What is My Liability Under My Mold Remediation Contract
A review of your personal and professional obligations.
Let’s talk contracts. To what degree do you guarantee and warranty mold remediation? How do you balance your services with your legal (and moral) obligations regarding mold clean up? A look at your contract terms should match up to your verbal promises made to the client. So where are you?
There is a range of obligations we can take on verbally and written in our contracts. Below I propose a few to consider (not all inclusive) while posing the question where do you fall in this range,
“I remove mold…”
- My clearance tests passed, I’m done
- A third party clears the structure, I’m done
- I give a limited warranty on my work
- I give guarantee and warranty
- I remove mycotoxins, guarantee my work and give a warranty, and partner with our clients for annual reviews.
I remember a time not that far back when I had to explain to the customer why mold was bad. Things have changed and now most everyone knows mold is not good. In 2008 we added our own clearance testing to check our work. We also had no problem with our client bringing in a third party. But we still conducted our own tests for comparison. After all these years, we know the variance/accuracy in labs and testing methods can cause differences.
We also found that our method of mold removal gave us extremely low counts if we tested the day of completion so in order to have an area balance out we added to our process waiting at least 72 hours or three days before conducting clearance testing since mold grows in 24-48 hours. We really wanted to make sure we had taken care of everything.
Over the years, we developed an annually renewable warranty program. This was a way of tying our clients to us in case there were future mold problems due to a leak in another area that was not covered by the warranty. The warranty renewal program also led to clients calling us to check out the new home they might buy, as well as referral business. In this program, clients pay us an annual fee then we come out and visually check their home. We partner with them to look for issues we can catch early on to help ward off mold issues in the future. For example, we might suggest gutters being cleaned to prevent roof leaks that could lead to mold issues.
If our warranty clients later do have a minor leak under a sink, for example, we ask them to have it repaired as soon as possible and call us. We will clean 10 square feet for free under our warranty.
Guarantees run the gamut in our industry. I have seen no guarantees to guarantees up to 12 months. In our practice, we contractually guarantee we take care of the visually seen mold AND pass clearance results or we are back at no additional cost to re-clean the area until acceptable results are reached.
As we all know, there are no acceptable ranges published by our U.S. government. And even within the industry there is a wide range of what is acceptable. After tracking over 10 years of before and after results and working with folks who are sensitive to mold or classified as mold sick/toxic, we came up with our own guidelines that we publish in our contract.
Mold Clearance Guidelines
Internally, we follow much stricter numbers on well-known well know dangerous species like stachybotrys, and chaetomium.
Some of you may or may not be running into clients who ask about mycotoxins. In our practice, we often run into the issue of mycotoxins as our client has been diagnosed with them in their body typically through a urine test in the attempt to diagnosis unresolved symptoms and medical issues that traditional medicine has not been able to cure. More and more medical practitioners are evaluating their patients with these tests that reveal mycotoxins. As we know, mycotoxins can come from mold-contaminated food products as well as the environment. We are seeing more doctor referrals to evaluate a client’s home.
Certainly if my test results show I cleared for mold, I never promised to clear mycotoxins in my contract so now what? That may be your first thought. Is there any further liability? Legally you may be fine. Morally if you are working with a mold sick patient whose doctor is measuring mycotoxins as the indicator of mold exposure, you have to determine how you want to address it. Our contract actually states we take care of the mycotoxins in the environment. If a pretreatment environmental test was positive we guarantee it will clear and test three to six months after we clean to confirm.
I often get the questions if I properly take care of the mold then the mycotoxin should be good, right? Logically it makes sense but we have certainly seen cases where mold counts were in acceptable ranges and the environment mycotoxin test was high.
There are obviously many approaches to mold and our moral and contractual obligations. But as the industry matures and the knowledge of adverse health effects of mold spreads, you may want to consider changes your approach with customers. Will you separate your business from the pack?