When people think about mold, the picture that comes to mind is black and green fuzzy stuff on sliced bread and fruit. Here we are going to have a closer look into this common fungus. Black mold is one of the most common types of mold that forms in homes. Other names for common black mold is stachybotrys chartarum, and toxic black mold. Black mold comes in many different species and classifications. It might be hard for some to believe, but not all types of black mold are toxic.
There are thousands of different kinds of back molds, but only some will affect health in humans and pets. Although it is difficult to determine which species are dangerous and which ones are not on your own, we want to inform you as much as possible so you are prepared to make the right decisions and keep your family safe.
What does black mold look like? Black mold isn’t just black; it can be gray, green and sometimes look dark blue. It forms in clusters and can sometimes look slimy, fluffy growing outward, and spotty. It can come in the form on small dots or large round patches that are staggered along a wall. You may also notice that around the areas where black mold has formed, there are signs of moisture. Bubbling and cracking paint, brown spots on the ceiling, and areas of condensation are all signs of moisture damage and possible mold formation. Floods and leaks are two main causes of excess moisture that cause mold. Moisture is one of the sources needed for mold to grow. Other sources include organic materials (wood, drywall) and temperature between 70-100 degrees.
It is no secret that black mold can cause health problems. From watery eyes to fatigue and eventually brain damage, the symptoms range from common and temporary symptoms to serious life threatening sicknesses. One common sickness caused by mold is Toxic Mold Syndrome. Many people have suffered from this and if you have never heard of TMS before, read our previous blog post “The Dangers of Toxic Mold Syndrome”. In a report conducted by CBS, a family’s story is exposed when they ran into a major mold problem.
If you have found that you are living in the presence of black mold the BEST way to resolve the problem is to get the effected materials removed by a mold professional. Sprays, tapes, and wiping surfaces can only temporarily fix the issue and possibly spread the mold more. Proper mold remediation and testing are the only ways to solve the problem and prove that it is gone 100%. If you are sick and think that black mold may be the cause, mention to your doctor that you think you may have a mold problem.
Living in an apartment community can prove to be a great housing decision. Landscaping, roofing issues, or maintaining your pool is never a worry. It is a relief when you can give up some responsibilities to a property management team. But what happens when there is a problem, like mold, flooding, or leaks, that is directly affecting your living space and possibly your health? Many apartment complex managers take the right actions by solving building damage issues that can affect tenants’ health immediately, but there are situations where funds are not available to solve the issue, and the tenant is left with dealing with it on their own.
A lot of times, mold that forms in apartments could be considered surface mold. It can be quite alarming, especially when tenants aren’t familiar with it. Surface mold is caused by minor issues; for example, not running the fan when showering. The relative humidity levels rise and moisture in the air is not circulated, which causes mold to form. This should not be confused with roof leaks. Roof leaks happen when there is water from the outside penetrating through roofing materials, into wall cavities, and eventually through your ceiling into your apartment. This can cause major issues if not resolved as soon as possible. When moisture comes in contact with organic materials, including wood, drywall, and other building materials, it causes mold to form and spread rapidly. Health effects from mold exposure can be severe especially when exposure is prolonged.
What should one do when faced with this issue? Here are our suggestions for the proper steps to take.
1. Tell the apartment office staff. Communicating your concerns to the proper management personnel should be the first step you take. It is in your best interest that you do this in a timely manner so the issue doesn’t worsen.
2. Document your building damage concerns. When you document your efforts to resolve the maintenance issues in your apartment, your management team is sure to be effective in resolving the problem.
3. Check up on the severity of the repairs. If the repairs are of a certain scale, you may need to vacate your apartment while they are being resolved. Every state has different guidelines regarding this, so ask if this is a possibility. If you have a baby, live with an elderly person, or with someone that has a weakened immune system, this should also be brought to your apartment management’s attention.
4. Keep an eye on time. Make sure there is consistent progress in repairing your building damage problem (especially leaks and mold). If you haven’t physically seen or heard from your apartment’s maintenance or management regarding a schedule, a quick phone call should suffice.
