AUGUST Blog: "Improving Indoor Air Quality in Your Rental Units."

East Bay Indoor Environmental, the indoors is our environment!

Improving Indoor Air Quality in Your Rental Units

Indoor air quality has become a popular topic of conversation as our society is spending more and more time indoors. There are things the rental property owner/manager and the resident can do to improve and maintain a healthy live/work/learning space. We will discuss a few of those here as well as ways to be  proactive against potential air quality problems indoors.

Good indoor air quality begins outdoors

Roof(s), gutters and downspouts, sump pumps, aging aluminum window frames, cracks in the stucco and foliage that prevents natural light from entering your unit can become sources of indoor air quality issues. As the majority of the live/work/learning spaces in the east bay were built fifty plus years ago, it is important to maintain a habit of keeping up the property. Enlist the services of a good handy, or maintenance person to help perform basic repairs (landscaping, leaky faucets, gutter cleaning, etc.) If you notice any water stains on your ceiling have the roof inspected. Inspections are much cheaper than repairs. Remember, it is the responsibility of the rental property owner/manager to keep their units free from water intrusions. Large projects normally start as small neglected repairs.

Mold and Odor complaints

Unpleasant odors found indoors can usually be traced to a source. If we remove the source, we can resolve the odor. Rodents, wet building materials, over accumulation of personal effects, plant life, pets, sewer/garbage, and our neighbors are some of the usual suspects. The public tends to associate foul odors indoors with a mold problem. Over the past few years there has a been a noticeable increase in the amount of mold complaints making the news. Most notably “black mold” or stachybotrys. According to the EPA, (Environmental Protection Agency) growth of this particular genus occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. Emergencies withstanding, most mold and odor issues requiring remediation by a professional do not normally occur overnight, and they are almost certainly accompanied by increased humidity/moisture and or a water intrusion of some type. Discuss the importance a regular cleaning regimen, proper ventilation to the outdoors, and moisture control with present and prospective residents. Do your due diligence and field complaints from residents in a timely manner. Plumbing concerns should be addressed by a professional tradesperson. HVAC systems, heaters and furnaces should be inspected every 1-2 years based on usage. If you smell gas, dial 9-1-1 and then contact PG&E 1-800-743-5000.

Converted garage and basement unit(s)

“Climatizing” or maintaining a constant temperature and relative humidity is the biggest problem when making use of the garage or basement for live/work/learning purposes. Most of these structures are built on concrete slabs and the walls are not insulated. Concrete is naturally porous. When indoor spaces get damp, odors can surely follow. If you decide to make use of these areas consider purchasing an appropriately sized dehumidifier for use October-April. This will help control the relative humidity to below 60%. Do your best to maintain a clean and dry environment year round. Use plastic storage bins versus cardboard boxes for storage. Remind residents to not place furniture and personal items directly against walls for long periods of time. Doing so can create moisture and potential for mold growth on both surfaces.

Cleaning

As source removal is paramount when dealing with indoor air quality issues, foul odors, etc. A regular cleaning regimen is our best ally in being proactive against costly repairs. A 3:1 solution of distilled “clear” vinegar to water is strong enough to clean any surface in the home. This includes bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. Carpet is a common source of odors no matter how well maintained. They are not the best flooring option in the rental environment. In the average household of about 2-4 residents, carpet lifespan is usually between 3-5 years. Less with indoor pets and plant. It is by this point that most carpet fibers become old and frayed. Stains will also have sunk in, turning what started out as a pure white carpet into something graying and dull. Carpets should be professionally cleaned if not replaced between occupants or every 4-6 years depending on traffic.

Lifestyle products

Perfumes/Colognes, lotions, shampoo/conditioners, soaps and other personal care products more times than not contain artificial ingredients that off gas to create their scent. Those that are immunocomplex, immunocompromised, allergy or asthma sufferers, or sensitive to odors should be mindful of the products you use. If there is a window in the bathroom open it and use the vent fan (if applicable) while showering and applying the products then leave it on a little past that time. People use candles and incense for all sorts of religious and spiritual purposes. Unfortunately, they are both fire hazards and should not be allowed in multi-unit living.

How to be proactive

Accidents happens, buildings leak, pipes can burst. These are not reasons to lose our cool. Know where the emergency shut-off valve is for your water main. These valves can be shut off by hand or with basic household tools most of time. If you have trouble locating the shut-off for your unit contact EBMUD. Once the flow of water has stopped you can calmly access, plan, and remediate the subsequent damage.


Other tips and suggestions:

-Watch out for leaks and drips.

-Make good use of the yearly inspection.

-Have a yearly indoor air quality test for mold in each unit for record.

-Look to remove carpet and install a more durable flooring surface.

-Repair or replace any damaged or missing screens to windows

-Discuss cleaning habits, proper ventilation, repair request protocol with residents before move-in.

-Become familiar with CA SB 655 (California Mold Law for property owners and residents)

That's all for this month! See you in September.