What About Mold?


No one wants to buy a house with a mold problem. Unfortunately, mold problems are not always easy to detect. If you are looking to buy a home, learn how to detect mold in homes, get the seller to disclose mold issues, and remove mold if you decide to buy a home damaged by it.

Mold is a fungus that comes in various colors (black, white, green, or gray) and shapes. While some molds are visible and even odorous, mold can also grow between walls, under floors and ceilings, or in less accessible spots, such as basements and attics. Mold does best in water-soaked materials (paneling, wallboard, carpet, paint, ceiling tiles, and the like) but can survive in almost any damp location. Mold can grow in houses situated in the desert, and it can grow in homes in hot and humid climes.

Here are some common places in a home where mold is likely to take hold:

  • around leaking pipes, windows, or roofs (the constant supply of water gives mold spores the start they need)
  • any place that’s been flooded and hasn’t been thoroughly dried
  • tightly sealed buildings (common with new construction), which trap excess moisture inside, and
  • in homes with poor ventilation, numerous over-watered houseplants, and housekeeping habits that ignore obvious dampness and don’t include airing the place out.

Besides presenting an ugly appearance and, sometimes, an unpleasant odor, mold can cause health problems. In the worst cases, a few types of molds produce mycotoxins, which can cause rashes, seizures, unusual bleeding, respiratory problems, and severe fatigue in some people. Fortunately, most molds are of the non-toxic variety.

You won’t always know if there is mold in a house you’re considering buying, but you can take a few easy steps to try and find out.

Be on the lookout for mold

When you’re thinking about buying a home, look for the elements above to figure out if there are any obvious signs of mold or the potential for mold. Keep your eyes peeled for standing water in the basement, water marks on walls (particularly recent-looking stains), or musty smells (particularly in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, cabinets with plumbing, or other areas with plumbing).

Ask your home inspector

If you have the home professionally inspected before you buy it, your home inspector may see obvious signs of mold or water damage. While it’s not the inspector’s job to look for mold, most home inspectors will mention obvious signs of water damage and the possible presence of mold. And because the inspector will poke around in spaces you might not, he or she may see things you wouldn’t.

Don’t hesitate to ask whether the inspector saw signs of mold or potential mold dangers, and ask that these results be included in the inspection report. Some inspectors may be wary of this, because they want to avoid liability for any mold-related problems. But all should be comfortable talking to you about whether they saw anything suspicious.

Ask the seller to disclose any mold or water-related problems

In addition, ask questions about things that could lead to mold growth, such as “Have any pipes ever burst?” or “Have any of the windows ever leaked?”

Sellers are required to disclose on the Residential Property Condition Disclosure Form and knowledge or treatment for mold. Keep in mind that the seller’s duty to disclose only relates to things the seller knows about or reasonably should know about -- he or she doesn’t have a duty to go poking around in the walls to see if there’s mold, for example. That’s another reason it’s a good idea to ask about potential mold-causing problems. The seller may know of these conditions without being able to confirm there’s actual mold growth.

Professional Mold Testing

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), testing for mold isn’t usually necessary when it’s visible on surfaces. Most people will end up relying on the detection methods discussed above.

However, if you suspect mold is present in the home, but none is visible, you might elect to hire a professional mold testing company. These companies test the air in and around the home. They can also dig into walls and take samples, which they later test in a laboratory. Testing the air usually costs several hundred dollars. If the company takes wall samples, the cost will be even higher.

You can use the results from mold testing in two ways when negotiating a home purchase:

  • You can add a mold-related contingency to your offer which states that if mold problems are discovered, you can back out of the agreement.
  • If the testing company finds a significant mold problem, you can use this to negotiate a lower price on the home or get the seller to agree to pay for the cost of mold removal.

by Alayna Schroeder http://ctmlaw.com