5. When there has been no progress. There are a few things you could do if you haven’t had any success with steps 1-4. Contact the higher-ups in property management. Find out who manages the property you live in and call or email them. They should take your call and get something done for you in the matter of a few days. Make sure you inform them you have possible health concerns and ask that they assist you in resolving the issue. Another step you can take is by consulting with a professional. Call your local building damage experts and have a conversation. They will be able to come out to your apartment and test your areas of concerns, prove that there is damage to be concerned about, and you can use those documents to bring the problem to the apartment staff.
Typically, properties take building damage issues seriously and do their best to resolve these issues immediately. You should never have to live in an establishment that has issues that could cause negative effects on your health. Be sure to take action immediately and follow the proper steps, and your building damage should be resolved in no time!
The Assignment of benefits has been in use for over 100 years. In recent efforts, insurance companies have been trying to eliminate the use of the Assignment of Benefits to alleged “abuse” and “misuse” of the AOB (Assignment of Benefits). We agree that the abuse needs to stop. There are a select few companies and individuals that use the AOB to their benefit and not for the best interest of the clients. We believe the AOB should only be used to benefit homeowners and create a fair playing field for all trusting contractors in our industry.
The use of the Assignment of Benefits ensures that homeowners are able to keep their rights in choosing who their contractors are when dealing with emergency situations (flood, fire, mold). With the elimination of the Assignment of benefits, the insurance companies would be in full control of what company works on a home, how much money is spent, and the time it takes to complete a job. Representatives, lobbyists, and company owners including Richie Kidwell of Air Quality Assessors are working tirelessly to ensure that only just laws are passed and that homeowners and their rights are protected.
In this featured article, Todd Copeland from the Sun Sentinel explains the most recent happenings with the Assignment of Benefits.
Click HERE to view the article.
If you use an Assignment of Benefits contract in residential property losses and are a contractor in the state of Florida, this blog is a great informational resource for you! Currently, there are two industry related bills that are being considered by the Senate to pass right now, both of which could restrict the use of the Assignment of Benefits and could devastate small business owners. In a nutshell, the Assignment of Benefits serves as the same document doctors’ offices use to in order to communicate and invoice your insurance carrier directly. It is also the same document you sign when replacing your windshield. In Florida, it is usually no cost to the policyholder to replace the windshield. They invoice your carrier directly and get paid by the carrier directly. Banning or restricting the use of the Assignment of Benefits contract will have lasting negative effects for the homeowner when faced with an emergency. Right now, the assignment allows a contractor to begin work immediately in order to stop future damages and preserve their property without the headache of paying out of pocket for the whole loss.
There will be a vote on the Hukill bill, regarding 2 things:
1: The Senator Hukill's Bill
2: Senator Simmons Amendment
Senator Simmons Amendment serves the following 3 main components:
1. Essentially limits the use of AOB to only "emergency circumstances".
2. Prohibits directly or indirectly receiving compensation (referral fees).
3. Allows property insurers to change their policies to limit post loss assignability.
Some would argue that Senate Bill 596 is going to limit homeowners' rights and put insurance companies in complete control over who repairs damages in their home, and how much is spent doing so. Yes, every industry needs some sort of regulation to make sure businesses are being held to high standards in work, honesty, and quality. This can sometimes be a touchy subject because no matter where you go, people are subject to getting approached by dishonest sales people, contractors, and companies. Limiting small businesses by giving larger companies control over who their clients use as a service provider is never the right thing to do and will not solve the issue at hand.
Creating a balanced playing field for the larger companies, insurance providers, and small business owners is the fair thing to do. Putting restrictions on the documents small business owners use to relieve the pressure on homeowners can be seen by the public as partial. As a company in the service industry, we want to make sure everyone is able to receive the highest quality of service they desire from whomever they choose. There are no flaws in giving people the choice to do what they feel most comfortable with.
