Mold – A Growing Concern

MOLD April 8, 2016 7:34 pm

Four steps to Follow if Mold/Moisture is Suspected

As you are aware, it is the responsibility of all real estate professionals to properly inform their clients of the dangers, both physical and financial, that mold can have on a property. On January 1, 2001, California’s Toxic Mold Protection Act went into effect placing the liability for any undisclosed mold problems on the seller. Disclosures dealing specifically with mold now appear in the “Buyers Inspection Advisory” and in the “Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement.”

But how much do you really know about the problem of mold? A true service to your clients is to not only advise them regarding disclosure requirements, but also to offer solutions. Follows is the second in a three-part series of articles about the problem of mold.

As a REALTOR®, what should you do when you encounter apparent signs of moisture and mold?

Step one-identify if a suspect property has moisture or microbial concerns by finding out as much building history as possible from the seller of the home or owner of subject property. Some homeowners will hid the signs of past water damage, as many REALTORS® have experienced firsthand, so, directly ask the seller what they know about any prior water damage or moisture infiltration. Common sources are faulty appliances, sprinklers, leaky roofs, decks, drainage problems, plumbing leaks, backups, overflows, etc.

Step two-discuss with the home or property owner what building materials got wet or damaged. Ask how long the building was wet, and whether or not the previous moisture related occurrences where professionally remedied or thoroughly dried.

Step three-after confirming areas of potential moisture damage, source identification and elimination would be the next critical step in determining if reoccurrence will be a problem. Without having to spend the big bucks for a professional moisture intrusion investigation/survey or $13,000-plus dollars on an infrared camera, your natural sense can go a long way in successful moisture/mold detection. The best tools for the task of investigation and discovery are quite simple but important for successful results. All one needs is a quality flashlight, eyes, olfactory system (nose) and ears for listening to the answers to your questions. Look around the exterior of the home paying attention to landscape, grading drainage and maintenance. Is the grading sloping towards the subject property? Are there rain gutters present? Are the down spouts adequately draining away from the home? Is the soil wet or growing algae? Are there cracks or pieces missing in the exterior stucco? Planters and low lying areas of the landscaping area common sources of water intrusion in many properties. When looking for signs of water damage or microbial growth inside the home, view all the obvious plumbing area such as under sinks, around and behind laundry machines, incemakers, water filtration systems and hot water heaters. Often there will be no signs or visual evidence of mold or water damage, so many times a musty or stale odor will be the first sign of a microbial or moisture concern.

Step four-call in a professional. Moisture detection is one of the most common ways of identifying suspect mold concerns. Professional Mold/Moisture inspection companies use various moisture detection meters and a limited few have state of the art thermal imaging cameras that use infrared technology that use temperature differentials to locate unwanted moisture in structural materials. According to the IICRC Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration S500 1999, moisture content above 20 percent will generally support molt growth. Excess moisture above 16-20-plus percent will also generally support mold growth. High humidity consistently above 70 percent relative humidity will also support mold growth. When surface temperatures reach dew point saturation, condensation begins to occur on surface. Unwanted moisture and soil on surfaces equals mold food. ASHRAE recommends maintaining the humidity between 30 percent and 70 percent, ideally between 40 percent and 60 percent. Air sampling is another way of detecting mold. Often if there are no signs of visual mold or water damage taking air samples is another useful option for detecting the presence of elevated mold within a subject property. There are additional sampling methods available for identifying microbial presence as well as mold testing for bacteria and allergen screening.

Mold and moisture concerns are a very real threat to real estate. Protect yourself and your clients by properly disclosing and proactively addressing the issue of moisture and mold. The experience of the moisture intrusion investigation company hired and their sampling plan and the hypothesis they are attempting to prove or disprove is the best bet for locating and addressing unwanted moisture and mold. Additionally, the company chosen should be at a minimum, board certificated by the American Indoor Air Quality Counsel (AIAQC), and any company that performs remediation or repair work over $600 must be a licensed general contractor.

Stay tuned for the third article in the series: “Got Mold-Now What?” in a future issue. Now that suspect unwanted moisture and mold has been identified, what does a professional mold remediation company do?

Author: Vince

Vincent J. Attardo is the President/CEO of Coastline Environmental Solutions, Inc. He provides Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) investigations, mold and bacteria testing, water damage/mold remediation and repair, and is available for consultation and public speaking. For more information please visit www.coastlineclean.com. Readers may contact him at 800-847-3867 or email at vince@coastlineclean.com.