A few years ago, a flood caused some damage to the flooring of Mike Zepp’s condo. Zepp and his partner decided to replace the floor and install a sump pump to mitigate future flooding.
But when their contractor dug into the subfloor and into the foundation to start the installation process, they discovered the subfloor rotted and moldy.
“The problem probably started before we moved in,” says Zepp, who is an attorney who lives in Boston. “And while water had likely come up several times, it didn’t get high enough for us to notice.”
Zepp and his partner didn’t file a claim because the condo insurance policy (aka an HO6 policy) and the master condo policy didn’t include a specific exclusion for groundwater flooding damage. What’s more, they didn’t opt for flood insurance because they don’t live in a flood zone.
While undergoing major renovations of their duplex condo — updating flooring, and heated floors throughout the room — they were also dealing with mold damage. Their mold issues were probably costing them several thousand dollars. This is on top of what they were already planning on spending.
Mold damage to your home can be costly. It can also have harmful effects to your health. So it’s helpful to know when homeowners insurance covers mold damage. And if so, in what instances can you file an insurance claim, and when do you have to pay out of pocket?
Does homeowners insurance cover mold?
The only instances a standard homeowners insurance policy covers mold-induced damage are ones that originated from a peril that’s covered in your current policy.
That means your insurance will cover damage stemmed from perils like a burst pipe, rainfall, or ice dams from your roof.
For instance, backed up water from a dam can find its way to the walls, insulation or ceilings of your home. In this particular case, you’d be able to file a claim for mold damage since it’s covered under a standard homeowners insurance.
Your homeowners insurance might also cover damage to your house due to mold if it originated from water damage that happened suddenly, or was accidental.
For example, if it was from a washing machine hose that suddenly split open, or if your water heater burst. And the moisture from the water caused mold to grow and spread, and you’d be able to file a claim.
When isn’t mold covered under your homeowners insurance?
If it’s damage from mold that grew and spread from a preventable water leak (i.e., leaky pipes), weather and environmental factors like humidity, and neglect and lack of maintenance isn’t covered.
In other words, mold damage that comes from a preventable situation or wasn’t from some unexpected occurrence that blindsided you isn’t covered.
Additionally, mold that’s caused from a flood, and sewer and drain backup aren’t covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Another way to look at it would be any water that came from the bottom and made its way into your home.
For mold damage that originated from a flood, you’ll need flood insurance to be able to file a claim.
Besides installing a sump pump to prevent future flooding, Zepp and his partner are now considering flood insurance even though they don’t reside in a flood zone.
What is a mold damage rider?
A mold damage rider is additional coverage you can add to your current homeowners insurance policy.
While this might allow you to file claims for mold damage that your standard policy wouldn’t typically cover, there are usually limits on claim amounts.
Before deciding on paying for the rider, check the fine print. You’ll want to see exactly what kind of mold damage it covers, and what the maximum claim amounts are.
What is a sewer backup rider?
A sewer backup rider is additional coverage in instances where water gets backed up from a drainage system or sewer, goes through the pipes, and does damage to your home.
What causes sewer backups? Tree roots; combined pipelines, which are systems that mix raw sewage and storm water; and a blockage in a sanitary main can all be causes.
As backed up sewers are increasing at a 3 percent rate each year, it might be worthwhile to tack on a sewer backup rider.
How to limit mold damage
When there’s moisture and humidity, mold can spread very quickly. Plus, it can grow everywhere: under books, on clothing, drywall, and furniture.
If mold has done what it does best — crept up underneath your floorboards, bathroom ceiling, or inside the walls — to minimize damage to your home, do the following:
Look for signs of mold: water marks on the ceiling, and “funky” or musty smells are tell-tale signs of mold growth.
If there are any pools of water forming in your home, get rid of it as soon as possible. If any carpet or upholstery gets soaked, you’ll want to dry them out within a day or two.
When you’re getting rid of existing mold, remember to protect yourself. Wear protective gear, particularly to cover your mouth, face, skin, and eyes. Plus make sure anyone in your family with asthma steers clear of affected areas.
If it might be too dangerous or challenging to handle on your own, so hire a professional to do a mold inspection and help you handle the clean-up.
While Zepp’s contractor handled everything, Zepp did have to purchase special equipment that could remove the mold. What’s more, they needed special material to treat all the surfaces in Zepp’s home.
How to prevent mold
One of the major issues with mold is that it can take awhile for you to detect its presence. It tends to grow and spread unnoticed. Want to prevent mold from growing in the first place? Here are a few steps to take:
Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers to keep the humidity in your home low. It’s also good measure to install exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens. A low-moisture, well-ventilated home will reduce the odds of mold accumulating in a stealth manner and at a rapid pace.
Clean your bathrooms with bleach. And before painting your walls, consider adding mold inhibitors before application.
Stay on top of maintaining your roof so it’s in tip-top shape. A saggy, leaky roof can cause mold issues in due time.