Woman battles homeowners insurance over water damage and mold

A Houston woman has been battling her homeowner's insurance for more than a year over water damage. She says meantime, so much mold has grown in the house, her family had to move to a hotel.

Ebony Mitchell is a nurse who says she was working on the front lines of the pandemic.  But she says she hasn't been able to work lately.  She says mold made her so sick, she's now in the hospital.

"It hurts, because I bought this house by myself, as a single mom, and I worked very hard to provide for my children," said Mitchell.

MORE: Understanding Houston renters' rights when mold grows in their apartments

Mitchell says first her roof and a bathroom pipe leaked in a storm a year ago.  Then she says February's big freeze burst a pipe outside and warped her doors.  She says she's been battling her homeowner's insurance, QBE Insurance, ever since.

"So for someone to come and say you don’t have damages, you’re a liar, and not accept what I’m trying to offer to give them, that is totally wrong.  Totally wrong. My children don’t deserve this," she said.

Mitchells showed us that she even had her own experts estimate the damage, to no avail.

"All the while, little did I know my home was completely filled with mold," said Mitchell. "I started getting sick. And I kept noticing there was a smell in the house."

RELATED: Houston renters face more health hazards in apartments after sewage leak

Attorney Eric Dick says most homeowners insurance policies cover water damage from sudden or accidental water discharge, storm-related damage, and accidental sewer backup.

"You want to look at your policy and make sure you have more than an HO1 or HOA, which are the basic forms of coverage,"  explained Dick. "That HOA includes the max for water loss.  So you want HO3 or a broad type of policy that has extended coverage."

He says most policies do not cover mold, so homeowners should mitigate any damage.  

RELATED: Your rights as a renter to repairs on a leaky roof

Dick recommends that anyone fighting with an insurance company over a claim seek legal advice.

"You can get an attorney early," he said. "You can get an attorney to make the claim for you. You can get an attorney at the very end."


We contacted QBE Insurance three times for comment, but have not heard back. Mitchell has now hired an attorney.

If you disagree with an insurance claim denial, you can request an independent appraisal or hire your own, file an appeal, file a complaint with the Department of Insurance, or hire an attorney.