Finding companies who tend to tell homeowners “white lies” to get them to pay for unnecessary services would be the PROPER way to regulate an industry. Sometimes people tend to group a whole service trade by those who do wrong by the freedoms given. Committing fraud to receive a payment is wrong and those are the people who should be penalized, not those who genuinely have the client’s best interest in mind. When we are called on to do a job, we believe taking care of the homeowner’s concerns no matter how big the job may be, and that is the right thing to do.
There have also been claims made in saying that homeowners are being negatively affected by contractors using Assignment of Benefits. It has been proven that there is no evidence of this. The Office of Insurance Regulation's own data has shown only 3 complaints from homeowners over the past three years regarding to the Assignment of Benefits. That is only a tiny fraction of the jobs that actually have existed.
We like to take all sides into consideration when informing the public of what is happening in our industry regarding regulations and new laws. We also want to make sure that every business in our industry is completely taken care of and treated fairly across the board.
Information regarding next week’s events in Tallahassee:
· Banking & Insurance Committee: SB 1248 by Diaz de la Portilla (DLP) is on the agenda to be heard Feb 16th from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
· Judiciary Committee: SB 596 by Senator Hukill is on the agenda to be heard on Feb 16th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
We will be hosting a committee meeting at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday February 16 near the capital building. Please feel free to join us. We look forward to informing all of our readers on any and all updates we receive on Senate Bill 596.
Toxic Mold Syndrome, also known as mold illness, is an illness that effects many people. When people get sick, they typically assume the causes are allergies, a cold, or a bad reaction to medications. When you notice a dramatic decline in your health, you have to wonder, what is the cause? Very commonly, people blame their poor health on outdoor environments when in reality, they should be considering their indoor environments as the main culprit. Most people spend an average of 90% of their time indoors including time at work, school and at home. This fact alone should initiate further research into your indoor environments.
You may experience symptoms that are similar to colds and common allergies when dealing with Toxic Mold Syndrome including:
· Sore throat
· Runny nose
· Itchy eyes
· And more…
There are more serious health problems related to toxic mold syndrome. In many cases, the above symptoms are just the beginning. Not only does toxic mold syndrome affect your respiratory health, but also your nervous system, circulatory system, skin, vision and mental health. As you can see, mold and any of the symptoms related to mold are all something that should not be taken lightly. It can lead to very serious health issues and even death.
In order to avoid long term health problems related to mold exposure, one would ask what is the real cause of mold growth? The simplest reason mold forms is because of moisture. There are many different forms of moisture that cause mold formation including leaks, condensation, humidity, and flooding. When moisture comes in contact with any and all kinds of organic materials (wood, carpet, clothing, etc.…) mold begins to form. There are many great mold prevention tips listed in our “How to Avoid Indoor Allergens" blog post that are easy and affordable to implement. Doing yearly inspections and taking care of your home overall will help lessen the chance of experiencing health issues related to mold.
There have been many case studies conducted to prove the effects of mold exposure symptoms. In this presented case study individuals that were tested ranged from 1.5 years to 52 years of age. The conclusion was conditional, however those who were involved experienced similar symptoms and reactions. Along with case studies, there are many personal stories, testimonials, and articles that present personal experiences people have had with toxic mold syndrome and mold related sicknesses. There is one story that stands out among all the rest about a woman who is now doing well, but at one point did not know what happened to her or where to turn. Kimberlyn is someone who one day, completely lost her motivation and began to become very confused as to why her personality and normal demeanor completely changed. With multiple doctor visits over 6 months, she started to find out what may be the cause of her sudden life altering ailment. If you are worried that you may be dealing with mold, her story is very relatable and could save you many unnecessary steps.
Ideally, we would like to say that mold will never be an issue in our lives, but that is not the case. Mold is everywhere. It really all depends on how quickly you handle a situation and how serious it is. Our best advice: be mindful of your surroundings and educate yourself on the signs and the steps to take to resolve your mold problem.
