As victims of Superstorm Sandy evaluate the impact and begin home repairs, they should be aware that mold caused by the flooding may be the next threat.
Beyond compromising a house's structure, medical experts say some types of mold can be toxic. And there's more bad news: Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover mold-related damages.
Insurers often exclude mold problems caused by flooding because they're considered a maintenance issue, similar to preventing e termite infestation, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).
"Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for disasters that are sudden and accidental. They are not designed to cover the cost of cleaning and maintaining a home. If, however, mold is the direct result of a covered peril such as a burst pipe, there could be coverage for the cost of eliminating the mold," says the III website. (See: "Hurricanes and insurance: 5 must-know facts.")
And don't think flood insurance secured through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will help. The NFIP also doesn't cover damages from mold. (See: "5 ways flood insurance could soak you.")
Marshall McKnight, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, says that homeowners may need to buy a rider to their policies to ensure they're fully protected from mold damage. The costs vary according to the home's location and the individual insurer, but $50,000 in protection will probably cost you an extra $47 a year, says Bill Wilson, a spokesperson for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.
Spending the extra money for mold coverage may be prudent. Employing professionals to repair your home after mold is detected can be expensive. Mold Edge, a mold-removal company working in Maryland and Virginia, says a small job typically costs from $200 to $600, with full remediation of a flooded home ranging from $10,000 to $30,000. (See: "Home insurance claims secrets.")
McKnight also advises owners of flooded homes to begin the cleanup that may inhibit mold as soon as possible. Beyond the damage to property that can occur through rot, some doctors warn that certain mold strains -- stachybotrys is one -- pose serious health threats.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FEMA and New Jersey's Monmouth County Health Department recommend these steps be taken post-Sandy: