Mold A Growing Concern!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In the last article I shared the many reasons why appraisers and home inspectors need to become more cognizant of mold. This article is for both home inspectors and appraisers. It will describe very simply how to avoid liability. It will also how to turn the environmental liability mold poses into financial opportunity. To avoid liability you must first know what, where and to watch out for. The signs are sometimes subtle if you are not focused they are like booby traps ready to spring on the uninformed. Don't get caught napping the potential cost is too high! A representative from a major insurance company called and told me of his son and daughter inlaw who purchased a home. After they became chronically ill they began to suspect their new home as the cause. Right they were. Upon investigation it was discovered that Stachybotris was growing beneath the wallpaper in the bathroom. Further review revealed that the spore was through out the house. It was even on all of their personal possessions. They were ultimately advised by the testing lab and industrial hygienist who conducted the testing to evacuate and leave all of the contaminated possession behind. This is a nightmare worse than a fire. A fire destroys things leaving only ashes in its wake. Mold leaves the things intact, but because of the microscopic spore contamination in many cases they must be abandoned! Can you imagine abandoning your photos of your children, your wedding, your friends or your favorite clothing? Can you imagine the sympathy a jury might have for a family that had suffered in this way? The family filed a claim with their homeowner's insurance company. Their insurance claim was subsequently rejected because of a mold exclusion in the policy. One of our Allstate Home Inspection affiliates in New Jersey noted while reviewing his home owners insurance policy that he too has a mold exclusion. You know if the insurance companies are excluding coverage for something--its an issue! The family has now turned their sites on the home inspector and the real estate appraiser. They plan on suing both of them. To do this they have retained an attorney who previously specialized in asbestos related cases who just happens to be a Philadelphia lawyer. Avoiding liability is simple. You need only a rudimentary understanding of mold for mold to accomplish that. All mold needs to grow is moisture a little heat and some food. The food that the dangerous Stachybotris needs is high in cellulose low in nitrogen food; like wood (structural or trim), fiberboard, sheetrock and paper that become chronically wet. If chronically wet material is part of the mold equation, you must first recognize the conditions that can allow moisture to enter the structure. On the exterior the most common defects include ; improper flashing at chimneys, skylights, vents and other breaches in the roof skin gutters and facia not properly installed or deteriorated windows not properly flashed siding or trim not properly installed including the notorious synthetic stucco decks improperly flashed where they attach to the building wood touching the ground allowing it to wick up moisture negative drainage around the foundation The conditions on the interior that are indicative of water penetration; lack of adequate ventilation of bathrooms, crawl spaces and attics water stains beneath skylights leaking pipes in wall cavities, crawl spaces or basements loose and leaking toilet flanges water stains on walls or ceilings moldy dank odors especially in basements If you are a real estate appraiser report any of these defects on the "condition of improvement" section of the URAR. For example, "This appraiser observed areas of deferred maintenance at the chimney and roof flashing." It is not your responsibility to recommend testing although doing so can help reduce your liability. In your additional comments section of your appraisal you may expound on your cryptic note with something like this "This appraiser recommends appropriate review and repair as needed of deferred maintenance at roof and chimney." If you are a home inspector you need to report the conditions and recommend mold testing. All of the above-described conditions are frequently readily observable, if you look for them. Open your eyes! Missing them would be inexcusable. I can hear the collective moan from appraisers right now. Appraisers like it or not you know about the different components of a home and can recognize defects that relate directly to age life depreciation, which all of the above defects do. If you can not identify the components of a home and defects that relate directly to age life depreciation, you can not utilize the cost approach. In which case you are violating USPAP competency provision. There are appraisal continuing education courses that can help with your previously blissful oblivion. (plug) If you are interested in turning this potential liability into financial opportunity attend a class on mold testing or purchase a distance learning module on mold testing from ASPREI. The process isn't rocket science (its microbiological science). The training and equipment will cost you between $1,000 & $1,500. The training consists of an 8-hour program for level 1 mold assessors. History, health effects, impact on value, testing methods and mitigation procedures are carefully explained. A segment of the class has students working with the testing equipment to build real understanding of the different applications. Last the students are challenged by an exam. After passing the exam inspectors will be awarded the "Certified Residential Mold Assessors" designation by ASPREI ( American Society of Professional Real Estate Inspectors). Level 2 training is provided by IESO. IESO consists of two days of training concluded by a rigorous exam. When you leave the class you know when, why and how to test for mold. You will also have a credential to help you market this value-added service. Another way to get training and learn how to avoid liability is with the ASPREI distance learning series video and training manual entitled "Mold! A Growing Concern". This correspondence course will allow those unable to attend a live class to immediately learn what they need to know to protect themselves from liability. It also trains students to go out and begin testing for mold. For appraisers wanting to avoid liability this short manual and video are a must!1-800-245-9932 for details After you have been trained you need equipment and a laboratory to process your samples. Here at Allstate Home Inspection we are all utilizing kits supplied to us by Environmental Monitoring Systems of Charleston, SC. The kit includes a handy carrying case, pump, stand, impactor, drill, stud finder and impactor adapters. Every thing you need for bioaresol sampling is in the kit. After extensive research we chose them because of their continued commitment to innovation for this emerging industry, The high quality of their equipment, the convenience of the fully assembled kit and their very competitive pricing. Recently the University of Cincinnati Department of Environmental Health conducted an independent review of three biaerosal testing systems. They concluded that the Environmental Monitoring System impactor and kit out performed the other 2 systems dramatically.

Their are many labs around the country for microbiological testing. We recommend Aerotech Laboratories, Inc. in , Arizona. They have a really strong history of good customer service. Other places you may look for guidance include the Canadian Health Department mold testing and mitigation protocol and the New York City Health department protocol. Both are available on line for free. Whether you're a real estate appraiser or a home inspector, now that you have read this article you know why, when and how to protect yourself from liability and maybe how to turn it into financial opportunity.

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