Mold is a sight that nobody wants to discover in their home or business—but as an insurance policyholder, you have recourse if mold does make an appearance on your property. This article will detail some of the common steps in filing an insurance claim for mold, including how to document damage, report the mold to your insurer, and address any challenges that arise during the claims process.
The insurance company may try to withhold money that it owes you. If the insurance company pushes back against your claim or you sense something is amiss during the claims process, retain a mold damage claim attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can take over the claims process on your behalf and should know how to pursue the full compensation your policy entitles you to.
You Have Discovered Mold on Your Property—Now What?
Time is of the essence once you have discovered mold. The sooner you start the claims process, the sooner you may be able to rid your property of mold.
You can safeguard your health and improve your chances of receiving the full payout you deserve by:
- Protecting your health: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that mold exposure can lead to significant health problems. Protect yourself with a facemask, gloves, and goggles whenever you are close to the mold.
- Informing your insurer of the mold: Call your insurer even before you document the mold, though they will eventually want photographs and other documentation to support your claim. Do not suggest that the mold could have predated your insurance policy or that you could have prevented mold growth by being more proactive. Remember that the insurance agent will look for ways to avoid their employer’s financial responsibility for your mold damage.
- Filing your claim: Your insurance adjuster should explain how to file a formal claim. The company that issued your homeowners’ policy or other applicable policy may send you physical forms to complete. Depending on your policy, you may be able to complete these forms via email, website, or app.
- Documenting the mold: Once you have completed your claim paperwork, you may need to wait for an insurance adjuster to review the damage. In the meantime, document the mold for your own records. Take photographs and videos showing every speck of visible mold. You will want the money necessary to remove all the mold on your property, so make sure to look high and low for all visible growths.
- Identifying and addressing the cause of the mold: Poor ventilation and leaks are two possible reasons for mold growth. Try to identify the source of mold and take steps to alleviate its growth. Make sure you have documented the mold thoroughly before taking restorative measures.
- Protecting your property from further damage: Mold spores can spread quickly, especially once you remove any physical barriers between the mold and your unaffected property. You should move furniture, mattresses, rugs, and other absorbent property as far away from the mold as possible. Cover these items with a protective layer or two if you cannot move them. Not only will this protect your valuable property from damage, but your policy likely requires you to take steps to mitigate damage (which saves the insurer money).
- Getting to safety: It may not be safe to remain in a moldy property. If you feel safer sleeping in a hotel or doing business in a temporary location, relocate until you have completely removed the mold from your property. Make sure to keep receipts for any relocation costs, as these may become part of your mold damage claim.
- Hiring an experienced attorney to manage your claim: Insurance companies do not always abide by the terms of the policies they issue. You may face intimidation, delays, lowball offers, and other bad-faith insurance tactics. An attorney experienced in mold damage claims will work to ensure that you receive the money your policy entitles you to.
A lawyer can also guide you through the claims process. Even if you understand the steps listed here, you might soon face unforeseen challenges. Your lawyer will help you overcome any speed bumps you encounter as you seek the money you deserve.
What Types of Insurance Policies May Cover Mold Damage?
Homeowners’ insurance, commercial property insurance, and renters’ insurance all may cover mold damage. The details of your insurance policy will ultimately determine whether you can get money for mold removal, repair, and related expenses. You should review the terms of your policy for more details, perhaps with the help of an experienced property damage attorney.
What Events Can Lead to Mold Damage?
Mold can plague any property, including single-family homes, apartments, and businesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that mold can result from:
- Leaks: Cracks in your roof, imperfect sealing around windows and doors, holes in sinks, pipes, showers, and bathtubs, and other leaks can cause a frequent drip (or flow) of water into your home or business. Over time, leaks will breed mold, which thrives in moist environments.
- Poor ventilation: Condensation can serve as a petri dish for mold. Areas of your home with poor ventilation, such as attics, basements, and windowless rooms, may be ripe for mold growth. Also, areas of your home that accumulate moisture, such as those containing air conditioning handlers and ducts, can be a breeding ground for mold.
- Flooding: Because mold likes moisture, flood-prone areas of your property may pose a higher risk of mold growth.
The CDC notes that mold spores can enter your property from the outdoors. Moisture then serves as a sort of steroid for mold growth. For this reason, areas of high humidity are most likely to be hotspots for mold.
Will My Insurance Policy Cover These Sources of Mold Damage?
The next question is critical: Does my insurance policy cover these sources of mold?
The details of your particular policy contain the answer to this question. Some property insurance policies will cover virtually any hazard the property owner might face, including mold contamination. These “all-risk” (or “open perils”) policies will cover mold unless the policy language explicitly states otherwise.
An insurance policy may instead cover specific “perils”—events that cause direct damage to your property. Mold may qualify as one of those perils. Your insurance policy likely has specific language about covered perils, which an attorney can review in detail.
