Mold is an extremely common problem in residential homes. As an insurance representative, chances are you have received calls from policyholders facing mold issues and asking about next steps and insurance coverage. To enhance your customer service and maintain a good relationship with your policyholders, it helps to have extensive knowledge on not only your company’s mold policy, but also the signs of mold damage, prevention and action plans for getting rid of it. Mold contamination is very harmful to health, property and belongings. Providing education and empathy can go a long way in strengthening your relationship.
Why does mold come into homes?
Mold and water damage often go hand in hand. This is why mold is most common during rainy seasons like spring and seasons where natural disasters like tornadoes or hurricanes occur most frequently. Heavy rains can cause floods that leave moisture inside a home, resulting in mold growth.
Because it can be found anywhere moisture is present, mold is also caused by mundane, everyday sources like rain seeping into a home, leaking pipes, moisture from cooking or showering, or even insufficient ventilation.
Considering these causes, it’s no surprise mold is most often found in bathrooms, crawlspaces, kitchens, basements, and attics. But that doesn’t mean it can’t appear anywhere in the house, and many times your policyholders may not see mold outright or easily. You must rely on other signs of mold that can be trickier to detect.
How to detect mold in a home
If a homeowner cannot outright see mold, the biggest giveaway is the smell. If the smell of wet socks, dirt or a general musk lingers in a home for days on end and is strongest when entering a certain room or opening a specific cabinet, there may be mold present. The description of the smell of mold varies from person to person, but the consensus is that the scent is unpleasant to humans.
Another telltale sign of mold is illness. If a policyholder reports a persistent cold and allergy-like symptoms such as itchy eyes and a cough, they may have Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, a consequence of mold inhalation.
Signs of water damage, too, may lead to signs of mold. Water spots and dark spots on the wall or peeling wallpaper should be noted and handled quickly. An environment that stays wet for too long, sometimes in just 48 hours, can start to grow mold. If your policyholders do come across a wet area in their home, steps need to be taken immediately to start the drying process.
It helps to advise policyholders conduct a quick check for wet spots immediately after rain, flooding or natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. The sooner these wet areas can be dried, the better.
How policyholders can prevent mold
There are a number of tips and tricks policyholders can implement to prevent mold. These are our top five tips we suggest you share.
- Check exhaust fans. Advise they take a moment to double-check that exhaust fans in their kitchen and bathrooms are clean and working properly. Policyholders can do this by placing a tissue or piece of paper directly up to the fan. If the paper is suctioned up into the fan, it’s a sign that things are running smoothly. If the suction is weak or nonexistent, the fan may need to be cleaned. Note that this method works for ceiling exhaust fans in the kitchen or bathroom as well as kitchen hood fans.
- Always use exhaust fans. In the same vein, remind policyholders to put those clean fans to good use. Hot showers and cooking can produce condensation but running an exhaust fan during these activities will help eliminate moisture in these rooms. Remember, there are no exceptions to this rule. All showers and cooking activities should make use of the exhaust fan. If you do not have an exhaust fan, open a window or wipe off the water when you are done to prevent mold from growing.
- Maintain a healthy HVAC system. Remind policyholders to give their HVAC system a checkup, as it is another notorious place for mold growth. They can change the air filter every few months, purchase and use a mold inhibitor, keep drip pans clean, and have the HVAC system cleaned by a professional every few years.
- Use a dehumidifier. This tip is simple. High indoor humidity can provide moisture for mold to grow. Dehumidifiers can eliminate extra moisture in the air. Some dehumidifiers are small and portable while others are larger and designed to eliminate excess moisture from the full house. Rather than making the call to use a dehumidifier based on their perception of moisture, policyholders can purchase an inexpensive digital barometer online to get a better reading on their house’s moisture levels. A good humidity level for a house is considered to be anywhere between 30% and 60%, but the CDC recommends staying under 50% to prevent mold growth. Humidity changes throughout the day, so policyholders will need to check the barometer a few times.
- Open windows and doors. Mold likes to grow in a wet and dark atmosphere. When weather permits, policyholders should open windows and doors in homes to gain sunlight exposure and to encourage fresh air circulation.
- Use mold inhibitors. Before painting your walls, add a mold inhibitor to the paint. Mold inhibitors can be purchased at home improvement or paint stores. They generally do not kill existing mold, but can be helpful in preventing new growth.
- Be strategic about carpet. Try not to place carpet in places where moisture is most likely to be present, like bathrooms or basements. Carpet is easily soaked and can remain wet and damp long enough for mold to grow. If a policyholder experiences a flood in a carpeted area, advise them to consider removing the carpet quickly and replacing it with a hardwood or vinyl floor.
- Keep up with outdoor home maintenance. Remind policyholders that their yard and home exterior can play a role in mold prevention. Keeping gutters clean and damage-free can stop a roof from leaking. Directing water away from a home using strategically sloped lawns can stop water from flooding in a basement or crawlspace.
How to educate your policyholders on mold issues
Passing this knowledge on to policyholders can help them feel more prepared and aware of the risks of mold damage. We suggest making resources available to policyholders in the form of printed and digital checklists and brochures, or even sending them this blog.
You can also send mold prevention tips out in an email newsletter, post it on social media accounts and mention it in policyholder conversations. There is never a bad time to have these discussions, but seasons where water damage is most prevalent, like hurricane or tornado seasons, are an excellent time to remind policyholders to check for water damage and leaks.
What to do if your policyholders do find mold
Mold may appear even with the right prevention techniques in use, so it’s important to empower your policyholders with the knowledge to detect its growth quickly. Once mold is present, it’s very difficult to combat. Surface and airborne mold tends to grow back and require several protocols to ensure they stay gone for good.
Work with your policyholders to ensure they have a plan of action in place if mold should occur. In order to get a thorough cleaning and ensure mold does not reappear, they should always use a professional mold restoration company such as ServiceMaster DSI. ServiceMaster DSI can assess any unique mold situation, isolate the mold with barriers, use the latest technology to scrub the mold and clean up the water that is causing your mold.
If your policyholders are experiencing mold problems, give us a call today at 844-413-3130. You can also visit our service request page to report mold growth on behalf of yourself or your policyholders.