Homeowner's Insurance Claims for Toxic Mold

If you've been exposed to toxic mold in your home, your homeowner's insurance policy may cover the clean-up, and you may be able to sue the home builder.

If you've discovered mold in your home, you're probably wondering if it's toxic and whether your homeowner's insurance will cover the cleanup. This article discusses the molds that are known to be toxic and what their effects are, as well as how to determine what your home insurance will cover.

The Types of Toxic Molds, Their Effects and Causes

Despite some high-profile cases, the evidence of serious ill-effects from household molds is thin. The documented "common" effects according to the Center for Disease Control are:

  • hay fever-like allergic symptoms
  • certain individuals with chronic respiratory disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing, and
  • individuals with immune suppression may be at increased risk for infection from molds.

Note that all of these effects are failry easily noticed. There are no known effects of mold that involve symptoms, serious or otherwise, that emerge long after "infection."

In other words, if you've found mold in your home but are not sick in anyway, it might be time to clean up the mold, but you shouldn't lose any sleep. On the other hand, if anyone has been experiencing regular respiratory or other allergic symptoms, you may have found the cause.

According to the CDC there is some limited, but still inadequate, evidence that prolonged exposure to mold may cause children already genetically predisposed to asthma to be more likely to develop asthma. Whether or not someone is sick or you have children in the house, it is a good idea to clean up any large mold infestations.

While some molds like the green-black Stachybotrys atra might receive a little more press, there are not well- documented differences in the effects or toxicity of the various house-hold molds.

Almost all houses have some kind of mold somewhere. Wherever moisture accumulates, there is likely to be mold. The greater and more frequent the invasion of moisture, the more mold you'll find. Leaky pipes, frequent bathroom floor accumulations and rainfall penetrating the foundation are some of the common sources.

Does My Homeowner's Insurance Cover Mold Cleanup?

For a long time, mold cleanup was generally excluded from standard homeowner's insurance policies. However, inconsistent decisions from various state courts started to call into question whether mold cleanup was excluded from coverage when the mold was caused by something that was covered by the insurance, for example a ruptured pipe.

Rather than continuously litigate mold cases, many insurance companies now include mold coverage when the mold comes from specific causes. This kind of coverage will usually be for a specified limit and not up to the full amount of overall coverage.

Similarly, you or your agent might have included a "rider" that added mold coverage to your policy. If you do have a rider, your general policy may have a mold exclusion, but the rider cancels that standard exclusion and establishes new terms. Finally, you may have purchased a separate mold coverage policy from another company, but those are typically quite expensive and you would probably remember if you had such a policy.

These newer mold coverage provisions, whether a part of the standard policy or added on as a rider, typically cover all kinds of fungus, including mold, and all of the by-products like odors and spores. If you're not sure after reading the policy, your best bet for figuring out what your policy covers is to contact your independent insurance agent and have him or her look over the policy. If you don't have an agent, or don't trust that he or she is "independent" from the insurance company that issued the policy, then your next step is to have an attorney look over the policy.

Lawsuits Over Toxic Mold

If you can show that the construction of the home itself – leaky pipes, water intrusion into the basement, etc., contributed to the mold problem, you may be able to sue the builder or construction company.

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