An Insurance Company May Claim That Your Mold Damage Is Not a Covered Loss
Insurance companies make their money by paying out less than they take in through premium payments. This fact gives them the incentive to deny or minimize claims whenever possible. If an insurance company denies your claim or offers insufficient compensation, it must give you a reason for doing so.
An insurance company may defend its denial or lowball settlement offer by:
- Claiming that the source of mold predates your insurance policy: Your insurance policy started on a specific date. The insurance company may claim that mold, or the hazard that caused the mold, dates back further than your policy’s start date and, therefore, is not a covered event.
- Claiming that you did not do enough to detect and prevent mold growth: An insurance company will not cover losses resulting from a policyholder’s negligence. The insurance company may claim that you should have detected and reported (or even repaired) the source of mold sooner. Because you did not act quickly enough (or so the insurance company may claim), you are not entitled to full coverage of your mold damage.
- Stating that the hazard that caused mold damage is not a covered event: If the alleged source of mold, such as a roof leak or flood, is not a covered peril, the insurance company may claim the mold itself is not a covered loss.
You never know what you will get from insurance companies. In some mold damage claims, the insurance company may cover all of the policyholder’s losses without pushback. In others, an insurer may deny the claim outright without giving a clear reason for the denial.
As a general practice, you should anticipate the worst. Assume that an insurance company will put its own interests before yours. This way, you will be ready if the insurer undervalues or denies your mold damage claim.
Common Tricks Insurance Companies Play on Mold Damage Claimants
Removing mold and restoring your property may not come cheap. The insurance company will also know the cost of your claim—and it may be intent on avoiding that cost.
In addition to the more formal tactics we have listed, an insurance company may resort to less above-board tactics to avoid paying a claim, such as:
- Stall: An insurance company may stall, betting that you will become desperate and accept a lowball settlement offer. An attorney can pressure the insurance company to handle your claim efficiently, making it clear that you will not accept an insufficient settlement offer.
- Make several arguments for denying or underpaying your claim: If your attorney stymies the insurance company’s first reason for denying your claim, the insurer may give you another reason. If their first denial does not succeed, you can expect the insurer to try again.
- Resort to legalese: An insurance company may confuse or manipulate a policyholder with complicated, overly wordy language. This tactic will prove less effective on an experienced property damage attorney.
How an Attorney Can Refute the Insurance Company’s Reason for Denying or Underpaying Your Claim
An experienced mold damage claim attorney should anticipate an insurance company’s questionable practices and can fight back against them by:
- Citing the details of your policy: If the insurance company alleges that your policy does not cover a certain peril (like water damage or mold), your lawyer can cite policy language proving otherwise. An insurer that continues to push back against a covered event puts itself at risk of litigation for bad faith practices.
- Providing visual evidence: Videos and photographs may help your attorney prove your case for fair compensation. For example, photographs of your property from a specific date may prove that mold was not present before your policy’s starting date. By demonstrating that mold emerged only after your policy was in effect, your attorney could prove that you deserve full coverage for mold-related damage.
- Providing written records: Your lawyer could also provide written documentation supporting your claim. An appraiser’s recent home evaluation may prove that you have kept the property in good condition. Such an appraisal may negate the insurance company’s claim of your negligence.
Each mold damage claim is unique. Your attorney should match the insurance company’s approach. If the insurance company makes an unfavorable allegation against you, your attorney will address that claim directly.
There are countless ways for an insurer to fight a mold damage claim. An attorney will be ready for each tactic that you may face.
What Costs May a Mold Damage Claim Cover?
While the insurance company may fight you tooth and nail over a fair payout, success is possible.
Fair compensation for mold-related losses could include:
- Mold remediation: Getting mold out of your property is your top priority. Mold abatement experts can advise you on how to best remove mold from your walls, ceilings, and other affected areas of your home or business.
- Sterilization of your property: It is critical that you ensure your property is safe to occupy before resuming occupancy. Sterilizing the mold-affected premises may be necessary to ensure your own safety.
- Repairs to damaged property: You may need to remove your property’s drywall, wood, or other mold-riddled features to restore it to its original state.
- The cost of temporary relocation: If you need to relocate while your property undergoes sterilization or repairs, your insurer may cover the associated costs.
You Can Hire an Attorney to Fight for a Fair Insurance Payment
You must make a convincing case to your insurer to receive the total compensation you need following a mold outbreak. Your insurance policy may not cover mold specifically, so in some cases, you would need to prove the connection between a covered peril (like a storm) and the mold you now face.
A lawyer who handles mold damage claims can be a significant asset. Hiring an experienced attorney may be a good idea whether your insurance provider disputes your claims or you simply want the peace of mind of having legal counsel during a challenging process. Contact Dolman Law Group for a free consultation today.