Top four ways that mold is eating into your profit and your reputation
Experienced home builders understand how much work goes into building a good reputation, getting referrals, and growing their business. They also know just how quickly a bad experience for the homeowner can undo all of that hard work. One particularly bad experience that has many homeowners seeking retribution is the discovery of mold in their homes. Though there are no federal regulations on toxic mold yet, that doesn’t stop homeowners from suing builders over mold. Here are the top four things to keep in mind that will help you keep your buildings mold free and your reputation intact:
- Protracted Litigation
In the U.S, toxic mold is increasingly becoming a problem across both homes and offices, which can cause a range of issues to those exposed to it. For those seeking litigation, the process can be protracted, dragging on and on, while there aren’t many attorneys with the training and knowledge to conduct this type of litigation. Proving injury from mold is difficult even for the most experienced of mold case litigators. Even so, there is an increasing number of toxic mold cases brought each year in toxic mold offence practice. To put it into perspective, mold litigation can take up to two years to resolve. This type of litigation involves each side enlisting an expert to give an opinion on whether or not it was defects in design or workmanship that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. These considerations can mean expensive legal bills for a defendant even if they win the case.
- Water Intrusion
No matter what legal theory underlies toxic mold cases, litigation against builders and contractors usually results from water that’s entered and pooled inside a building. The pooling gives mold the opportunity to grow on drywall, insulation, and other vulnerable materials. Many construction or design flaws can cause water intrusion, such as improper drainage or leaky pipes between floors. This water intrusion can lead to costly repairs for the builder, and fixing the source of the water intrusion or leak is a good first step to mitigating mold growth.
- Breach of Contract, Breach of Warranty, Negligence
The few state regulations in place to deal with toxic mold are generally addressed in the landlord/tenant arena. Therefore, cases brought against builders and contractors generally fall under the auspices of one or more of the general law principles, of which there are three:
- Breach of Contract: The plaintiff will argue that the builder/contractor designed and/or constructed the building in a manner that resulted in water build-up and toxic mold. Such a result, the argument goes, is a breach of the work contract. The plaintiff generally sues for out-of-pocket damages and the lost value of the property.
- Breach of Warranty: The plaintiff will argue that the construction was not done according to industry standards meant to satisfy an implied warranty that the completed building is fit for habitation when sold. Alternatively, a plaintiff may sue on the basis of a specific warranty made by the builder, designer, or construction company. Most states also impose warranties on new construction that the work or construction will be free of defects (mostly for the first 10 years). The damages in the case of a breach of warranty rest upon the difference in value of the building accepted by the plaintiff and what the value would have been without the builder’s/contractor’s breach (mold).
- Negligence: This theory may provide the most value to the plaintiff (and prove the costliest to the builder/contractor) because the plaintiff can sue for “pain and suffering” damages in addition to actual damages. This is especially valuable in the context of medical injuries resulting from toxic mold. On the other hand, negligence claims are difficult to prove. The basic elements to a successful negligence claim are as such: prove a causal link between the injury the plaintiff sustained and the work done by the builder; prove that the builder/contractor owed a duty to the plaintiff to design/construct the building in such a way as to keep it free from mold; and prove the builder/contractor breached the duty of care to keep out mold. The causal relationship between the work quality (including design features) and mold growth is especially difficult to prove.
- Damage to the Builder’s Reputation
Lastly, the detriment a legal case can cause to the reputation and clout of both you and your business, no matter whether you win or lose a case. It takes years for a builder to create a reputation for building quality, trouble-free homes. That reputation can be severely damaged by a lawsuit or a homeowner who aggressively complains online.
High performance air and moisture barriers go a long way in protecting homes
In addition to the typical culprits of windows, doors, and poorly done flashing, faults in the installation of the air and moisture barrier is also a common place where moisture can sneak into the home and cause mold issues. Applying good design logic, such as specific, understandable, and buildable details, along with using a high-performance air and moisture barrier that includes fully integrated accessories can go a long way toward helping alleviate this problem.
For more details on toxic mold cases, read Coulter Boeschen’s article Alllaw.com entitled “Lawsuits for Toxic Mold Exposure in Your Home“.