The answer to this question is…it depends. Generally speaking, mold damage is covered if it was caused by a covered peril. If the mold is caused by flooding or negligence or a peril that is not covered, a mold claim will be denied. There are some exceptions and we’ll touch on those later.
Let’s start with some basics. Mold starts as a spore. There are millions of these microscopic particles in the air, on grass, leaves, and on just about everything outside you touch or rub against. These spores find their way into your home through opened screened windows, on shoes, through vents in the eaves, even Fido’s paws. By themselves, spores are just dust. But if they find a warm place, have access to food (and that’s just about anything) and moisture, they can colonize into mold.
The takeaway is every home has the potential to form mold. Fortunately, normal, regular, housekeeping is usually enough to prevent serious mold from occurring. Insurance companies expect their policyholders to proactively maintain their houses. Consequently, when mold damage occurs, the first question an adjuster is going to ask is could the formation have been prevented.
Is It Covered?
Mold claims can get tricky. Identical mold damage caused by covered perils may or may not be honored.
- During a rough winter, an ice dam forms in your gutter backing up water under the shingles of your 11-year-old roof. The water leaks into the attic saturating the insulation and causing mold. The covered peril is “Weight of ice, snow, or sleet” and the company pays for the damage and clean up.
- That Spring a strong storm rolls through and blows off shingles on your neighbor’s 40-year-old roof. Rain leaks into the attic saturating the insulation and causing mold. The covered peril is “wind damage” but the insurance company denies the claim. The roof is way past its useful life and the homeowner has an obligation to replace it.
- You come home and discover your washer hose has burst spilling gallons of water. The spill has leaked under the baseboard and soaked the lower portion of your wallboard creating mold. The covered peril is “Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from plumbing, heating, air conditioners, sprinkler systems, or household appliances.” The insurance company pays for the fix. Your neighbor experiences the exact same thing, except his hose was old and should have been replaced. The insurance company declines the claim.
As you can see from the examples, just having insurance does not relieve you of the responsibility of maintaining your home.
Filing a Mold Claim
You should contact your insurance agent or company, as soon as you are aware of mold damage in your home. That said, your first action should be to stabilize the damage. Because water is associated with mold, if you have a flood in your house (caused by a covered peril) your first action is to find the source of the leak and turn off the water. That may mean cutting off the water to your home. Take photos of the damage and then begin the task of cleaning up. Mop or wet vac the water, remove carpeting and furniture that has been damaged (place it in the garage for inspection by adjuster), and open windows to improve ventilation and drying. If the damage is extensive, you may need to get a water mitigation team to tackle the task. You can call your agent or company and get recommendations for companies that already have a relationship with your carrier.
While you are on that phone call, ask what limits you have for “additional living expenses” (ALE) if you feel it’s necessary to temporarily relocate your family.
Detailed documentation is the best practice to ensure your mold claim is both honored and paid at a fair rate. Photos, receipts, and a detailed timeline, will help you successfully get through the experience.