The jury’s out…
In the good old days like, oh, say…this past December, if you found mold in a prospective investment property, you’d naturally freak out. This is because mold is known to wreak havoc with one’s pulmonary system. Nowadays, well, there seems to be a more laid back attitude in some quarters to the actual damaging effects of mold, while others in government are proponents that the stuff can kill you.
In New York State, for example, where I practice as a licensed real estate broker, a new mold law was enacted that took effect as of January first of this year. The legislation has already created tremendous upheaval within the real estate community state-wide. And here’s why…In the past (pre-January, that is), if a mold inspection was done and mold found by a home inspector during a routine house inspection, the seller traditionally was responsible for remediating the mold by a licensed mold remediation company. Even back then, home inspectors were not deemed licensed enough to call mold “mold.”
A brief example…
In a recent home inspection done for my buyer that I represented, where mold was found to be present, the house inspector had to put this wording in his report regarding an issue with the basement crawl space ceiling: “Subfloor: Plywood, Sheathing is darkened in multiple locations with suspected microbial growth present. Recommend further evaluation by licensed accessor (sic) for best corrective measures.”
Aside from the fact that home inspectors are lousy spellers, they aren’t even allowed to call mold “mold.” Instead, at least here in New York State, it’s “microbial growth.” Jeez Louise…Gimme a break…. I then had to write the listing agent to ask for the seller for the mold remediation, but without using the term “mold”: “My buyer is asking that the seller provide proof to him there is no health risk present from the substance referred to in the report from the subfloor plywood, from a licensed environmental company. If a risk does exist, he would like it remediated by the seller prior to closing, with a letter stating same from a licensed environmental remediation company after work is completed.”
Some mold basics
So here’s the basic lowdown on mold. Mold growing in a building is not only unsightly; it can also be dangerous to building occupants. Large amounts of mold may cause allergic reactions, such as a stuffy nose or itchy eyes. In more severe cases, it can lead to respiratory issues such as asthma or worse.
Mold typically grows anywhere it’s damp and there’s a food source. In buildings this food source is often the very materials used to construct and furnish a home. Mold can be difficult to remove because even when it’s dried out, mold can easily become aerosolized and spread in the air throughout a building.
Mold usually grows in poorly ventilated, moist areas, such as basements, crawl spaces, wall cavities and attics. While mold typically grows in cool, damp areas, high temperatures do not prevent the growth of mold. Even extreme heat, such as that found in an attic, does not prevent mold growth provided the area remains moist.
How to get rid of mold
One of the most commonly used mold removal agents is a product called MMR. MMR is a commercial grade mold and mildew stain remover formulated to immediately remove mold and mildew stains present on wood and other hard surfaces. With fast and easy application that eliminates mold stains on contact, MMR penetrates soiled areas almost instantly, leaving surfaces clean and free from mold stains. This is a sure-fire way on how to kill mold.
With the advent of the new, New York State law however, the use of MMR may be curtailed. It is now up to a licensed mold assessor to determine the correct avenue for mold remediation. Gone are the days when a mold remediation company can be called in to offer an estimate , then simply do the remediation work. Nope. With this new law, first the specialized mold assessor needs to be hired to actually do the mold testing, to make sure it is, in fact, mold. Then, if it is deemed mold, they will create a remediation “plan,” at a separate fee of course, that a remediation company will take and follow for black mold removal. The remediation company must follow the assessor’s plan to the letter, and any estimate the remediation company offers will be based strictly upon that plan.
The new step process for mold removal
Needless to say, this becomes a giant step process. First, a home inspector has to find something that appears to look like mold, but which he can’t actually call mold. Then the prospective buyer has to decide whether to accept the house as is, or spend the hefty sum (which could be as much as double the amount of the home inspector’s fee) for the assessor to do their mold assessment. Once mold is actually found, then the buyer can ask the seller to have the mold remediated. But the seller will then have to pay the assessor for that assessor’s plan first, which is the blueprint for the remediation company to follow. The whole process is jacking up the cost of mold remediation exponentially.
How to clean mold – yourself
I suppose if mold was one of the worst environmental hazards known to man, this would be acceptable. Except for one tiny caveat. In this new law, there is an exemption, or out, for homeowners to do mold removal themselves. Yes, you heard me correctly. Legislators felt it was safe enough for homeowners to effectuate their own mold removal themselves for their own property, but only if under ten square feet of mold was involved. I suppose breathing the crap in from 10 square feet of the stuff won’t hurt anybody. Hell, you could use MMR yourself, or even bleach for that matter. As long as it’s under 10 square feet, see if the government cares for your health…
How to get rid of black mold
The new law also state that in most cases, air sampling and mold testing is unnecessary. There are currently no EPA or Federal standards for mold, so any interpretation of sampling results would not be based on any established health or environmental standard. If the total mold affected area is less than that 10 square feet (approximately 3′ by 3′ square) and the homeowner does not have any sensitivity towards mold, mold removal may be done by the homeowner. It also states that a biocide is not recommended as a routine cleanup for mold as it may cause sensitivity in some people. It goes on to recommend that one ventilate the room if a biocide is used to get rid of black mold. Also, one should “observe and follow the manufacturer’s labeling instructions.” Ya think?
The stupidity of it all
So why force this whole mold assessor – mold remediation plan legislation debacle down consumer’s throats, costing buyers and sellers hundreds and thousands of dollars if it’s not deemed dangerous for a simple homeowner to do it themselves? I can’t tell you how asinine this appears. And I’m sure more and more property owners will begin to remediate mold themselves prior to placing houses on the market to avoid the keen eyes of any home inspector in the future…
photos courtesy of metrosdrealty.com, sandiegohomebuys.net, buildingmoxie.com, randrmagonline.com, pinterest.com, aceenvironmentalstl.com, propertymanager.cobuzzle.com