Recommended Links: Black Mold
US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
When people think of allergens, they often think of allergic reactions to substances such as pollen, animals and dust. Allergens sometimes get confused with allergies, but the difference between the two, lie within the definitions. Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction. Allergies are the damaging immune system response by the body to a substance. Allergens come in many different forms including those previously listed and more. Since people spend more than 90% of their time indoors, indoor allergens are the main cause of allergies year round. Outdoor allergies happen as the seasons change and as the outdoor allergen levels fluctuate.
Indoor allergy triggers not only include common household allergens such as dust, pollen and animal dander, but also include a small list of unexpected substances. Cockroaches, fabrics, new furniture, and glue are among the many unexpected household allergens. Paint can also trigger allergy-like reactions in people, especially if they are living in a home that was newly painted or with paint that has high volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and dangerous chemicals.
A few factors that play a role in allergen formation:
Humidity: Humidity plays a significant role in whether or not fungi will grow in your home. Fungi, or mold, is a major cause of indoor allergy symptoms and the more you regulate your home’s humidity levels, the least likely mold is to form. Mold can be very dangerous to your health especially for those who are clinically allergic. Recommended humidity levels should fall between 30% - 50%. Condensation and fogging are both signs of high humidity levels and cracking paint; doors or trim are signs of low humidity levels.
Ventilation: It is extremely important to allow your home to have proper ventilation during every season. Opening doors and windows creates proper air flow throughout your home which prevents moisture buildup and stagnant air. Cleaning under rugs and moving furniture that is pressed against walls is also a way to ensure moisture will not accumulate.
Leaks: Check your home for leaks. A common area where leaks can be found is your roof and windows. If you find a leak, put a stop to it as soon as possible because the smallest leak can cause deterioration and significant damage to your home.
There are many ways to reduce indoor allergens with only just a few simple and easy everyday adjustments.
HEPA: Use products with HEPA filters. High-efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA) are very beneficial to those who are concerned with allergens. There are many different products that contain HEPA filters, but they all aide in the same ways. HEPA filters cleans the air of all the microbial airborne particulates and when vacuuming, ensure that dust and dander do not return into the atmosphere. HEPA filters are also available for central air conditioners which create better indoor air quality overall.
Exhaust Fans: Use exhaust fans in every room where one is provided. This will help with air flow and to remove access moisture from the air.
Carpeting: Carpeting should only be used in rooms where there is not a lot of moisture present. For example, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens should not have carpet due to the presence of water flow from sinks and pipes. A minor leak onto carpet may seem like a small issue, but once moisture comes in contact with materials, mold can form. Remember, it is more difficult to reverse damage than it is to prevent it.
Storage: Always be mindful of how you are storing your seasonal materials. Blankets and clothes should be stored in air tight plastic containers or bags and placed in areas that are not susceptible to high moisture levels. A common issue is when people store their winter materials in their basements during the summer when humidity levels are very high without protective containment. When it comes time to unpack everything, mold has had significant time to form and people are left with musty and moldy belongings.
Outdoor allergens are more difficult to control, but you can help prevent access formations outside your home. To help reduce the effects of outdoor allergens, you must take care of your lawn frequently. Regularly raking and mowing can help reduce the buildup of allergens outside your home. Raking prevents mold growth within leaves and mowing helps reduce the production of pollen. The safest way to prevent buildup is to keep your grass short. Always wear protective gear including gloves, sunglasses, a hat, and long clothes. This will prevent pollen from sticking to you and tracking it into your home. Do yard work either in the morning or evening when pollen counts are the lowest. If you have a severe allergy to outdoor allergens, asking someone to help you with yard work or hiring a company to take over the responsibility will help your allergies greatly.
Recommended Links: AQA Website
Asthma and Allergy Foundation
Very frequently, homeowners have questions about billing, insurance, and their rights when it comes to hiring companies to perform work inside their homes. We want to make sure not only our clients, but everyone is aware of all possible outcomes to ensure all jobs are performed in good faith.
This article presents a recent situation where a homeowner was left battling with their insurance company over 2 years because of a technicality which did not event exist. It’s a GREAT read for a quick lesson learned that could potentially save anyone from a lot of trouble in the wake of an emergency.
