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TEN TIPS for Buyers and Sellers
REMEDIATION GROUP, INC. recommends the following ten tips for avoiding mold problems that can result in real estate lawsuits.
1. Perform a thorough preliminary mold investigation of the home, rental property or commercial property BEFORE listing the property with a Realtor® or otherwise offering the property for sale.
2. Hire a certified mold remediator if there are identifiable mold problems and have the professionals correct the problem BEFORE offering the property for sale.
3. Avoid camouflage tactics intended to hide mold problems from potential buyers. Such deceptions might include painting over mold growth, concealing mold behind stored items, furniture, furnishings or decorations. It might also include masking the odor of mold with air fresheners and deodorizers.
4. Include an environmental inspection clause in real estate contracts, granting at least a 14-day inspection period. Buyers should consider hiring an independent inspector certified in mold inspection, a certified environmental hygienist, industrial hygienist or a home inspector with mold expertise.
5. Look for visible and hidden signs of water damage and mold growth through physical examination of the building. Inspectors should mold test the air and search for visible mold growth in all rooms, including basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, and heating/cooling duct registers.
6. Perform fiber optics inspection inside water-penetrated surfaces in building locations with previous flood or leak histories, looking for hidden mold infestations. When found, mold testing requires laboratory analysis and mold species identification of the collected mold and air samples.
7. Disclose in writing any present or previous building water or mold problems when selling real estate. Explain clearly what actions were taken to correct such problems in disclosure documentation and attach it to the real estate sales contract where the buyer can acknowledge receipt of the disclosure.
8. Order a C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) Property Report provided by the insurance industry. This provides a five-year insurance loss history for a given address. This tip is particularly important if the property is a residential property (single family home, condominium or co-op apartment). Every U.S. homeowner insurance claim inquiry or loss report (even those resulting in no loss payment) goes into the C.L.U.E. database. In some states, including California, it has become standard for sellers to provide Realtors® with a copy of the C.L.U.E. report to avoid unexpected disclosures at closing or afterward.
9. Include in the sales contract a statement affirming the buyer's unrestricted opportunity to inspect and test the property thoroughly before closing and that the real estate is being sold "as is" with no implied or express warranties as to the physical, mold or environmental condition of the property.
10. Include in the sales contract a seller-requested clause that releases the seller, lender and real estate agent from all mold liability to the buyer. This release of liability should be contingent on the accuracy and completeness of the details provided in the seller's written mold disclosure and on the buyer's unrestricted opportunity to do mold testing prior to closing.
For more information on mold contamination and its threat to your business, home and health, click to read two EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reports: Residential Mold Guide and Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings -2001 document.