PLANTATION, Fla., 3:02 p.m. EDT July 31, 2002 – Homeowners attending a public hearing with state and insurance officials Tuesday voiced anger over what they said is a growing mold problem in Broward County.
According to Florida Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher, the purpose of the hearing was to obtain public input and hear testimony concerning mold coverage in homeowners’ and commercial residential insurance policies.
The homeowners claim mold in their homes is making them and their families sick, and that state and insurance agencies aren’t doing much about it.
The meeting at Plantation City Hall brought together homeowners and members of the state’s Department of Insurance along with representatives of some of the state’s largest insurance companies.
Leah Mikulski was one of several homeowners who testified on Tuesday. She said mold in her home was threatening the health of her 3-month-old daughter. Mikulski and other homeowners testified that their mold problems were so bad, they were forced to abandon their property after insurance companies refused to pay for clean-up.
Many other homeowners complained that they have called in inspectors, only to have the insurance company and the state insurance agency refuse to help. Others said they have filed lawsuits or complained to builders, all to no avail.
Doctors say some mold can be toxic, even causing respiratory problems.
According to state insurance officials, the number of mold claims is rising in Florida. State Farm, the state’s largest insurer, reported 700 mold claims in 2001, up from just 83 claims in 2000.
Representatives of the insurance industry and the state said they don’t know why the number of claims is rising. Officials at the hearing did say they plan to meet again to try and determine what companies and the state can do to help homeowners.
Insurance officials said that if something catastrophic happens in a neighborhood such as a water main break or severe storm, insurers will cover property affected by mold. But if the mold problem grows little by little, as a result of an air condition leak for example, those claims are not covered.
Following additional hearings in Tampa and Orlando in August, insurance commissioners say they will decide whether to direct insurance companies to change their policies.
To date, the Department of Insurance has received nearly 200 filings by insurance companies requesting exclusion of mold, or limited coverage of mold, in personal residential, commercial residential and commercial property policies.