Will your insurance company cover mold infestations? Probably not

If you're facing a mold situation, you're not alone. The late Ed McMahon (of "Tonight Show" fame) famously battled toxic mold at his Southern California estate.

More than 100,000 types of mold exist on Earth, according to the Insurance Information Institute, and at least a thousand are common in the United States. Mold in your home can cause allergic reactions, complications for those with respiratory disease and infections for those with weak immune systems. It also smells bad.

Unfortunately, your home insurance probably won't pay for your medical bills or for removing the mold. The reason mold is not covered, according to the Insurance Information Institute, is because mold is a maintenance issue (like pests, rust and rot) and the responsibility rests with the property owner.

There is an exception -- if the mold is caused by a covered peril. For example, say a pipe bursts in your basement and the water damage leads to the growth of mold. Your insurer might pay for getting rid of the mold because burst pipes are covered. However, some insurance companies exclude or limit coverage for mold even for covered perils, according to the Illinois Department of Insurance.

If the mold simply grew in your home because of excess humidity, condensation or leaks, you're on your own. Preventing mold from occurring or catching it before it gets out of control can save you a lot of hassle and money. The Illinois Department of Insurance offers tips.

  • Inspect your home regularly, and immediately repair leaking pipes or water seeping in through the roof or up into the basement.
  • Reduce the humidity in your home as much as possible by increasing ventilation and using dehumidifiers.
  • Add insulation to prevent condensation on pipes and walls.
  • Don't use carpeting in the basement, bathroom or other rooms prone to moisture.
  • Clean up water immediately. Mold can grow vigorously within just 24 to 48 hours after a spill or other water damage. If there's a lot of water, you may need to call a water extraction company. Be sure to remove and dry out rugs, carpeting, wallboards and furniture.
  • If you find mold, ventilate the area. Scrub all surfaces with a commercial cleaner and hot water. Then, disinfect the area (if it's a nonporous surface) with a solution made up of 10 parts water and one part bleach. Be sure to wear protective gloves, a mask, a ventilator and eye protection. If the contaminated surface is porous (like insulation or sheetrock), discard it.

Even if you're not sure that a water damage or mold claim would be covered under your policy, contact your home insurance company anyway to report any serious damage. If you're concerned about any health problems that you think are caused by mold, contact your doctor.

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