Mould remediation another potential coverage challenge for Albertans

Expensive work must be tied to an insurable loss to be eligible, says expert

Many Calgarians have had the floodwaters pumped out of their basements by now, but the next threat to their property may already be emerging. Mould can start forming quickly after a water event and cause extensive damage beyond the initial flood. In most cases, for mould remediation work to be insurable, it has to be tied to a covered loss. However, that could prove to be a major challenge for many flood victims in Alberta, as their damage was the result of overland flooding, which is not normally covered in a homeowner’s policy.

Back in March, Canadian Insurance Top Broker spoke to Rory MacKinnon, a field operations specialist at Paul Davis Systems, to discuss the mould remediation process and what brokers should know about this dangerous fungus. Here is that conversation again.

What is involved in mould remediation work? 

Let’s say the mould isn’t all throughout the house, it’s just in one specific spot. What I’m going to do is I’m going to section it off from the rest of the house by installing a containment area, which I would do with plastic. At that point I’m not going to do any aggressive work, because the first thing you have to do is look after the problem of where the water is coming in. Let’s say it’s from a foundation problem, a water leak, or a roof leak, you always have to address the problem before you start any mould remediation type work. I will also want a hygienist involved. I will not want that hygienist to be a part of my company. That’s key, because if I went to your house and I did a mould remediation, there’s nothing to tell you that I’ve done the job. Yes, you’ll see that the black and green is gone, but there’s nothing to tell you that your air is fine. Part of the issue with mould and breathing environments and our health is because our houses are so well sealed. Mould will readily grow on the paper of the drywall, where it didn’t readily grow on plaster. So our houses now are quite the mould machines compared to [older houses].

Mould will readily grow on the paper of the drywall, where it didn’t readily grow on plaster. So our houses now are quite the mould machines compared to older houses.

Once I’ve contained the situation, in some cases, I might want to put a negative air machine in there. Negative pressure ensures that no spores in that environment will get out to the other areas because it is sucking in. You want the air, basically, to be cycled through this HEPA filter system. Only a HEPA filter can capture mould spores because they’re so tiny. Then we’re removing materials like drywall, insulation, carpet, flooring that has mould on it.

A typical basement could run you a week to a week-and-a-half.

What are the consequences of not removing mould? 

In the case of Sandy, you had all this water coming in and, depending on the contaminants of the water, mould will grow faster. Water from a supply pipe, it might take three or four days to get a mould situation. Water that’s coming from a hurricane, that water has more contaminants. Think of all the pesticides out there, gas, oil, etc. So you can get mould happening in a couple of days. You’re talking 48 hours plus, roughly.

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Where we see mould situations get out of hand in a huge way are grow-ops and when a bank repossesses a home and there is no one living in it.

Once mould gets to the whole house, you could be at the point where it could be cheaper to demolish it. A severe mould situation in a basement can often go somewhere between $60,000 to $80,000 and then you’ve got the rebuild on top of that.

What should brokers know about mould remediation work?

Mould isn’t covered, typically. There are only some situations where I have seen mould covered and that’s when a contractor and an adjuster misdiagnosed a situation and mould was allowed to grow from an insurable loss. For mould to be covered it has to be tied to an already covered loss because insurance covers sudden and accidental.

For mould to be covered it has to be tied to an already covered loss because insurance covers sudden and accidental.

Mould is one of those things that once you have it, the quicker you react the better. The situation doesn’t improve. When you’ve got a mould situation, it’s telling you that there’s some issue with your home that you have to resolve. The first thing to resolve is not the mould, it’s the cause.

Follow us on Twitter at @CITopBroker for the latest on #abflood and more industry insights like this one.

See also;

Recent profiles of restoration companies

1) Canada’s Restoration Services

2) PuroClean

3) GUS Group

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Transcontinental Media G.P.