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Mold Scams. Don't be a Victim of Mold Fraud

#1 Mold Scam: Mold Inspections Performed by Mold Remediation Contractors


The biggest mold scam is and always has been – mold remediation contractors who perform mold inspections. When it comes to mold, you do NOT want a mold inspector who is motivated to find mold removal jobs for himself.


Mold remediation or mold abatement is a very profitable business and engaging in both mold inspections and mold remediation is a serious conflict of interest. The potential for fraudulently creating thousands of dollars in bogus mold removal work that never needed to be done is tremendous and – unfortunately – an everyday occurrence in this industry.


This is fraudulent practice of securing your own work by inspecting for mold then offering to remediate the mold is against the Law in the State of Florida.  Your Mold Remediator and Mold Inspector MUST be Licensed by the State.  Under the Florida Licensing Law the Mold Remediator Cannot perform Mold Remediation on any job that he or she has performed the Mold Inspection.


This is the oldest mold scam going and it’s easy to pull off because most consumers don’t know enough about mold to realize when they’re being bamboozled into work that is often grossly exaggerated, and in some instances, may not even need to be done.


Just this past week an Orlando Mold Remediator (Florida State licensed as a remediator and un-licensed as a mold inspector) was arrested on charges that he falsified testing records and defrauded customers.  DEP alleges, mold remediator obtained samples that he told his clients would be tested, however, no testing occurred.  Authorities say mold remediator provided fictitious laboratory reports to clients that were extremely technical.   He then offered assistance in performing “remediation,” for the mold problems


Remember, Convenience Can Cost You.
Most people prefer to deal with one contractor for everything because it’s convenient.  But when it comes to mold, that convenience can end up costing you thousands of dollars in unnecessary repair work.  There are enough reputable and Florida State Licensed Mold Inspectors who do not engage in remediation work to risk getting ripped off.


Remember a mold inspection should be completely unbiased.   Mold inspectors should have no personal interest in how an inspection turns out, nor should they ever profit from what they find, either directly by doing the removal themselves, or indirectly by referring work to their friends for a kick-back.

Avoid the Scam.
The only way to ensure you will get an unbiased inspection report and avoid this mold scam is to hire a Florida State Licensed Mold Inspector who does not perform mold remediation.


#2 Mold Scam: Free Post-Remediation Clearance Testing

The final step in the mold removal process is a Post-Remediation Verification Inspection (PRVI) or Mold Clearance Test to verify and document that the remediation was successful. If you are paying for the remediation work out-of-pocket, you will want confirmation that the mold problem is gone before making the final payment to your contractor. If the remediation is being paid for by your insurance company or required by a mortgage lender, they will typically require a third-party clearance test before payment or funding.


REMEMBER:

Post-remediation verification inspection and testing should never be performed by a mold remediator waiting to get paid for his work.  This is no different than a student grading his own final exam.   Many mold remediation contractors even offer “FREE” mold clearance testing.  Some will include it in the price of the job. But it is never in your best interest to let a contractor grade his final exam. With hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on the line and no way to charge you more if it fails, it is highly unlikely that a mold contractor will fail his own work.


Post-remediation verification inspection and testing  should always be done after all the mold has been removed but before any re-construction work begins so the inspector can visually see that there is no mold left on the remediated materials.


Avoid the Scam
The way to avoid this scam is the same as Mold Scam #1. Have your post-remediation verification inspection and testing performed by a Florida State Licensed Mold Inspector who does not work for your mold remediation contractor.


Get a Mold Remediation Protocol Specific to your Loss.
A Remediation Protocol outlines the needed actions for any necessary mold remediation. Each plan is individually prepared based on the Indoor Environmental Consultants Mold Assessment of the property the size and area of the mold contamination.


A properly prepared Mold Remediation Protocol should be written according to the ANSI Aproved IICRC S-520 standard and reference guide for the remediation of mold damaged structures and contents.


The Remediation Protocol will specify the remediation containment strategy, decontamination areas, negative air pressure and air filtration(scrubbing), equipment utilization, personnel protective equipment, specific cleaning protocols, project completion requirements, site-specific safety plan and clearance testing that will confirm the post remediation goals have been met.


Once the Mold Remediation Protocol, specifying the proper procedures, guidelines, and activities related to the removal of microbial compromised building materials and subsequent cleanup activities has been established the Mold Remediation Protocol can then be utilized to obtain written bids on the cost to carry out the protocol specifications from several qualified mold remediation contractors.


#3 Mold Scam: “FREE” Mold Inspection & Mold Testing
When it comes to mold, the general public knows little to nothing other than what they read on the internet or hear from someone who makes money selling mold-related products or services.  Most people who call a mold inspector or mold removal contractor are not really sure if they have a mold problem or not.  Maybe they smell something maybe they had a toilet back up in the past, or had a flood. Perhaps they’re experiencing some unexplained health condition that they believe might be caused by mold growing in their home. Its one thing to know for certain that you have a mold problem, but quite another to not know for sure.  And between the ‘not knowing’ and all the hype and scare tactics that are used to sell mold services by both mold inspections and mold remediation, it’s only natural for people to be somewhat ‘fearful’ when they call a mold removal company.


