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Mold – What’s New?

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Mold..It’s whats for Dinner

Way back in July, I AG’d (my new term for posting on AgentGenius) about Buyer Agent Disclosure responsibilties and used mold as an example.  That post was prompted from Jim Duncan’s excellent post about what rights Sellers may have for Buyer Agent’s Disclosures online.  Whereas my post was a rant, JIm’s was a great educational tool and I encourage you to go back and read it.  Yesterday I received an e-mail from a practitioner about a recent legal decision, here in Virginia.  The Article, entitled Costly Mold: Loudoun couple awarded $4.75M for mold injuries had shaken the agent a little and they wished to know what was being done to force agents to be more proactive in this area.  Here are some excerts from the article, but I encourage you to read it as well:

A Loudoun County Circuit Court jury has returned verdicts totaling $4.75 million for a couple who contended that mold in their $900,000 home sickened them and rendered their house unlivable

During the trial, Wise presented evidence it would cost $400,000 to properly remediate the house by removing all drywall and lumber that was contaminated by mold. The family also testified that they disposed of almost $100,000 worth of furniture, clothes and other personal effects because they were contaminated by mold.

What should you do?

The agent who e-mailed me eluded to the fact that there weren’t enough educational opportunities.  Within a few minutes I had found sevearl resources, from blogs to association e-mails, newsletters, NAR magazines etc that had gone over and over the hazards.  The informaiton is out there.

I wanted to point out a few things that I think agents should do to help protect their clients and themselves.  First put a link to the EPA’s guide to Mold on your website and refer your clients to it during your new buyer-client interview.  Second is to disclosue, disclose, disclose.  If you see something green, black or generally moldy looking while showing the house, take a digital picture of it, and should your clients desire to write an offer, e-mail them the photos with your disclosure that you aren’t a mold inspector (unless you are) and that you recommend they hire an inspector.  I emphasize e-mail, so that you can show your efforts at good solid disclosure.

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In Virginia, the Seller isn’t obligated to disclose material defects, but all licensees are.  To return to a point from an earlier post, Buyer Agents have a great deal of responsibility and should take it seriously.  Do you want to be on the hook for a $400,000 remediation?

Agents should always have a written and easily accessible list of professionals.  You shouldn’t be googling “mold inspection in my-town-usa” when the need arises.  You should have an existing relationship with these types of professionals.  Brokers – you should have these folks in to the office for a 10 minute “how ya doin’ ” occasionally to make sure that your agents do have knowledable resources.

I did find this nugget – it’s a company that will certify you as a mold inspector.  What I found is that the cost to become a mold inspector is about $200 more than becoming a real estate agent in my state and require 30 more hours than salesperson training.  I think there is a moral in that fact…  maybe for a differnet post.

Are there limits?

Yes, there are limits to how much an agent can do.  It’s my opinion that when it comes to mold, you’re job stops at recommendation and awareness.  There are many buyers who live in crummy houses that have mold and mildew and they aren’t concerned with it.  You’ve done your due diliegence by making concerns known and presenting them with options.  I personally would not walk away from a buyer based on their deaf ears about material disclosures.   Why?  My job is to assist them in their decisions and not make those decisions for them.

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Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is TheAgentTrainer.com.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Paula Henry

    January 8, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Matthew – MOLD is a dirty four letter word with serious health consequences for many, not to mention the litgation consequences you have stated here.

    Your suggestions offer an agent protection against such litigation using basic common sense to protect ourselves and our clients.

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