What you’ll learn reading this article:
- Overview of toxic mold
- Where toxic mold may exist in your day to day life
- How to determine responsibility for toxic mold
- What you should do next
What is mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that releases spores called mycotoxins. In large quantities, they can cause health issues, such as coughing, wheezing, breathlessness, red or itchy eyes, rashes, and sore throats. Additionally, overexposure to mold can cause long-term health effects in individuals with HP (hypersensitivity pneumonitis) and has been cited as a risk factor for asthma in children.
Most people assume that mold is always black, but it actually comes in a variety of colors. You are likely to find mold in moist and humid areas or in places where there has been a leak of some kind. If the pipe under your sink has been leaking and you notice mold, the solution is fairly straightforward. Simply fix the leak and remove the mold! Unfortunately, most mold issues are nowhere near as easily resolved.
You may encounter mold in:
- Your apartment or place you rent
- Your house, condominium, or place you own
- Your workspace
- A community area (such as a gym or clubhouse)
- Your child’s school
Your apartment or place you rent:
If you are renting, you can most likely (depending on your lease and what maintenance you have agreed to be responsible for) request that your landlord takes care of the problem (and then pursue legal action if this doesn’t occur). Read our blog about Indiana landlord liability for more details.
Your house, apartment building, or place you own:
But what if you are the landlord? What if you own a building that turns out to have a mold infestation? Who can be held responsible then?
- Homeowner’s Insurance:
If you own a building with mold, you may be able to collect from your homeowner’s insurance; however, there are many caveats to this, as mold coverage is by no means guaranteed. Your policy will list “covered perils,” and if your mold was caused by one of these, you may be in luck. If the mold is caused by a water leak from an exploding hot water tank, or from water damage after a fire, for instance, you could be in luck.
Mold occurring after an actual flood would probably not be covered unless you have flood insurance. (Flood insurance can be expensive, but if you live in a flood-prone area, be aware that FEMA reports that just one inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 damage.)
If the mold is a result of your negligence or lack of maintenance, chances are not good that you will be able to collect from your homeowner’s insurance. Make sure to read your policy carefully and to ask your agent about perils covered and exclusions. If you feel that you were denied in error or that your insurance agency violated something called the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, consider consulting an experienced lawyer. Poynter & Bucheri offers a free case review.
- Is your builder liable?
You may have a case for negligence against your builder or contractor if you can prove that they used inferior materials, failed to install ventilation, or if the warranty was breached. This is also the case with the architect or engineer. Check to see if there is a warranty, especially if something like a lack of ventilation is at fault.
- Construction supplier
In some cases, faulty (damp) drywall or other materials may be responsible for your mold problem. If you can prove this, you may have a case.
- What about the people who sold you the house?
You may be able to hold the prior owners of your house liable if you can prove that they knew about a mold infestation and didn’t tell you. The same thing goes for the real estate agent, who is an agent of the seller and who has to abide by disclosure laws. (Property sellers are usually required to disclose information about a property’s condition that might negatively affect its value.)
- Property inspector:
Before you bought your house or building, you had it inspected. Check to see if there are any disclaimers you should know about on the inspection form. It may be that you can hold the inspection company liable for missing or failing to report on a mold infestation.
If your health has been affected by “sick building syndrome,” caused by mold, you will generally be advised to apply for Workers’ Compensation. However, you may also look at other parties such as the owner of the building.
Your child’s school:
If there is unaddressed mold in your child’s school, start by contacting the school administrators (always in writing), the school board, and/or the health department. Things get a little murky from there because (unless your child attends a private school), local or state government may be involved. You may wish to pursue a lawsuit, but you will have to file an administrative claim before going to court. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of the best course of action.
What you should do next:
In all of these scenarios, you will need proof, so document everything carefully, including any medical records or lost wages due to illness caused by or exacerbated by exposure to mold. Consult an experienced lawyer who can give you advice. The attorneys at Poynter & Bucheri have experience assessing claims, charge no attorney fees unless you win, and have strategic case handling. We’ll answer your questions and fight for you.
Call 1-800-265-9881 or Contact Us Online for a free case review