OCTOBER BLOG: Vol. 2 Property Manager/Owner and Resident, let's get along. "How to deal with mold and odor complaints."
East Bay Indoor Environmental
The indoors is OUR Environment!
Property Manager/Owner and Resident, let's get along.
How to deal with mold complaints.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to spend a few moments with us. East Bay Indoor Environmental is your resource for all matters of creating a healthier indoor environment. Like every month, we strive to give our readers a kernel or two of information to improve and maintain a healthy live/work space. For this month we will discuss how residents should make mold complaints and how property managers/owners should field them.
Our indoor environmentalists have earned a reputation for their operational transparency and their ability to educate our clients. Over the past 5 years we’ve noticed a substantial increase in mold complaints. So much so, in 2016 the State of California enacted SB 655, “The California Mold Law” pertaining specifically to property owners and residents.
CA SB 655
This law outlines duties and responsibilities for property owners and residents to handle mold issues including a concept not new to us but one that should be reiterated, “good housekeeping.” Cleaning is actually part of the language! In layman’s terms, as expensive as rent can be in the Bay Area, it does not absolve the occupant from basic and consistent housekeeping (including cleaning the bathroom.)
Some may think that an increase in complaints has lead to an increase in remediation work. We can say with confidence this has not been the case. The only things that have increased are the amount of soured relationships between property owners and residents, red-tape, and legal fees. As we discuss the process further we look to give you a few steps for mitigating a mold problem whether you are the property owner or the resident.
The best thing to be is proactive and not reactive when it comes to mold issues. Mitigation tends to be far less expensive than remediation’s. This means before renting your space to the public whether commercial, single family residential, multi-unit complex, or converted living space perform a visual inspection or have one performed for you. Review your rental agreement. If you have fixtures in the unit for ventilation make note that these items must be used by the occupant, this includes windows. Screen your windows if you have not done so.
You’ve found the perfect occupant. Move in is pending. Perform your final “walk-thru” with the new resident or ask your property manager to do so. This is a good opportunity to start the relationship off on a good foot. You can ask if they’re new to the area or better, if they have any allergies?
This a great segue way to discussing cleaning habits and expectations of care for the unit. After all, buildings do breathe (building science joke). Without water or moisture, there’s no mold. Most complaints we see in the owner/resident relationship tend to be in the bathroom. Bathrooms are used daily and they contain water. If the occupant does not clean the bathroom regularly and wipe up water that gets splashed around, the results over time can become problematic. Outside of this, water damage, plumbing, roof leaks, improperly installed windows and the dampness or odors associated with units built on concrete slab or into the grade make up the rest of our service calls.
Resident thinks there is a mold problem
Even if you do all the above, accidents happen, buildings leak, non-insulated walls get damp. Resident if you think you have a mold issue do not call a contractor first. Do not use thumbtack or homeadvisor. It is your responsibility and duty by law to inform the property owner or manager first. We have found over the years that when Residents calmly explain to their property owner or manager their concerns about an accumulation of mold, odors, or “bacterial organic growth” most want to handle the problem. Either they have a relationship with a company like ours that has provided inspections and assistance prior or perhaps their own general contractor. Allow the owner or manager the opportunity to clean up the environment. There’s mold everywhere folks. We’re after the cause of the growth and any water damaged building materials, the mold in and of itself is not the problem. It’s the result of water being in places it shouldn’t be (and it rarely happens over night).
Property owner/manager if your resident contacts you with a mold complaint in the unit. Do not ignore it! Doing so can be costly. You should have your pre move-in inspection completed, find it. Coordinate with the resident to inspect the unit, normally a 24 hour notice must be given. Go in, take your photos, access the damage and compile a basic report of your findings. The goal if possible is to find the source of the water or moisture. For a 3rd party visual inspection with reporting companies like ours charge anywhere between $95-$200 depending on services offered.
I have a handyperson, can they handle it?
In theory yes, but in actuality it’s probably not the best idea. Not because they don’t have the skill set but because we’re dealing with perception unfortunately. The same person that fixes a dishwasher is also your mold expert? This type of argument you want to stay away from. Besides, you can’t put the liability with the handyperson. Get a professional company with good reviews, commercial liability insurance, and most importantly, make sure it is a local company within 10-15 miles.
Do I allow the resident to stay in the unit while repairs are being made?
All depends on the service being provided. Anytime our company is removing damaged building material (sheetrock, carpet, etc.) we insist the occupant(s) vacate the unit at least for the deconstruction and removal part of the project which equates to 2-3 hours in most cases.
What If I am not getting movement from my Property manager/owner?
As a resident, if you have followed the proper protocol and the owner or manager is not responding to you fortunately there are steps you can take. If you are concerned about the health and safety of your unit. Know that contractors or environmentalists do not have the authority to determine the habitability of your space. Refer to SB 655 The California Mold Law and contact the health code enforcement officer in your city or county.
Last but definitely not least, document everything! Time, date, photos, emails, texts, and calls.. In our world it’s rarely what we know, but rather what we can prove.
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If you´re curious about your indoors, send us a question and we may select your topic for our next newsletter! Info@ebindoors.com