What is a Mold Rider?

Homeowners insurance covers mold if you purchase the coverage rider. In some states, the coverage is included automatically, and it is important to review this information with your insurance agent to properly verify it is accurate. Many states limit the amount of coverage offered for mold. Typically, an all-perils type policy provides coverage for mold unless it is specifically excluded or limited. You can find this information on the declarations page of your insurance policy. When purchasing a homeowners insurance policy, ask how much coverage the policy provides for mold.

Water Damage

Water damage claims and mold usually go hand in hand. For most insurance claims to be covered, the cause needs to be sudden and accidental. Mold damage from a pipe that has been leaking for years is likely going to be denied by your insurer. In the event of a water leak, it is important to address the problem as soon as possible. Many disaster cleanup companies are available 24/7 and take proactive steps to limit the possibility of mold growth. Additionally, these cleanup companies are usually covered by your insurance.

Mold damage caused by a flood is not covered under your homeowners policy. Flood insurance requires a separate policy issued through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or through a select number of companies that offer private flood insurance. Many consumers look at the final price of their homeowners policy to make a determination on which company to choose. Review all of your coverages, including a rider for mold, to ensure you are properly insured.

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What Not to Say

Time and time again, many of our customers who experienced a leak in their home caused by plumbing don’t notice it until they see excessive staining and mold growth.  They then contact their insurance carrier and explain that they see mold only to hear that they’re not covered for mold.  That’s both true and false.  The truth is mold is not covered under your policy as a stand alone loss, meaning you’re not covered if you see mold growing on your basement walls because of exterior foundation issues or humidity issues.  But you are covered if you have mold as a direct result because of a covered water loss.  So if your hot water tank bursts and water floods your basement and mold grows as a result, you’re covered up to a certain dollar amount for that removal.

Most insurance companies are looking to deny your claim even before it gets started, so giving them a feasible excuse is their dream.  Now, you can not use this piece of advice in an attempt to scam the insurance company and commit fraud because they’ll eventually find out.  This is just an informational and educational tool on how to go about filing a claim, and when we say a claim, we mean a legitimate claim.  If you have a water loss in your home that results in mold, when you call in your claim, remember to explain the origin of the loss.  You’re not calling about a mold problem, you’re calling about a leak that occurred in your home, and mold is a result of that leak.  This way both parties are on the same page and now the insurance company has the prudent information needed to start filing your claim and getting your home back to pre-loss conditions.

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What Perils Does Insurance Cover

Here’s a look at what the Insurance Information Institute says are some of the most common perils covered by a typical homeowners policy:

Fire & Smoke. A home, belongings and structures like a garage or shed are all usually protected against a fire (including smoke damage). If the condition of the home requires its residents to live elsewhere for a time, a policy will typically help reimburse for those expenses as well.

Lightning Strikes. Damage from lightning is typically covered by homeowners insurance. Some policies will also extend that protection to power surges that happen as a result of a strike, covering, for instance, damaged electronics.

Windstorms & Hail. Wind damage – even when it’s from a tornado – is normally a covered peril. Protection usually also includes hail damage, or wind-driven rain or snow that gets inside after a home has been damaged by a storm.

Explosion. Whether it’s from an aerosol can or a propane grill, it’s never good when something goes “boom” in or around a home. Damage resulting from such explosions is usually covered by homeowners insurance.

Vandalism & Malicious Mischief. Homeowners insurance typically covers damage that results from such acts. That would include repairing or rebuilding your home, or replacing your possessions if they were damaged by the event.

Damage From an Aircraft, Car or Vehicle. It may not be often that a plane or car crashes into a home, but when it happens, the images can be pretty dramatic. The good news is that most homeowners policies will cover damage resulting from such an event.

Theft. If an intruder breaks a window or door to gain access to your home, insurance will likely cover the damage. Items that are actually stolen are generally also protected by the personal property coverage that’s part of most homeowners insurance policies. But you should know that most policies have limits on how much they’ll pay out for specific types of personal property.

Falling Objects. Cartoons are known for the “piano drop” gag, where a piano lifted by a pulley suddenly plummets to the earth. It’s unlikely that you’ll experience this same scenario in real life, or one where a meteor or satellite strikes your home – but the good news is that if your home is hit by a falling object, whether it’s a meteor or a tree, a homeowners policy will typically provide protection.

Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet. When the weight of heavy, wet snow or ice causes your roof to cave in, you’ll find that your homeowners insurance will typically cover the loss – for the damage to your home and your property inside.

Water Damage. Most homeowners policies will cover water damage from burst pipes or water heaters when the cause is sudden and accidental (but not the damage to the pipe or water heater if they burst because of defect or wear and tear). So, if your water heater bursts and soaks your drywall, you’re likely protected from the water damage. Water damage from a flood requires a separate flood policy. Water damage from water backup from sewers or drains or overflow of water from a sump pump typically requires additional optional coverage.

Note:  All policies have different coverages and/or limits, so checking your limits is vital or consult with your agent.

