Hurricane Flo left a multitude of damages in her path. Damages from wind and flooding have been the talk of the town, but another issue is very relevant and you need to understand the complexity that it can add to your claims: the “M” word.
Mold is a word that we don’t use very often as adjusters…most of us refer to it as “bacterial growth”.
Hurricane Florence left major access issues due to flooding, as well as widespread power outages from high winds and falling trees across the Carolinas. With excessive humidity that is still present from the regional flooding and rain, bacterial growth is becoming a major issue.
The perfect recipe for bacterial growth
If a large volume of water has entered a home or business due to a storm-created opening, it creates an abundant supply of our primary ingredient: excess moisture. The second ingredient that has been a major issue is heat. Power outages along the coast were an issue for up to a week after the storm passed; with no air circulation and temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s, bacterial growth spread rapidly across the interior of many homes. Since many home were evacuated, they were left boarded up or with hurricane shutters in place, creating a dark environment that encourages mold spread and grow quickly. In many cases, these three factors created the perfect trifecta for mold growth.
So I have a claim with mold…now what?
Mold can be an insured’s worst nightmare. Some carriers have policy limits or exclusions for mold mitigation. Secondly, it can cause an entire house to be gutted due to minimal damages that could have been repaired, but with no ability to access or mitigate further damages…the damage has already been done.
Prioritizing your safety
If you get a loss with heavy mold, play it safe. A respirator and mold goggles are cheap when it comes to your health. Getting sick from a mold claim can set you back for days or even land you in the hospital. Make sure that you find a respirator with filters specifically designed for mold. You can pick both of these items up at your local hardware store or on Amazon.
Inspecting claims with mold
It’s important during your inspection to look for evidence of mold around areas with heavy water damages. Double-check around HVAC registers, trim and especially on content items that have fabric and organic medium present.
Talking to your insured
As insurance adjusters, we are not the experts on water and mold-related damages. Leave that to the water/mold mitigation companies. We can, however, help point the insured in the right direction.
When making initial contact, it’s always smart to ask about interior water damages. How many rooms are affected and what is the extent of damages? Ask if they have had a mitigation company out and get the contact info if applicable. An extra call to the mitigation company can help with setting your schedule and understanding the extent of damages.
Additionally, help your insured avoid costly mistakes. Ask if they have the AC on and fans off. The worst thing an insured can do is turn the AC off and turn on a bunch of fans. An AC unit will act as a natural dehumidifier, but turning on fans will do nothing but spread mold spores around.
Documenting your claims
Mold issues can significantly increase the complexity of a claim, but being thorough in your reports can help ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. If you have a claim that has even a small amount of mold, take lots of pictures. Scope and photograph adjacent rooms. Put a good description in your loss report so that the desk adjuster understands the issues that may complicate your claim.
Good luck out there!