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Will My Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold Growth on My Property?

Mold is one of those things you often can’t see and hope you don’t have, but which you cannot afford to ignore. Every homeowner should take the steps needed to prevent mold and to remediate or eliminate mold if those nasty little spores start showing up on your property. Even though the government hasn’t set legal limits for exposure, the presence of “toxic mold” has wreaked havoc for thousands of property owners, especially landlords.

There is little question that it’s worth both time and money to examine your property for signs of mold and to take strong measures to eliminate it and prevent its growth.

 

How and where does mold grow?

It is a combination of moisture and nutrients that provides the perfect environment for mold growth. For the most part, mold grows in areas with poor ventilation and/or a structural weakness that allows water to seep into the building from outside. There are different types of mold that grow on different materials. Different types of mold grow on different materials, such as carpet, water pipes, cardboard boxes or ceiling tiles. Both heat and humidity create an ideal environment for the growth of mold organisms. Not all mold is harmful. For example, the mold on your bathroom tile doesn’t create a health concern. That said, signs of discoloration and musty odors are usually red flags that it’s time to check for mold in your property.

If mold is able to grow undetected, it can create stains on carpets and wood floors, walls, fabric or whichever surface it’s growing on. If you ignore it, mold can ruin these materials. It also can lead to wood rot and disintegration. However, the biggest problem is toxic molds, which can trigger allergic reactions and other possibly significant health problems for those living on the property.

 

What to Do If You Find Mold

The best thing to do is to prevent mold by keeping an eye on it and getting rid of it when the problem is small by using a mild detergent and water to scrub the area clean. Wear rubber gloves and protective goggles to protect yourself and then make sure the area is well-ventilated after the cleanup, to prevent the mold from returning. If you have a larger, more intense mold problem, remediation is best tackled by professionals.

 

Will Your Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold?

In most cases, the answer is “no.” Many homeowners insurance policies will only cover mold damage that was caused by what they refer to as a “covered peril.” Here is a list of covered perils, according to the insurance companies:

  • Fire
  • Lightning
  • Vandalism or malicious mischief
  • Damage caused by vehicles
  • Theft
  • Frozen pipes
  • Falling objects
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from plumbing, heating, air conditioners, sprinkler systems, or household appliances

In most cases, these covered perils will tend not to lead to mold growing on your property, although there are certainly exceptions, like when an ice dam forms in your gutters during a rough winter and water backs up under your roof shingles, soaking your roof and your attic. However, it is unlikely your homeowners’ insurance will cover mold growth in most circumstances, especially if the cause was a preventable water leak, high humidity, or flooding.

Insurance companies tend not to pay for anything they consider to be a maintenance issue that could have been prevented by the homeowner, and failure to do that is the main cause for mold growth. Insurance companies expect homeowners to be proactive in taking care of such problems before they get to the level of making an insurance claim. In other words, you owe it to yourself to keep up with the mold and get rid of it before it becomes a problem.

 

Law Firm of David Low and Associates, P. A. | 844-96-CLAIM

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is purely for educational purposes, reflective of the time it was published. It is not to be understood as legal advice.

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HO3 Homeowner’s Policies in Florida

There is something about Florida and its constantly changing weather that makes residents want to stay in the state, even after a natural disaster. The resultant property damage that often occurs due to weather events is well-documented. However, Florida people live here willingly, even if they are aware that their lives can be turned inside-out at any time, sometimes on a moment’s notice. It is this uncertainty that keeps homeowner’s insurance companies in business and very busy. It is also why Florida residents continue living here. Often, homeowners don’t appreciate the value of their homeowner’s insurance until there is an emergency.


What is a HO3 Home Insurance Policy?

The HO3 Home Insurance Policy is the most common homeowner’s insurance policy in the United States. That is because it provides excellent coverage for your home, as well as good coverage for your personal property. The HO3 Policy is actually a hybrid of two types of policies; the first is an “open perils” policy on your home, in which the “perils” not covered are listed. If something happens and it is not specifically on the list of exclusions, it will be covered. The second is the “named perils” policy that covers personal property. With a “named perils” policy, the perils that are covered are specifically listed, which means, if the disaster is not listed, the damages caused by the disaster will not be covered.

Throughout the state of Florida, homeowners are susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes. In fact, most homeowner’s policies include loss from theft and structural damage from fire, leaks, water discharge, fallen trees, or as a result of a storm. Fortunately, most wind or windstorm damage is usually covered. In fact, damage from win is almost always included as part of any homeowner’s insurance policy, although flooding and many other types of water damage is not.


What Many HO3 Insurance Policies Lack in Coverage

Though it is the most common homeowner’s policy available, there are some limitations to the policies that homeowners must be aware of:

• These policies often offer only limited water damage coverage – These policies do include sudden and accidental water damage, but there are a lot of exclusions, and sometimes, low policy limits.
• Open Perils coverage of personal property – These policies generally only cover personal property for a very specific 16 perils, though they cover the dwelling for many other perils. Additional perils may be covered, but you will have to pay an additional premium for each one. It is best to discuss the coverage you are looking for with your insurance agent.