Insurance Company’s Insistence

Recently I went to see a job where a home owner had a water loss in a condo caused by the property above having a overflowed toilet.  The water flooded the upstairs bathroom, leading water to track down into the unit below, flooding their bathroom, bedroom and a portion of their living space.  When the home owner contacted the insurance company, they insisted on using their approved vendor and even went so far as to threaten that if the owner didn’t abide by their demands, they would jeopardize the entire claim and get denied.  Feeling pressured, the owner hired the approved vendor and the work began.  But they quickly noticed that this contractor wasn’t doing what needed to be done and left several walls which had gotten severely wet from the loss untouched, and just placed an immense amount of equipment.  In a unit less than 1000 square feet, they placed 16 fans, 2 air scrubbers and 2 dehumidifiers for seven days.  Now the problem isn’t that they placed 16 fans because that could be needed, but 2 dehumidifiers and allowing them to run for seven days is a problem.  The normal procedure for structural drying as per the IICRC for water damage restoration is 3 days and possibly more if needed, but not seven days and not because you didn’t want to remove wet walls.  The fact is is that most of the money made on water damage jobs is made from the equipment, so this contractor, like so many franchise restoration contractors who are in the back pocket of the insurance company, try to take down less walls which need replacement and just set as much equipment as possible.  There’s a few lessons that can be learned from this example.  One, you can hire whichever certified water restoration contractor you want and you never have to hire whomever the insurance company tells you too.  They can only recommend a contractor, but they can not demand you to use who they deem as approved.  Two, when a water loss like this occurs which is minimally a Category 2 Loss and possibly a 3, all wet walls have to be removed unless those walls are structural or against code for removal.  In this case, it was a wall leading to the bathroom that had tile on it which would be inconvenient for the insurance company because then they would be responsible for compensating the loss of tile.  And three, you can dispute the invoice set by the contractor, and you’re well within your right to see the bill.  Remember, although it doesn’t appear to be like you’re paying for the loss, you are paying for it.  Each month when your mortgage bill comes in or your insurance bill is due, that payment to the insurance company is made to pay for such incidents, and in most cases, you will always pay them more than they’re paying for your claim.  So it is YOUR MONEY!!!  You are the boss and allowed to be apart of the claim, because after all, it is your home.

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Checking Your Insurance Policy

Checking and understanding the limitations to your policy can be the difference between being covered for a major loss or losing potentially tens of thousands of dollars.  This point is again being brought up by us because we recently handled a claim where a family had a major water loss on a secondary property.  A water line burst on the second floor of the home and caused extensive first floor and basement damage.  Floors, walls, ceilings and contents were completely destroyed by the loss.  Their policy had a $10,000 total cap for a water loss.  If the home had caught fire, they would have been covered for the loss and also $40,000 would have went toward contents that were destroyed.  But overlooking an option in their policy capped the loss at $10,000 including the contents.  The total cost of the claim was between $40,000 and $50,000 and this does not include the loss to their personal items.  Many people never read their policy and trust the underwriter to explain it to them.  This is a major mistake because the underwriter will give most people the cheapest coverage to insure they write your policy and not have you go somewhere else.  In these cases, families who can not afford the difference for the loss tend to take loans, leave the house in its current condition or sell the property because they can not afford the reconstruction fees.  By taking the time to read through your policy and ask as many questions as possible you will not only understand in full detail what is and what isn’t covered, but you will potentially save yourself a major amount of heartache and an enormous amount of money.

What is Puff Back?

In the US, approximately 8 million homes still use heating oil as their main heating fuel.  Of these, an astounding 80%, or 6.4 million, are located in the Northeast.  Many of these furnaces, despite being regularly serviced, can malfunction in the form of a “puffback.”  These puffbacks wreak havoc on paint, carpet, and contents of a home.  Most often, they’re covered under your existing homeowners insurance policy.

A oil furnace puff back is an actual explosion of unburned fuel lying in the combustion chamber of the furnace.  The strength and soot expelled by this explosion depends on how much unburned oil there is.  Two major malfunctions which can cause this oil to accumulate are:

  1. Leaks in the piping supplying the oil.  If you notice a slow drip of oil on the floor, call a technician to service the equipment.  These leaks cause air bubbles to get into the piping, which can move and push little bits of oil into the combustion chamber when the furnace is off.  This accumulates, and ultimately will ignite the oil and cause a loud bang.
  2. Problems when the furnace shuts down.  Inside the oil burner is a valve which is spring loaded and stops the flow of oil precisely when the RPMs of the oil burner begins to slow.  If there is even the slightest bit of dirt or debris on this valve, it can cause the same accumulation in the combustion chamber.

If your home experiences a puffback, you may notice some thermal tracks on the walls and ceiling where the soot has settled.  The soot will settle mostly near cooler areas on these surfaces, so you may notice it on nail heads on drywall, or in the corners of the ceiling.  Often, these tracks are indicators of areas of heat loss within a home as well.  However, even if you don’t notice any visible signs, that doesn’t mean the soot isn’t covering your walls, ceiling and contents.  You should have the unit serviced immediately, and call us so we can do a thorough inspection of the home.

If there’s evidence of soot, your insurance company will pay to have all areas affected cleaned (including contents and clothing), deodorized (in the case of carpet), and repainted (walls and ceilings).  Depending on the size of your home, this could mean tens of thousands of dollars.  If this should occur in your home, our trained and certified technicians can assist you in bringing your home back to pre-loss conditions.  biowashing.com