Fear is a powerful motivator and many unscrupulous mold contractors are masters at playing the fear card to create a sense of urgency in order to motivate you to sign a contract right away. That is not to say that all mold remediation contractors are unscrupulous. There are many excellent contractors out there. But in these slow economic times, it is wise to beware of anyone using words like; “FREE MOLD INSPECTION”, “FREE CONSULTATION”, “FREE TESTING”, and “FREE SAMPLES” in their pitch. More often than not, free comes with a hefty price that ends up costing far more than you thought it would and never has that been more true than in the mold business.


Avoid the Scam
The safest thing consumers can do whenever the word “FREE” is used to sell a mold remediation job is to avoid that contractor all together. Think about it. No one is in business to do anything for free. Anyone offering something for free is doing so to sell you something else. While that may be fine when it comes to “buy one – get one free” deals offered on TV infomercials, in the mold business a free inspections and testing can end up costing you thousands of dollars for remediation work that may be grossly exaggerated or in some cases doesn’t need to be done at all.


#4 Mold Scam: “FREE” Post-Remediation Clearance Testing
The final step in the mold removal process is a post-remediation survey done to verify and document that the remediation was in fact successful. The survey should be done before any re-construction work begins so the inspector can visually see that there is no mold left on the remediated materials.


Many mold remediation contractors offer “FREE” post-remediation verification inspection and testing. Mold Clearance testing is vital to the mold remediation process. Insurance companies, mortgage lenders and prospective buyers of your property in the future will want to see written confirmation that the mold issue was resolved. Post-remediation clearance testing should never be performed by a mold removal contractor waiting to get paid for his work. With thousands of dollars on the line, it is highly unlikely that a contractor will fail his own work.


Avoid the Scam
Have your post-remediation survey and clearance test performed by a Florida State Licensed Mold Inspector who does not work for your remediation contractor.


#5 Mold Scam: Killing Mold
Killing mold sounds like a good idea, but is it really? To understand this premise you must first understand the different characteristics between molds that are viable (alive) and molds that are dead (non-viable). Once you do it will be clear why killing mold is not a good option for dealing with a mold problem.


I have had to explain this issue many times and have come up with my Cow analogy that seems to work well.  It goes something like this.


I tell the remediator to think of himself as being in the Cow removal business and a client has asked him to come over and get a cow out of their living room.


If “You” the cow removal company, races over pulls out a chemical or fogging gun and kills the cow right there in the client’s living room. Have you completed the job? Sadly the answer if far too often Yes.
That’s when I tell them that this is where I come in on behalf of the client to verify that the cow is gone.  I h
ave to point out to the cow removal company that even though the cow is dead the cow is clearly still right there in the client’s living room.


I explain to the cow removal company that they were hired to remove the client’s cow and as far as I can tell the client still has a cow.


Soooooo get back in there and get the cow.

 

Who Promotes the Idea of Killing Mold and Why? Follow the Money


Mold remediators looking to maximize their profits will often sell Heat, Ozone, Hydroxyls, or Anti-Microbial Fogging as a form of mold remediation.  This only works out well for your mold remediator.  It leaves you with a new indoor contaminant. There is however a mold remediation standard of practice.  Its an American National Standards Institute ANSI approved standard.


ANSI Approved S-520 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation.  The S-520 is procedural standard and reference guide for the remediation of mold damaged structures and contents.  The S-520 is based on reliable remediation and restoration principles, research and practical experience.


The S520 provides a philosophical shift away from setting numerical mold contamination action levels. Instead, it establishes mold contamination definitions, descriptions and conditions (1, 2, 3), and general guidance, which, when properly applied, can assist remediators and others in determining criteria that trigger remediation activities or confirm remediation success.


Contaminated as the presence of indoor mold growth and/or spores, whose identity, location and amplification are not reflective of a normal fungal ecology for an indoor environment, and which may produce adverse health effects and cause damage to materials, and adversely affect the operation or function of building systems.


Condition 1 (normal ecology) – may have settled spores, fungal fragments or traces of actual growth whose identity, location and quantity is reflective of a normal fungal ecology for an indoor environment.


Condition 2 (settled spores) – an indoor environment which is primarily contaminated with settled spores that were dispersed directly or indirectly from a Condition 3 area, and which may have traces of actual growth.


Condition 3 (actual growth) – an indoor environment contaminated with the presence of actual growth and associated spores. Actual growth includes growth that is active or dormant, visible or hidden.


The killing of mold once you remove the actual visible growing mold still leaves the Condition 2 (settled spores) – an indoor environment which is primarily contaminated with settled spores that were dispersed directly or indirectly from a Condition 3 area, and which may have traces of actual growth.

 

 

  • John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
  • Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
  • Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
  • www.Microshield-ES.com


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