Mold dangerous, experts tell Realtors

Mold dangerous, experts tell Realtors

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

The Rockford Area Association of Realtors, 6776 E. State St., was warned recently about the dangers of mold and how to avoid problems caused by the fungus.

Richard Farb, president of Post to Pillar, a Rockford company which conducts home inspections, spoke of the adverse effects, which have affected real estate. He said the market is more sophisticated because of the media exposing the hazards.

Farb said health problems may include watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing, respiratory failure/asthma, wheezing and difficulty breathing, flu symptoms, headaches, fatigue, nosebleeds/bleeding lungs, neurological disorders and even death.

The mold rash has even stricken a City of Rockford building. On Monday, July 23, Paul Davis Restoration of Belvidere and Fehr-Graham and Associates of Rockford began remediation of mold found in the Human Services Department building, 1005 S. Court Street.

John Strandin, the city’s communications officer, said employees had experienced symptoms. He is not sure when they discovered the mold or what symptoms employees had.

He said that the contractors are removing the mold one section at a time and are relocating employees while removing it. Air quality testing will also occur. He said there’s no indication the contractors won’t be able to remove the mold. “The city suspected that there was a mold problem,” Strandin said. “The bottom line is, they’re getting it out.”

A local example is the lawsuit filed on April 26 by Policeman’s Benevolent Protective Association President Doug Block and his wife against Rockford School District 205 for what they allege are mold problems at Guilford High School that have exacerbated their daughter Amanda’s allergy condition. Besides the allergy attacks that allegedly only happen at school, the Blocks assert Amanda’s grades have been affected.

School board Attorney Jim Hess categorized the lawsuit as a “nuisance,” saying no other students had experienced such health problems at the school to his knowledge.

Magistrate P. Michael Mahoney will hear the school district’s motion to dismiss Block’s lawsuit in federal court this Friday.

“Mold is a relatively new problem we’re dealing with,” Farb said. “It can actively cause the structure to be uninhabitable.”

Farb pointed out a scenario in which a home buyer is experiencing symptoms. The home is tested, and mold is found. The buyer’s doctor recommends they move. The mold expert indicates the mold was obvious, and the Realtor should have known it was present. The buyer sues the inspector and the Realtor. Realtors maintain that attorneys and courts are trying to place the blame on them.

Nevertheless, testing for mold isn’t required in Illinois. “It just seems like a good idea to go ahead and test it on any property that’s being listed,” he said. “Essentially, mold is so new, it’s not showing up on any of the disclosure sheets.”

Terrie Hall, executive officer of the Association of Realtors, said the association establishes the code of ethics for those in the real estate business. Hall said Realtors can at least recommend an inspection, which is paid for by the buyer. If the buyer refuses an inspection, he or she must sign an agreement stating the Realtor recommended the inspection.

Jeremy Bonacquisti, the general manager of Ironwood Environmental, believes mold testing should be mandatory.

Farb noted that mold has crept up in the area. “There are several houses that I know of around the Rockford area,” he said. “They either have to get cleaned up, or they have to be bulldozed … if it’s too infested, you probably cannot clean it up.”

One major problem in this area is that homes are built partially in rainy weather. “The mold shows up later on,” he said. He added the walls must be dry.

Farb pointed out the risk management practices imperative in finding mold. “Your best line of defense is a good inspection,” he said.

Signs to watch for are visible mold, smell, evidence of water penetration or stains, indications of avenues allowing water penetration to seep in, such as cracks or worn roofs; construction defects; or poorly-maintained air conditioning units; and improperly ventilated clothes dryers and bathrooms.

Experts conduct quantitative and qualitative testing. Qualitative testing identifies varieties of mold by using swab or carpet sampling. Quantitative finds types and quantities of mold spores by using indoor and outdoor air sampling.

Experts conclude testing is necessary to inform buyers and sellers. If mold is found, it’s necessary to follow the proper remediation protocol. Retesting confirms the completion of total remediation.

Farb also said water restoration/carpet cleaning companies aren’t qualified to conduct mold remediation, unless specified. The contractor should be trained and experienced in mold protocol and remediation, as well as be insured, have equipment and have trained crews.

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