Insurance Company’s Defense Based on an Assignment of Benefits Form Fails
Many times, a leak can be an easy fix with just a small replacement or adjustment as needed. Other times, a small leak can stem from a large problem where major damage control is required. If and when you detect a leak in your home or place of business, the issue should be addressed as promptly as possible. Ignoring signs of a leak can cause issues within your home that you can potentially avoid when you respond immediately.
There are many places leaks can occur:
o Water Heater
Leaks can cause minor problems such as and an irritating runny faucet, waste of water, and high water bills. One household can waste up to 10,000 gallons of water per year just from water leaks. That waste not only has a negative impact on the environment, but also your wallet. Common household leaks cause your water bill to rise, which is money out of your pocket that you could have spent otherwise.
Although minor problems can be very troublesome, there are bigger issues that can severely damage your home.
Mold development is one of the most common and most consequential causes of leak damage. Mold can form anywhere moisture is present within 24-48 hours. This is the #1 reason why you need to act quickly when you find a leak because the quicker you get rid of a leak, the less chance mold has to form. To reduce the development of mold, you must control moisture. If mold penetrates an area surrounding a leak, the entire area must be removed to eliminate mold. For example, if you smell a musty odor coming from below your sink, you most likely have a mold problem. Fixing the leak will not get rid of mold, it will still continue to spread because of the existing moisture. Removing the surrounding cupboard and base may be necessary to get rid of mold entirely. This is a must especially because mold is overall very harmful and can cause serious health issues
Structure deterioration is a cause of damage from roof leaks. Chronic roof leaks can cause the wood in your home’s structure and ceilings to deteriorate. Although this can be a slow process, watch for signs of roof leaks such as dark spots in your ceiling. When you see water come through the ceiling and leak onto the floor, this means that the surrounding area within the ceiling is absorbing most of that water. Keep a close watch on even the smallest roof leaks because even one can cause wood to weaken and eventually cause a ceiling collapse.
Electrical issues can also be a factor in assessing damage from water leaks. As your household leaks pass through and comes in contact with many interiors, it will most likely reach the electrical components of your home. Uncovered wires and outlet framework can easily cause shock and even fires when coming in contact with water. It only takes one small spark to cause an entire building to burn down. Flooding can also be a factor in carrying electrical currents and causing a fire. Act quickly if you ever find yourself in a flood and turn off your electricity in the flooded areas. This can prevent your entire home from burning down and even prevent death.
To avoid major issues and costly repairs take care of leaks in your home or business facility immediately! Ignoring what might look like a small issue can uncover extreme structural damage and can even cause harm to those around it. Call your local leak detection service company at the first sign of a leak.
AQA Website - Leak Detection Services
Environmental Protection Agency
Alliance for Water Efficiency
Mold Awareness Month is among us in its 7th consecutive year to raise awareness about the health risks linked to the presence of mold. With that being said, we would like to inform you of how important it is to be aware of mold in your surroundings, and how to solve your mold problem from start to finish.
Keeping your home safe and mold free contributes greatly to the health of your family members and the prosperity of your home. Mold comes in many forms and can grow in many different places. Mold can grow on virtually any organic material as long as moisture and oxygen are present, which means mold can grow almost EVERYWHERE.
Mold is omnipresent and you may have noticed that you’ve always seen it around. This could cause you to question, “I’ve never felt the effects of mold, what makes it dangerous?” Reactions to mold sometimes don’t happen instantly. The immediate (Level 1) symptoms of mold exposure are sometimes the same as cold symptoms & common ailments such as headaches, watery eyes, sneezing and vomiting. The second stage of mold exposure symptoms (Level 2) include chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, ear infections and even bronchitis. The most advanced (Level 3) symptoms which give mold its nickname “the silent killer” are blindness, brain damage, cancer and death. All of the above symptoms can be prevented by having your home inspected and properly remedied.
Below are the steps to take if you find your home may have a mold problem:
5 STEPS TO SOLVING YOUR MOLD PROBLEM
Step 1: Write down which areas in your home may have mold and what the mold looks like. This information will be requested is important to have on hand.
