By Jeff Ostrowski, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
PLANTATION — There’s little middle ground in the contentious debate about toxic mold, as a public hearing hosted by the Florida Department of Insurance last week made clear.
Insurers insist that the fungus scare is mostly hype. Victims of the poisonous spores call it a major menace.
Mold claims and litigation threaten to raise Florida’s already-rocketing homeowners insurance rates further, said Robert Hartwig, chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group. In Texas, where one homeowner won a $32 million mold claim, the typical homeowners policy has climbed by $444 a year because of mold, he said.
“We call that the mold tax,” Hartwig said. “Whether or not you ever file a mold claim, you’re going to have to pay that cost.”
Nonsense, say victims of mold. If insurers didn’t drag their feet on paying mold claims, they could fix toxic mold damage more cheaply, before it spreads, and without lawsuits.
“You shouldn’t have to be at war with your insurance company to get a fair settlement,” said Bill Coffman, a Miami adjuster who represents consumers in claims against insurers.