I’d been sick for two months. What had begun as a bad cold had morphed into flu symptoms and persistent bronchitis. I was seemingly incurable so I laid low, stayed home and tried nursing myself back to health.
Not until I left the house and spent the day away, did I get it. Felt great, until returning home and the symptoms reappeared. My house had toxic mold.
Moisture feeds mold, so I investigated possible leaks, nothing visible anywhere. Vacuumed continuously and still the symptoms persisted. I was caught in a live, threatening mysterious conundrum.
Grateful to have homeowner’s coverage with a mold clause, I contacted my insurance company. They advised me to have the apartment tested and begin getting bids on the remediation.
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Mold remediation is the Wild West of Home Improvements in South Florida.
You’re sick, and anxious to have it gone. How do I get well without being unmercifully ripped off?
I consulted a neighbor for a recommendation. The owner of a supposedly well regarded remediation company appeared the following morning.
“We always inspect the kitchen first,” he said. Sure enough a leak. Pulling out the appliances revealed an inch of thick, black mold surrounding the entire encasement, also apparent on the rear wall.
I not only had active mold, the remediation guy insisted I had “old mold,” which wasn’t covered under my policy. I could have millions of spores in the air. Insurance companies hadn’t been paying on these claims. I would need a Public Adjuster. If the leak were “old,” wouldn’t my downstairs neighbor have reported? Wait a minute!
His tact was hard-selling drama. “We’ll come in tomorrow, tear out your cabinets, remediate, then sue your insurance company, after all your health is at stake. I have eight suits currently going against insurers, we always win. My Public Adjuster will be here in the morning to write a report.” I was completely uncomfortable.
I contacted my insurance carrier. I had never gone around them before and continued to take bids.
The dichotomy in proposals was alarming, $200-$1,300 for testing and $2,300-$40,000 for the remediation. At $40,000, your world got sterilized, including shoes, undergarments and the entire linen closet. The pitches were down, dirty and somewhat scary. Circumventing the insurer was somewhat common practice. The mold remediation business seemed as filthy as the product they cleaned.
Was this a job for Clorox or did my entire house need to be taken apart? Having coverage, the trick was to be thorough without over or under reacting. There were heavy-handed bidders reaching for the top of my insurance coverage and under-bidders minimizing the scope and possibly demanding more midstream.
With no one to trust, I reluctantly took the neighbor’s recommendation. He immediately brought in a Public Adjuster, Duct Company and Carpenter. I insisted on having my claims guy inspect. The mold was covered under my policy. However, to submit the bid I was roped into a 10-20% Public Adjuster fee and unwittingly relinquished all rights to speak with my own insurer! If I didn’t use his remediater, the fee would be increased.
The contract was expensive. It included the mold, cleaning my a/c units, vents and sweeping the air. The mold is gone, though neither of my a/c’s operate due to faulty rewiring of the systems, three rooms required repainting (a result of carelessly tearing down barriers) and my travertine floor is damaged with overspray from sticky mold retardant paint.
Coerced into paying before the barriers were removed, I anticipated the contractor would clean up. His response: “That’s collateral damage for doing construction” and left. Maybe in his world, not mine. Realizing I wasn’t going away he initially agreed to pay for the damages then reneged. Although my lungs are clear, the bad taste in my mouth remains.
Which is worse, the mold or the remedy?
Linda Fisher Kaletsky, North Miami
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