Step 2: Call your homeowner’s insurance company to find out what mold coverage you have within your policy. You may also need to contact your Homeowners Association and ask if certain areas in your home covered under them, or your personal insurance.
Step 3: Call your local mold detection service company and set up an appointment to have your home checked. This process is known as a Pre-Remediation Assessment. Be sure to only use a certified mold inspector.
Step 4: After the results are in, choose a remediation company to extract the mold from your home. This process is called Mold Remediation. Again, be sure to only use a certified/licensed remediation company to ensure the proper removal of materials containing mold.
Step 5: Schedule a Post Remediation Verification Assessment to obtain a Clearance Certificate to allow new construction (carpet replacement, building, etc.…) to begin and to ensure all mold is removed.
After these 5 steps, you will have the relief of knowing that you are living in a mold-free environment. Not only is it important to be aware of mold issues in your home, but it can also be an issue in buildings of any kind including businesses, churches, schools and restaurants. Be sure to take care of mold issues at the earliest sign, as this can make all the difference to protect those around you and your investments.
Recommended Links: Air Quality Assessors Website
Have you ever felt fatigue, coughing and sneezing, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, or increased asthma problems in your work place? Normally one would not think that all these problems could be caused by a building…well they can. It is known as “Sick Building Syndrome”. Sick Building Syndrome is considered by some in the medical field to be an illness in people who have been exposed to undefined chemical, biological, or physical agents that are thought to be found in buildings. Indoor air quality testing is crucial in buildings and properties to determine if the structure is “sick” or healthy.
In the 1970s a movement was set in motion by builders and authorities to seal up buildings the best they could to save on fuels for air conditioning and heating. Many buildings became air tight which left no room for clean air to filter in (inadequate ventilation), which in return set the building up for pollution. Examples of pollution that occurred: carbon monoxide build-ups, possibility of indoor combustion (heaters, ranges and smokers), and the release of inhalable particles (Volatile Organic Compounds, airborne allergens, and pathogens). As a way for buildings to have better Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and minimize energy consumption, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) revised the standards of ventilation from 5 cfm(cubic feet per minute) per occupant to a minimum of 15 cfm provided of outdoor air per person (20 cfm/person in office spaces). ("Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) - Indoor Air Pollution Testing." Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) - Indoor Air Pollution Testing. N.p.)
There can be many factors that cause Sick Building Syndrome and one is biological contaminants (bacteria, molds, pollen and viruses). Biological pollutants can cause illness through three different methods-: 1. Infection, 2. Allergy/Hypersensitivity, and 3.Toxicosis. A contaminant’s source could be from water(water is a breeding ground for mold) that has accummulated in places such as humidifers, a/c ducts, drain pans; or where water has been collected on carpeting, ceiling tiles or insulation. Outside elements have an effect on biological contaminants such as temperature , humidity or lighting. Another factor could be a source that is already in the building like carpeting, upholstery, wood products, cleaning agents and copy machines. Certain factors emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which research has shown can cause very serious health issues when at high concentrations. VOCs that may be emitted from items like flooring, varnishes, and gasoline can contain: formaldehyde, acetone, ethylene glycol, benzene and tolune.
How does one know that their building is “sick”? For the most part, it is from complaints of the buildings occupants. Building occupants may have symptoms including: headaches, throat, nose, and eye irritation, dry cough, dry or itchy skin, dizziness, nausea; or more serious symptoms like fatigue, sensitivity to odors, and development of respiratory illness. The source that is causing the occupants symptoms is unknown; however occupants have said to have felt relief once they exited the building. A good way to know that your building should be inspected is when a group of occupants have or show the same symptoms. Air Quality Assessors will walk through the suspected Sick Building and do a thorough inspection to try and locate the source that has been causing sickness. Testing will be done to see whether the indoor air quality levels reach the standard of safety or not. Once again is it not always known what causes Sick Building Syndrome and sometimes the source cannot be found. What can be done is an IAQ test to ensure that the occupants of the building are safe or to find out whether the building is actually sick.