Many people who make a claim for damage caused by water or moisture, often forget to look at their options for claiming for mould damage. No matter what the cause of water damage to your property; leaking or burst pipes, storm damage, flood damage, leaking appliances and other water damage, you should be on the lookout for the presence of mould.
The signs can include damp or musty smells, dark or wet patches and the onset of illnesses (eg flu, breathing problems and skin reactions) in the people that live, work or spend time in mould-affected homes or workplaces.
When mould is present, we are often asked, “Does my insurer have to pay to remove mould from my home after an insured event?” The answer is complicated.
Does the insurer have to pay to remove mould from my property?
As a starting point, most insurance policies do not cover mould. That is, most insurance policies expressly state that they do not cover damage if the primary cause of it is mould; eg rising damp.
However, most policies will pay if the mould damage is secondary to an insured event. For example, a storm causes damage to a roof or a pipe bursts and mould develops as a result of the water leaks.
So how do you claim under your home and contents policy for mould damage?
The first step will be to establish that an event has happened at the property which is covered under a policy of insurance.
Working out if an insured event has occurred will require a review of the relevant policy of insurance or product disclosure statement (PDS) and consideration of the circumstances which caused the damage. Most insurance policies cover damage caused by burst or leaking pipes, storm or flood damage and leaking appliances such as hot water services, dishwashers, refrigerators and showers.
Having established that the property has been damaged by an insured event, it is then necessary to prove that the mould was caused by the insured damage and the consequent water. This may sound straightforward, however establishing:
- the presence of mould at a property; and
- the likely cause of that mould,
can be very difficult.
Establishing that mould is present at a property will require an expert witness (a mycologist) to test the property for the presence of mould and give an opinion about the likely source/cause of the mould.
What happens if the insurance company doesn’t fix the mould problem?
If the insurance company accepts the claim, the next question will be how to fix the primary damage and the secondary mould. Insurers will often engage mould remediators to try to get rid of the mould using techniques such as chemicals to remove surface mould and dehumidifiers or blowers to remove airborne mould.
However, we have seen many, many cases where the remediation has not worked and indeed in many cases, it has led to mould spreading. Insurers will be liable for any further damage caused by their agents.
After it is established that mould is present, you must be very careful to limit yourself and your family’s exposure to that mould. It is well known that exposure to some types of mould can cause serious health problems. In some cases, this can mean having to leave the home and take up temporary accommodation and put infected contents into secure storage.
Home and contents insurance policies cover temporary accommodation for at least 12 months and storage fees.
The attitude of insurers to mould claims varies a lot. Some will deny claims whilst others will try to cash settle claims, perhaps after unsuccessful attempts to remove mould damage.
If your home suffers from water damage, it is really important to get advice and help from legal and mould insurance experts as soon as possible.
For more information or assistance with home and contents insurance claims for storm damage, water damage and mould damage, get in touch with today’s blog writer, Berrill & Watson Principal, John Berrill.