The 16 perils most HO3 policies will cover for personal property are as follows:

• Fire or Lightning
• Windstorm or Hail
• Volcanic Eruption
• The excessive weight from ice, snow or sleet
• Explosion
• Sudden & Accidental Damage from Artificially Generated Electric Current
• Aircraft
• Vehicles
• Falling Objects
• Smoke
• Vandalism or Malicious Mischief
• Theft
• Riot or Civil Commotion
• Volcanic Eruption
• Accidental Discharge or Overflow of Water or Stream
• Sudden & Accidental Tearing Apart, Cracking, Burning, or Bulging
• Freezing

The purpose for homeowner’s insurance is to helps pay for the repair or rebuilding of your home, as well as to replace personal property due to a covered loss.

According to experts, most claims tend to be for water leaks; from air conditioning systems, water heaters, plumbing and roofs, and not the most dramatic natural disasters we all see on the news. In most cases, wind damage will be covered, but flood damage usually requires a separate policy. Most homeowners’ flood policies are administered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This is some excellent insurance to have, since the federal government has standardized the rates, which means your annual premium will be the same, regardless of the insurance company who writes your homeowner’s policy. Right now, the maximum coverage available through the NFIP is $250,000 for the structure and $100,000 for the contents, and the cost of the premium in a Preferred Flood Zone is $414 per year, with a $1000 deductible for each claim.

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Unusual Homeowners Insurance Claims From Valentine’s Day Accidents

Roses are red, Violets are blue, We love an unusual claim, Don’t you?

We’re taking a moment from enjoying chocolates and roses on Valentine’s Day to reflect on some unusual homeowner’s insurance claims that didn’t all come up hearts and flowers!

Cupid has his arrow, but our first homeowner had a gun

As a professional gun restorer, one would normally remember to check the chamber for bullets, which is gun safety rule number one.  The homeowner was surprised to discover that the gun he was cleaning was actually loaded and he inadvertently shot his television set.  His insurer believed his claim and reimbursed for it, which was quite a gift to him!

Doves are the birds of love, but swans are shockingly beautiful

Our next tale involves the solemn story of a swan who didn’t notice that he was flying directly into some high voltage power lines until it was too late.  After the poor bird’s unfortunate shock, the swan flew straight into a home, leaving a large hole in the roof when the bird entered.  The claim was paid, and the damage was repaired fast.

Steamy kitchen claim

One couple loaded up their dishwasher to the max only to encounter a horrible mess when the dishwasher got stuck on high heat. The kitchen was overwhelmed by steam, positively drenching the entire room.  Although their home insurance provider rejected their claim, the couple’s flood insurance kicked in and covered all the damage.

And they called it puppy love

Dogs can do amazing things like save their owners lives or help calm anxiety.  Generally, arts and crafts are not their strength.  When a homeowner accidently left a can of paint open while painting her walls, she was in for the surprise of her life.  Her dog wandered over to the can of paint and as he passed it, his tail landed in the can and proceeded to coat her house in paint as he wagged through each room. The shocked homeowner was happy to have her claim paid. Her dog retired from painting but enjoyed a lovely bath.

Will you ‘bee’ mine?

A bee caught our homeowner’s eye and he became hypnotized by the insect’s flying and buzzing around his head.  When he stood up, he became dizzy and proceeded to fall over and put a substantial dent right in his kitchen wall.  Unfortunately, the damage that was incurred didn’t exceed the man’s deductible, so he had to deal with the sting of paying for the repairs himself.

Not all homeowners are so lucky to get their claims paid. When homeowner’s insurance claims are denied or underpaid, we fight for your compensation. Save our number for when this happens to a homeowner you know in Florida: 844-96-CLAIM.

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Five New Year’s Resolutions Homeowners Should Make

According to Inc Magazine, 60 percent of Americans admit to making New Years’ Resolutions, but only 8 percent successfully achieve them. This is largely because resolutions take consistent effort. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you must consistently make choices that support that goal. It’s easy to get off track.

Resolutions concerning your biggest investment – your home – can have long-term benefits while typically requiring a one-time effort. Here are a few to consider:

Resolution 1: Shop for Better Homeowners Insurance

If you financed the purchase of your home, you were required to purchase and keep a homeowner’s insurance policy. In more cases than not, homeowners buy insurance policies that fit their budget but don’t necessarily provide the full coverage they may need.

First, understand what your current policy covers. Since Florida properties are highly prone to wind and water damage, it is important to consider all possibilities. Some factors to take into account include your proximity to zones especially susceptible to storm damage, the value of your home, and the value of your personal property.

The latter could have changed since you first got your existing policy, which brings us to Resolution #2.

