More on Home Insurance
More on Home Insurance
Open peril home insurance policies – the most comprehensive and broad in terms of what they can cover – often cover certain types of water damage if the damage was the result of a covered elemental peril or if it was sudden and accidental.
Water damage is the most common cause of mold, but even when it seems like the mold should be covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy, it might not be. That’s because most mold growth is gradual and tough to pinpoint where exactly it came from, so even if the suddenly burst pipe in your basement is covered, you’ll need proof that the residual black mold on your walls is from the exploded pipe-water. Mold that results from leaky pipes, humidity, or neglect isn’t covered under any circumstance.
To supplement this gap in coverage, several insurance companies offer riders or endorsements that cover mold, but only up to a certain amount.
Mold forms through excess moisture containing small spores and bacteria. The main driver of mold formation, water damage, is occasionally covered by standard homeowners insurance policies if the water enters through openings resulting from wind or hail damage or if an ice dam causes your roof to fall through. If a pipe freezes up and bursts, that’s also covered, but only if the burst was sudden and accidental.
If an ice dam forms on your roof and causes it to fall through, creating water and subsequent mold buildup in your attic, there’s a chance mold removal would be covered in addition to roof repair. That’s because the mold was caused by a covered peril and because the fungus buildup persisted in an unnoticeable area of the home, as people don’t hang out in their attics too often.
If the ice dam caused water to penetrate common areas of the home and mold formed, that’d probably be classified as “neglect” by your insurer and your claim would be rejected.
Here are a few other real-world examples where mold remediation may be covered in a standard policy:
Water heater bursts: A bursted water heater can cause a lot of water damage – like, 60 gallons of water worth of water damage. If it bursts, there’s a good chance a lot of water seeped into various cracks and crevices and you weren’t able to clean it all. If black mold began forming on your surrounding walls as a result, its removal may be covered.
Washing machine hose bursts: If your washing machine had no prior mechanical problems, was assembled properly, but still managed to leak or malfunction and caused mold buildup behind or under the appliance, your insurer may cover it.
Firefighter causes water damage: Albeit, it was water that saved your home and all of your stuff, but after a fire, if mold builds up from the water the firefighter used to extinguish the flames, that may also be covered.
Mold, like rodent infestations and rot, is generally considered a home maintenance issue, and damage that results from a lack of upkeep or maintenance is excluded under most policies.
Mold formation is relatively gradual and – in its worst form – takes several months of accumulation before you realize it's caused irrevocable damage to your drywall and flooring. At that point, it may be difficult for you or your insurer to correctly identify the exact cause of the mold and they’ll probably chalk it up as neglect.
Mold is also expensive to remove and removal costs can run well into the $1000s depending on the extent and location of the buildup. Aside from it being regarded as a hygeine and maintenance issue rather than a peril, insurance companies want no part in covering something as costly and pervasive as mold.
It ultimately comes down to your insurer and how they define the damage or loss incurred on your home or stuff you own. If an ice dam caused your roof to fall through and water soaks your carpet, causing rot and mold, your insurer may classify the incident as mold damage instead of water or weight of snow damage and refuse to replace your carpet. Check with your insurer and ask them about these insurance grey areas, or speak with a licensed representative at Policygenius who can read the fine print of your policy and help you understand what it does and doesn’t cover.
If you live in areas with a high dew point or high relative humidity, chances are your home and personal property are going to be blanketed with moisture, and that’s going to require some upkeep and preventative measures to reduce incidents of mold. Occasionally, even the best homeowners slip up and don’t notice a swarm of spores developing behind the washing machine. Luckily, some insurers offer a mold damage rider, also known as a mold damage endorsement, that you can tack on to your policy.
Riders are essentially additional coverages that work in one of two ways: by making your policy more broad and open in terms of what damages it can cover, or increasing a given claim’s limits of liability, which is the amount you’re reimbursed when you file a claim.
The mold damage endorsement simply adds mold as a covered loss if it results from water discharge or water damage. This applies only if the type of water damage that caused the mold is covered by your policy. Mold resulting from flooding or an overflowing sewer would require separate flood insurance or sewer backup coverage in order for mold protection to kick in.
You should also check your mold damage rider’s limits of liability. While it varies from insurance company to insurance company, the most common limit of liability for mold damage is $5,000.
Mold is gross and expensive, and the best way to prevent it from thriving is to make your home uninhabitable to its formation. Additional riders and frequent claims can cause your insurance premiums to skyrocket, so you’ll be best served by not allowing it to grow in the first place. Follow these tips to keep mold out of your home:
Relative humidity levels higher than 60% are ripe conditions for mold growth, so you’re going to want to keep your levels between 30% and 60%. If your home has a propensity for reaching peak levels, invest in a dehumidifier.
You’ll want to be sure your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room all have proper ventilation. These three areas of your home are hotbeds for fungi, and insuring all are equipped with proper fans and ventilation is a good way to keep mold out.
If you noticed water is leaking in from the outside through your roof and windows, or the pipes beneath your bathroom sink produce a steady drip every time you run the faucet, there are a couple things you should keep in mind:
1) There’s more where that came from, so inspect areas around the leak and if necessary, dry, ventilate, and clean affected areas wearing gloves using detergent and water.
2) Fix the source of the leak either on your own or by contacting a contractor or plumber.
Inspect your roof once and a while to make sure there aren’t any easy access points for water. While you’re up there, check your gutters and clear them of any buildup of leaves or debri that isn’t allowing for proper drainage of rain water.
Carpeting, especially carpeting in your basement, bathrooms, kitchen, or laundry room, is prime territory for mold. Wall-to-wall carpeting in particular should be avoided, as any moisture that develops in the drywall or baseboards could find its way underneath, and the only way to properly clean the resulting mold would be to tear up the carpet. If you decide to carpet your home, be mindful of its placement and don’t go overboard.
Pat Howard is an Insurance Editor at Policygenius in New York City, specializing in homeowners insurance. He has been featured on Property Casualty 360, MSN, and more. Pat has a B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.