What is mold and where does it come from?
If you live in Florida, you are certainly familiar with our extremely humid climate. As a result of this, many homes and businesses are at an increased risk for mold growth. Flooding, power outages, water intrusion, and loss of air conditioning associated with Hurricanes can compound this risk significantly. Mold is a fungus that occurs naturally and causes biodegradation of natural materials. While mold plays a pivotal role in areas like biotechnology, the growth of mold in your home or business can cause significant property damage and severe health risks.
Although almost every indoor structure contains mold spores, mold only begins to grow indoors when the spores attach to areas that are wet and damp (think kitchens or bathrooms). Any sort of leak in your structure no matter how small can lead to a mold infestation. Additionally, if the air in the building has a high level of humidity this causes increased moisture in the air contributing to mold growth, which is why structures that are without air conditioning are at an increased risk of mold growth. Since mold causes biodegradation, once mold begins growing inside a structure it can destroy building products, furnishings, belongings, and even compromise the structural integrity of your home or business.
How do you detect mold?
Often, when there is a mold infestation there will be a noticeable moldy smell present. A more specialized and reliable way of detecting mold is to have professional mold testing done in the building or by utilizing mold test kits to collect and test samples. Regardless of the method used to detect mold, if you determine that mold growth exists in your home, you must take action immediately.
Is mold removal and repair covered under standard homeowners insurance? How about commercial property and renters policies?
Generally speaking, homeowners insurance covers mold damage if caused by a covered peril. If that is the case your homeowners insurance will cover repairs and cleanup. Covered perils vary from policy to policy but generally include things like hurricane, storm, or wind damage and damage from accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from plumbing, heating, air conditioners, sprinkler systems, or household appliances. As a rule of thumb, if the incident that caused the mold growth is sudden and accidental homeowners insurance will cover it. However, if the mold is caused by a latent issue that you refused to act on in a manner that a responsible homeowner would, homeowners insurance might not cover it. An example of this is noticing mold in the corner of your shower for weeks but not reporting it until it has spread and festered.
The cost of mold repairs and cleanup caused by flooding generally will not be covered under a homeowner’s policy. However, if you maintain a flood insurance policy, that should cover the cost of removal and repair so long as the mold growth was not the result of neglect and failure to inspect or maintain the property.
It should be noted that homeowners, commercial property owners, and renters insurance all differ in coverage. Thus, it is important to check the language of your insurance agreement and take note of the types of situations that are covered and those that are not.
How to make a claim? What is the process?
The first step you should take upon the discovery of a mold growth is to call your insurance company and report the claim. The earlier a remediation team can get to your property to begin drying it out the less overall damage will occur. It is important during this time to be persistent. If your insurer does not respond promptly, call, email, text, or fax. Review your policy to familiarize yourself with what your insurance company is obligated to cover. You will also be required to mitigate your damages. If you are aware of the mold growth, you need to move as quickly as possible in resolving the issue. Considering how fast mold grows, your duty to mitigate may be a heightened standard when it comes to mold.
An adjuster and your insurer will investigate your claim. While it is important to cooperate with the investigation, know your rights. Florida law requires insurers to act in good faith in the settlement of claims, and to promptly settle claims when an obligation to settle a claim has become reasonably clear. Your insurer will likely ask you to complete a sworn proof of loss. Before you complete the document, it may be helpful to speak to a professional.
You can reach Miami Hurricane Irma Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].
Fla. Stat. § 624.155