Boston, MA – And so the story grows… Mold seems to be everywhere these days, and not just in buildings.
The problem, which some have likened to the new asbestos, is generating quite a bit of press these days. While it may not have reached asbestos-like proportions, it is a cause of concern for builders, architects, home inspectors, insurers and, of course, property owners.
The Greater Boston Real Estate Board, in its July/August edition of Resource, features a cover story titled, “Mold breeds challenges for real estate.” And the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) late last week called on Congress to support research that will establish public health guidelines.
Testifying at a congressional subcommittee investigating the issue, the NMHC and the Alexandria, Va.-based National Apartment Association said that national standards based on scientific research are needed to protect renters.
The groups also urged Congress to look into the effect that mold claims are having on the insurance industry.
And, of course, there are multi-million-dollar lawsuits, which grab everyone’s attention.
Jessica Graf, a senior associate with Boston-based law firm Nixon Peabody LLP, has consulted on several mold cases her firm has handled.
Though the Environmental Protection Agency has made mold a priority, Graf says it’s difficult for plaintiffs to win cases because there aren’t any established standards for acceptable levels. Plaintiffs who complain about headaches, dizziness and fatigue have trouble proving their symptoms aren’t caused by something other than mold, particularly since some people are susceptible while others aren’t.
“It’s difficult from the plaintiff’s side,” she said. “It’s difficult to show that you didn’t already have a respiratory problem. It’s difficult to show that your physical ailments are directly tied to the mold. There haven’t been any promulgated standards.”
Cases are popping up more and more, she said. Homeowners frightened by extreme cases — including one in which a woman had to have her house burned because it was infested with “toxic mold” — are putting mold on their checklists of things to do before buying a home.
“It’s been getting a lot more attention,” she said.
Jeffrey May, president of Cambridge-based J. May Home Inspections Inc., says cases involving mold damage have prompted multimillion-dollar awards.
“Because of the media attention, there’s been some very big lawsuits, and people are aware that mold is a problem,” May said. “It’s our recognition of the problem that’s new.”
May says he knows of a woman who walked away from a $200,000 security deposit she’d put on a home because she realized she was allergic to the moldy smell in the basement.
Wayne Outlaw, director of sales for Envirotech Clean Air Inc., a Stoneham-based company that responds to mold and other environmental problems, agreed with the NMHC that there isn’t an established baseline for what is dangerous, what is unhealthy and what is benign.
“Mold problems are not well-defined,” he said. “We, as a company, try to educate the consumer, because there are no real definitions at this point.”
Jeff Alitz is a partner at Donovan Hatem LLP, a Boston-based law firm that represents real estate industry clients, including cases involving mold damage.
Alitz says “the jury is still out” on how harmful mold is. The only sure thing, he said, is that it’s a growing problem.
Abington Savings Bank Invests in New HQ
Abington Savings Bank has landed itself a new corporate headquarters, leasing 37,567 square feet of first-class office space at Weymouth Woods Corporate Center.
The savings bank’s lease brings the 100,000-square-foot office building, which is located on Libbey Industrial Parkway in Weymouth, to lease-up as construction wraps up. Abington Savings Bank’s lease follows Sager Electronics, which moved out of Hingham in February and Sampson Insurance, which moved out of its Braintree offices in March.
Abington Savings Bank, which is owned by Abington Bancorp Inc., has offices in 13 South Shore towns.
Peter Elliot LLC, a Dedham-based real estate firm, represented the landlord, Braintree-based Campanelli Cos., in the deals.
Shaken, Not Stirred?
Any rumblings you felt this week may have come from the more than 800 international earthquake specialists who made the Boston Park Plaza Hotel the epicenter of a six-day conference.
The seventh annual U.S. National Conference on Earthquake Engineering presented more than 450 peer-reviewed research papers, assessing the risks that earthquakes pose to East Coast and Midwest cities. The conference was hosted by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, which is based in Oakland, Calif., with the Buffalo, N.Y.-based Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research and the Boston Society of Civil Engineers/ASCE.
ABC Against PLAs
The Associated Builders and Contractors called on acting Gov. Jane Swift this week to adopt a White House policy that it says will save millions of dollars on construction costs for government projects.
The ABC, the Burlington-based state chapter representing nearly 20,000 nonunion employees, is urging Swift to adopt a policy banning project labor agreements, or PLAs. The ABC argues that PLAs limit competition and drive up construction costs significantly.