thick rubber gloves. You also want to use eye protection and a breathing apparatus, not just a dust mask

Use a sponge soaked in a bleach solution to absorb any damp areas that are covered with mold. If the mold has dried, spray the bleach solution onto the area, to dampen the mold and reduce the risk of spores becoming airborne, and then blot up that area. There are also cleaning solutions meant for mold in particular, which you can find at most home improvement or hardware stores.

If your home has a large area of drywall or framework covered by mold, it might be recommended that you simply cut away and remove those areas, and then replace them with new materials. Be sure you brace up the home’s framework before cutting out any wall studs or roof rafters. Also, cut out a large section of wood or drywall around the mold, to ensure you remove all affected areas.

Never use your own household vacuum for cleaning mold, as this can easily spread mold spores throughout your house. You also want to dispose of any sponges, paper towels, and other materials you use to remove mold, rather than simply washing these in hot water or bleach for reuse. Use thick trash bags that you can close completely for all your cleaning materials, and for any building materials you remove as well.

You might also need to check with your city or county about any requirements for disposing of moldy materials, as you may not be able to simply put these out with your household trash. In some areas, moldy building materials may be considered hazardous waste, and may need to be taken to a certain landfill or city dump. If you’re unsure of how to manage this disposal on your own, consider investing in the services of a professional mold cleanup and restoration company instead.

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