The Home Inspector Mold Test "Buyer Beware"

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Indoor Air Quality Solutions, IAQS MRSA #4

It's time to stop unqualified home inspectors from charging clients for mold testing.  I've followed behind dozens of home inspectors who have charged clients to collect air samples, swab samples, and tape samples just to then hand the client a lab report with no ability to interpret the results.  What are the clients paying for?

The reality is that all AIHA accredited laboratories state "Interpretation and use of test results are the responsibility of the client."  When I turn in samples that I collect, I am the client that the Laboratory is referring to, not the homeowner or the homebuyer - Me - the indoor environmental consultant.  My client, the homeowner or homebuyer, depend on me to interpret the laboratory findings based on the visual inspection of the property and the other mitigating data collected at the time of the inspection such as temperature, humidity, and particulate levels.

When the unqualified home inspector turns in the samples he collects he repeats the laboratories disclaimer with one of his own. "The client is solely responsible for the use and interpretation of the test results and reports requested from home inspector. The home inspector is not able to assess the degree of any potential hazard resulting from the materials and areas analyzed. Therefore, we respectfully suggest that you review this report with your personal physician or health care person(s) for information that may affect the inhabitants of the home. So just what is the client paying for?

A home inspector that wants to provide a mold inspection should understand that a mold inspection is more than just collecting samples.  A true mold inspector should have the ability to do more than hit the on switch of the sampling pump and hand the client a lab report.  When these clients contact me for interpretation of the home inspectors lab report they're never happy to hear that the report has no value without the onsite visual assessment of the property.  It's then that the clients always asks me. "Then just what did I pay for?"  I always hate to have to tell them that they paid for the collection of samples and nothing more.

Anyone that is in the business of inspecting the indoor environment for mold should be able to answer a few questions when he has completed the inspection:

1.    Are there any conditions within the home that can support mold growth?

2.    What is causing those conditions that can support mold growth?

3.    Is there active mold growth in the home?

4.    How extensive is the mold growth in the home?

5.    How do you correct the areas of mold growth in the home?

If your mold inspector is only going to take a few samples and doesn't have the ability to answer those few questions, "Don't hire him."

Once the laboratory results are received, the mold inspector should be able to answer a few more questions:

1.    Are there any elevated mold spores in the home?

2.    Where are those mold spores coming from?

3.    Are those mold spores a result of active mold growth in the home?

4.    How extensive is the mold growth in the home?

5.    How do I correct the areas of mold growth in the home?

If your mold inspector is only going to take a few samples and doesn't have the ability to answer those few questions, "Don't hire him." 

Of course there are many other questions that will need to be answered by the mold inspector such as; how harmful are the elevated spores to me and my family?  Should the area of mold growth be contained?  But let's face it the mold inspectors we're talking about won't get past the first set of questions.

The purpose of the mold inspection should be to determine if there are any areas in the home that can or are supporting active mold growth that could compromise the quality of the indoor environment and the home's occupants.  The inspector should then be able to provide a means of correcting the areas and returning the home to a normal fungal ecology.  This should all be based on the ANCI approved IICRC S520 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation.

The S520 is 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.

It is up to the consumer to check the credentials of the inspector but at some point, I would think that more of the home inspectors would stop trying to increase their inspection fees by collecting mold samples.  It just seems like stealing to me

I actually have a list of great Home Inspectors that I refer clients to.  These are great inspectors that can help you by providing a quality home inspection, and because they have honor and integrity they will happily refer you to a qualified mold inspector that can answer all of those questions and many more.

Today I will be conducting a mold inspection after a home inspector collected 3 air samples and one swab sample from a home as an added service for his client during a home inspection.  The home inspector felt that the air samples showed some elevations and suggested that each room of the home be tested.  Every room of the home, All of them.   

Hundreds of dollars spent and the home inspector still can't determine if the home has a mold issue.  It was then that the home inspector reminded the homeowner of his original disclaimer. Remember the one that stated "The client is solely responsible for the use and interpretation of the test results and reports." And that "the home inspector is not able to assess the degree of any potential hazard resulting from the materials and areas analyzed. Therefore, we respectfully suggest that you review this report with your personal physician or health care person(s) for information that may affect the inhabitants of the home.

And that's where we come into the picture. 

I just have to ask why the home inspector didn't remind the client of the disclaimer before he took a sample from every room in the home?

Today we will answer all of the questions my new client has and more.  We will provide a cause and origin of any elevated spores found in the home and will also provide a remediation protocol if necessary.  We will provide our client with a written report of their indoor environment and list any issues within the home that could compromise their indoor air quality and provide them with guidance on how to correct each issue including any possible mold activity.  We will simply provide a professional mold inspection.

I hope this article provides homeowners with the information they need to make the right choice for their next mold inspection.

John P. Lapotaire, CIEC

Microshield Environmental Services, LLC

"Healthier Air Starts Here"

www.microshield-es.com

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Rainer
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Daren Wright
Wright Inspections LLC - Phoenix, AZ

As a home inspector that does not provide mold testing services, I found your article very informative. As home inspectors we are required to report on what is wrong, but we are not required to report on why things happen because this is speculation. A good inspector does say why, but many use the minimum standards to their full advantage. In my area I see many contractors that chased the housing boom with poor skills are now trying their hand at inspections.

Jan 17, 2010 03:12 AM #1
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Rainmaker
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John Lapotaire, CIEC

Indoor Air Quality Solutions, IAQS
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