Dear Barry,

Our home is more than 50 years old and has major mold problems. When we bought it, our home inspector said we had surface mold only and that it was no big deal. Since then, we’ve had mold growing inside the wall cavities, and we have excessive condensation on all the windows and sometimes on the walls. The mold starts where the walls meet the slab floor and is visible about 3 feet up the walls. How can we find the cause and remedy of this awful problem? –Dawn

Dear Dawn,

Moisture condensation is common in older homes because they were not built with the same degree of water proofing and vapor resistance as we typically find in contemporary construction. Your situation, however, sounds excessive and indicates that you may have a problem with ground water seepage through the slab. Evaluations by various experts may be needed to fully remedy these mold and moisture problems. Included would be a geotechnical engineer to evaluate ground water conditions and site drainage. Essential also would be a comprehensive mold survey by a qualified specialist.

Your inspector was seriously out of line when he characterized the mold in your home as “surface mold only” and “no big deal.” No one knows if surface mold is merely on the surface, unless they’ve investigated areas concealed within the construction. And no one knows how big a deal mold is unless they survey the building and have mold samples tested.

Mold evaluation is not within the scope of a professional home inspection, and home inspectors generally know better than to render professional opinions where mold is concerned. Even a mold expert would not draw an unverified conclusion prior to laboratory testing. Your inspector had no way of knowing whether the mold was toxic or had infected the interior wall cavities. Home inspectors who state conclusions about mold, without professional analysis, endanger the health of their clients and expose themselves to serious legal liability. Instead, your inspector should have recommended that you hire a qualified mold specialist prior to completing the purchase of the home.

You should notify the inspector of this situation immediately and request that he be present when a mold specialist performs a mold survey of your home.

Dear Barry,

The roof of our condominium has leaked every time it has rained for the past three years. The homeowners association (HOA) has tried repeatedly to have it repaired, but with no success. What can we do about this, and how do we disclose it to buyers if it is not fixed by the time we sell the property? –Joe

Dear Joe,

It’s time for the HOA to find a home inspector or roofing contractor who specializes in construction defects. There are specialists who do this kind of forensic analysis. You could contact a law firm that specializes in construction defect litigation and ask who they use as an expert witness in cases involving roof defects. If the leaking has not been repaired by the time you sell the unit, all you can do is disclose the problem to buyers and hope for the best.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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