Should I have My Home Inspector Do My Mold Testing Too?
Mold testing has become a more common aspect of some home inspections, especially as homeowners and potential buyers seek to ensure their living spaces are safe and healthy. However, ethics become funky when mold testing is performed by home inspectors who often lack specific licensing, training and expertise in mold testing and remediation.
Why is this happening, and how can you prevent it?
The Role of Home Inspectors:
First, let’s start off by explaining what home inspectors do best. Home inspectors play a crucial role in the real estate process, providing a comprehensive evaluation of a property’s structural, mechanical, and even aesthetic components.
Their assessments are instrumental in identifying potential issues and guiding homeowners and buyers in making informed decisions. But, when it comes to mold inspections and testing, the boundaries of a home inspector’s expertise become apparent, and the potential for bending or breaking of ethics codes becomes more likely.
Lack of Licensing and Certification:
One of the primary concerns with mold testing conducted by home inspectors is the absence of specific licensing requirements for mold-related assessments in many jurisdictions.
Unlike dedicated mold testing labs or environmental consultants, home inspectors often lack the specialized training and certifications necessary to accurately identify and assess mold-related issues.
While you may not think of identifying mold as something that would require a license or certification, it is in fact a necessity. The reason for this is because a qualitative and quantitative mold spore test will be performed in laboratory conditions with medical grade equipment and procedures.
Unless your home inspector does third-party testing and is merely a collector of samples, or if he moonlights as a scientist in the evenings, you won’t be able to rely on the accuracy of these tests.
Complexity of Mold Assessments:
Mold inspections require a nuanced understanding of microbiology, moisture dynamics, and building science. Unlike visible issues such as a leaky roof or a faulty electrical system, mold problems can be hidden within walls, ceilings, crawl spaces or attics.
Properly identifying the presence of mold, determining its species, and assessing the extent of contamination demand expertise that extends beyond the scope of a typical home inspection.
For these reasons, while probably good intentioned, mold inspections and testing shouldn’t be done by a home inspector, but rather a licensed, certified, and trusted professional backed by a mold testing laboratory.
Legal and Ethical Considerations:
When home inspectors venture into mold testing without the requisite knowledge, credentials, and certifications, they may inadvertently expose themselves or potentially property owners to legal and ethical issues.
If mold contamination is overlooked or misdiagnosed, it could potentially lead to structural damage as well as financial, legal, and even health and safety issues for the property owner. The home inspector who performed the “testing” could also be held liable in some of these situations.
Home Inspector Associations Weigh In:
Many home inspector associations acknowledge the limitations of their members in performing mold assessments. While some associations provide training in mold-related topics, they emphasize that such training doesn’t replace the need for specialized expertise or accredited laboratories doing the work.
Recognizing the potential hazards associated with mold, these organizations encourage home inspectors to recommend professional mold assessments when necessary. That being said, not all home inspectors follow this ethical code, and if they offer testing that seems vastly more affordable than all other options, it might be best to question the legitimacy of their testing quality and procedures.
Importance of Specialized Mold Inspectors and Testing:
To address the shortcomings in mold testing conducted by home inspectors, it is essential to emphasize the importance of engaging specialized mold inspectors and environmental consultants that use accredited laboratories.
These experts undergo specific training, obtain certifications, and have the skills to navigate the intricacies of mold-related issues safely and professionally. True mold testing involves techniques and procedures that can’t be easily performed, and this is part of the reason that there is a significant cost associated with doing the work correctly.
Recommendations for Homeowners and Buyers:
For homeowners and prospective buyers, the key takeaway is to be aware of the limitations inherent in relying solely on a home inspector for mold testing assessments. For peace of mind, it is best to hire a dedicated mold inspector, particularly when there are concerns about members of the family with immunocompromised systems that are susceptible to higher mold counts, or specific species of this insidious home invader.
While home inspectors play a crucial role in the real estate industry, their expertise has clear limitations when it comes to mold testing and inspections.
The intricate nature of mold-related issues, coupled with the lack of specific licensing, training, and certification for home inspectors in this field, underscores the importance of engaging specialized experts to do the job correctly.
Homeowners and potential buyers should prioritize the health and safety of their living spaces by seeking the services of dedicated mold inspectors that ensure a thorough and accurate assessment of potential mold issues through accredited labs that do medical-grade testing as their bread and butter service.