Resolution 2:  Take Inventory

Take inventory of your valuables and the state of your property. In addition to having an updated list of valuables to cover under your insurance, taking a look at your home can help prevent unnecessary damage in the future. Keep in mind that damage that is found to occur due to neglect is not covered by insurance policies, even if it was worsened by a storm.

Inspect your roof, gutters, windows, sidewalks and large trees for any potential issues and make repairs as needed. Hurricane season is only 5 months away. Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, replacing batteries and the units themselves if necessary.

In your preparations, take down important numbers in case of damage. You should include a public adjuster and a homeowner’s insurance attorney in case your insurance claim is denied. Our number is easy to remember: 844-96-CLAIM.

Resolution 3: Create an Energy Efficient Home

While you’re taking your property’s pulse, consider making your home more energy efficient. Areas to consider include lighting, windows, sliding doors, appliances and solar panels. Depending on the changes you make, you can see immediate savings on your energy and water bills. Some cities even offer incentives to make your home more “green”. Here are some of the rebates, incentives and programs the City of Fort Lauderdale offers its residents for adopting sustainable practices in their homes.

Resolution 4:  Pay Down Principal

What’s another good use for your tax return? Put it into paying down your mortgage. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • If you have private mortgage insurance or PMI, paying down your mortgage can help you save. When you bring it down to the 80 percent equity level, you will wipe out the need for your PMI payment each month, which can save you about $100/mo depending on your payment.
  • Work with your lender to pay down the principle. You can use your tax return to make an extra mortgage payment for the year or space it out and pay extra every month. Be sure to discuss these options with your lender to make sure your additional payments are going towards the principle.

Resolution 5: Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage

This option is not the right fit for everyone, but can be helpful if you:

  • Plan to stay in your home for at least the next 5 years
  • Want to lower your monthly payment
  • Have improved your credit score

One of the most important things to consider when refinancing is whether the savings outweigh the closing costs (about 2% – 4% of your home’s value). The goal is to save money so you will want to make sure that you fully understand the pros and cons.

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What You Must Know About Releases of Claims in Exchange for Policy Benefits

Getting your homeowners insurance claim approved by an insurance company is an arduous and often long process. When you finally hear that your claim has been approved and the final step is to sign a few pieces of paper to receive your check, you are likely elated to do so. Unfortunately, this is where many homeowners make a significant mistake.

By signing a release of claim, you give up the important right to seek further benefits under the policy relating to that loss. A release takes away your right to reopen or supplement a claim. In some cases, you may find additional damage while repairing the original damage; such as mold in walls which you cannot see until the wall is being opened. In the event you find hidden damage, you will want to submit a supplemental claim, but if you sign a release of claim, you will not be able to do so.

It is most important to know that your homeowner’s insurance policy does not require that you sign a release in order to receive benefits. A release of claim must be supported by consideration, or in laymen’s terms, when there is an exchange of something of value for something else of value between two parties outside of an existing contract. For example, if there is a dispute as to whether an insurance premium was paid on time when a homeowner submits their claim, it can take the claim outside the limits of the contract and therefore, payment for the claim would be a consideration on the part of the insurance company and may warrant a release of benefits.

Insurance companies prey on homeowners who may not understand this legal concept. Even if a public adjuster is working on the claim for you, they cannot legally advise you on whether the release should be signed or not since they are not attorneys and this would constitute the practice of law, which is outside their scope of qualifications.

In a case like this, the best a public adjuster can do is advise their client to confer with an attorney who specializes in suing homeowner’s insurance companies such as David Low & Associates. Depending on the facts of the case, an attorney is able to help determine whether the release of claim is justified or not.

It is important to note that the Florida Department of Insurance has found insurers to abuse releases, especially in claims submitted for hurricane damage. So much so that after Hurricane Andrew, the Commissioner at the time, Tom Gallagher, issued Informational Bulletin 93-005:

“It has been brought to the attention of the Florida Department of Insurance that some insureds are being required to sign full releases in order to receive claims disbursement in settlement of claims relating to Hurricane Andrew.

The Department interprets Florida Statutes 626.9541(1)(i), 626.9641(1)(b), 626.9702, 627.4265, 627.702 and Emergency Rule Subsections 4ER92-26(4)(g), 4ER92-27(4) and other emergency rule subsections on similar topics, to mean:

  1. No check or draft issued in settlement of an insurance claim shall contain a provision which makes negotiation of the instrument an acceptance of the amount payable thereon as full and final settlement of the underlying insurance claim, except those that are for full policy limits.
  2. To eliminate misunderstanding or confusion and possible violation of Florida Statute 626.9541 and Rule 4-166.023, Florida Administrative Code, the Department is requesting that insurers limit the use of general releases to those settlements for which they are appropriate, and insert in said releases language to the effect that the release shall not constitute a final waiver of claims which are reasonably unforeseen on the date of the release.”

When you hit any legal obstacles with your homeowner’s insurance claim, call David Low & Associates at 844-96-CLAIM for a free case evaluation. Our primary office is in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

 

This article is for purpose of providing information and does not constitute as legal advice.

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