Though asbestos and lead paint are well-known health and safety hazards, another environmental issue is also causing problems in homes and workplaces. There have been multi-million dollar cases involving symptoms like chronic fatigue, nausea, hemorrhaging, asthma, and rashes that are all potentially linked to one thing: toxic mold in rentals.
While not all mold is toxic, some can cause health issues which is a liability, and all mold causes damage to the property itself. Whether you are a tenant, a property manager, or a landlord, you need to know what to look for and where you stand in terms of liability. The best way to do this is to prevent mold before it becomes an issue.
Where does mold come from?
Most people know that there are different types of mold, but they don’t realize that the different types can cause different problems. Some mold is evident because it’s gross, looks gross, and smells gross. Others, however, you don’t even realize they’re there because they are growing between the walls, under your floors, or in basements.
Ultimately, the source of the mold is where you want to take care of matters. Mold cannot grow without a good moisture source. When you live in a naturally more humid state or area, you will probably have more of an issue with mold than someone who lives in a drier climate.
Right now, it’s still up in the air about what mold does and does not do, respective to health. This becomes even more so when you get into which molds are doing what and what risks they pose. However, for people who have been injured or become sick because of mold spores, there’s very little doubt that there is some impact. One of the areas of concern is whether or not someone has inhaled spores or ingested them, and there are new tests out there that can help with that.
Where it gets a little unclear, is what mold is genuinely hazardous and what is not. Most mold isn’t going to hurt you. If you’ve got some kind of gross slime on your shower tiles, odds are, this isn’t going to make you sick. It’s just gross. However, the CDC has a wealth of information that can help you determine if you’re dealing with dangerous mold.
So, what can tenants do if they find toxic mold in a rental property? Unfortunately, there have only been a handful of places where mold laws have been laid down in respective regulations. There are a few states and cities that have enacted mold laws. To find out if you are in one such area, you can go to the Environmental Health Legislation Databases Guide in the National Conference of State Legislatures and do a search for mold.
Apart from that, you may still have some recourse. Because mold occurs due to moisture, the issue might be habitability—that is, if the mold is caused by an issue covered under landlord-tenant laws. If the mold is a result of a repair that the landlord should have made but did not, then it may be something actionable.
Treating and preventing mold
Mold is a common issue in many rental properties, especially in high-humidity and flood areas. It is important for a landlord or property manager to take the steps to prevent and treat mold immediately. The best approach is to have a professional come over and inspect the property to see if there is any pre-existing mold and point out potential breeding grounds to look out for.
When you manage multiple properties, it is wise to provide all tenants with a list of tips for minimizing the potential for mold growth. While removing every mold spore is impossible, it is possible to keep it to a minimum to avoid property damage and health hazards. A few tips to include in the list for preventing mold include:
- When showering, leave a window open or use an exhaust fan to minimize the moisture build-up.
- If you have a dryer, ensure the vent is adequately hooked up, and the moisture is not building up behind the dryer.
- When cooking, there should be an exhaust fan turned on to allow steam to dissipate.
- Any spills or overflows need to be cleaned up immediately, and the area needs to be thoroughly dried.
- Any sign of leaking from the roof or burst pipes needs to be reported immediately.
- Try to keep the humidity level between 30% and 50%. In areas of high humidity, a dehumidifier is an excellent tool to use to control moisture in the air.
As a landlord, it is a good idea to make sure the property is insulated properly. It also helps to remove carpeting from bathrooms and kitchens and replace it with hardwood, tiles, or vinyl.
Once mold has been detected, it is important to treat it at the earliest possible time to prevent it from spreading. While some cases require professionals to treat and dispose of any mold, there are ways to treat it yourself.
When treating mold, you want to protect your hands, respiratory system, and eyes with rubber gloves, masks, and goggles. There are cleaning solutions specific to mold and mildew that you can purchase at hardware stores. A simple solution of bleach and water may also do the trick.
The outlook on mold
Mold is a common issue in indoor environments, especially in places where moisture and humidity are high during certain times of the year. While a mold problem will not affect most individuals, those with compromised immune systems or who are susceptible to allergies can suffer adverse reactions.
Keeping indoor spaces clean, dry, and well-ventilated is the best approach to preventing a mold problem. Landlords and property managers should conduct regular mold inspections, while tenants should report a potential mold issue the moment they spot one.