Your South Florida home is on the market and the contract is signed. Or perhaps you’ve found your dream house and can’t wait to close. Then mold is discovered to have invaded the home.
Probably nothing creates terror in a home on the real estate market as the sight of mold.
While this living fungus can indeed contaminate a home and make its residents feel sick, discovering mold does not have to kill your deal—or your dream home. On the flip side, buyers can protect themselves from being stuck with a house that is severely infested with mold by taking one easy step.
What Mold Is—and Isn’t
Mold spores come in a variety of species, with some more problematic than others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says spores can enter your home in many ways, from air conditioning systems to windows and doorways and even to residents and pets bringing them in on fur, shoes or clothing.
When the spores drop somewhere where moisture is present, they begin to grow. That’s why one of the biggest questions a homeowner needs to ask when mold is discovered is whether there is a leak in a pipe or roof that is creating moisture where it should not be that also needs to be fixed.
Many materials in a home are conducive to mold growth, including wood, drywall, ceiling tiles, insulation materials, wallpaper, carpets and fabric. That’s why once mold enters a home and finds point of excess moisture, it can spread quickly.
Many people fear mold because of its potential effects on health. The renowned Institute of Medicine reported in 2004 that indoor exposure to mold can lead to health problems, including heightened asthma symptoms in people with the disease and coughing and wheezing in otherwise healthy individuals. Those who have compromised immune systems can also face increased health risks when exposed to mold.
Some websites and magazines have used the term “toxic mold” to describe one species of greenish-black mold, Stachybotrys chartarum, they claim is especially dangerous, but the CDC says all molds should be treated similarly, and that no mold is actually toxic to touch.
Why You Should Sign a Mold Addendum
Many buyers wrongly believe the discovery of mold during the inspection period forces the seller to clean it up or allows the buyer to cancel the contract. This is not true for the standard contracts used in Florida.
However, there is a Mold Inspection Addendum (known as form CRSP-15) that can easily be signed by both parties when they are negotiating their deal. The addendum says that the buyer has a certain inspection window to test (at buyers’ expense) for mold. The addendum also says that if significant mold is found—typically defined by a dollar amount inserted by the parties for the cost of cleanup, or generally $500 if left blank—during this time period, and the buyer notifies the seller in a timely manner, the buyer can cancel the sale at no penalty to them, with their deposit fully returned.
I highly recommend that buyers use this addendum and follow the inspection and notification timetables precisely.
How Mold Is Eliminated
If the home you are selling or buying in South Florida is determined to have mold, the first thing you should do is check for leaks in the roof or plumbing that could be leading to excess moisture and get those fixed.
Small amounts of mold can be removed from hard surfaces yourself, the CDC says. Use a bleach solution of no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water. Be sure to open windows for ventilation and to wear protective gloves and goggles when handling the bleach. Porous surfaces like fabrics that have small amounts of mold will have to be bagged and thrown away.
Large areas of mold, or even smaller areas that are hard to get to, must be cleaned by a professional mold removal and remediation company. If the area is large enough, these companies are required to follow the law and contain the area of infestation before removing the spores. Depending on how much of the home’s materials are contaminated by mold, this can be an expensive endeavor. Whether this is covered by your homeowner’s insurance depends on the policy and also whether the mold was caused by a flood, which is typically excluded from a traditional home policy, according to the website Esurance.
How Mold Affects Your South Florida Real Estate Closing
It is understandable that buyers may panic if they discover mold in a home they are planning to purchase. But the presence of a small amount of mold does not have the kill the deal. If proper cleaning steps are taken, the real estate closing can move forward, although it might be delayed.
To test for mold, you can hire a company that specializes in the spores. Look for a company with a good reputation on a website like HomeAdvisor.com or ask friends who have had experience with mold in their home.
If you have signed the Mold Inspection Addendum and significant mold is found, the buyer can terminate the contract as described above. If the home is being sold “as is” and mold is discovered during the inspection phase, the contract typically also lets the buyer back out of the deal (in these contracts, the buyer can usually terminate for any reason during the inspection period).
If your Realtor does not include a Mold Inspection Addendum in the papers you are signing to purchase a home, as him or her to add it. Without exception, every South Florida real estate transaction should include this paperwork.
Having the Law Office of Gary M. Landau by your side during each step in a probate, will/trust, or real estate matter helps insure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. The Law Office of Gary Landau is located in Coral Springs, Florida, and is rated 10 out of 10 by the legal website AVVO. For more information, call 954-979-6566 or email us for a free consultation.
Law Office of Gary M. Landau P.A.
7401 Wiles Road, Suite 204
Coral Springs, FL 33067
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