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Mold, now what?

You get a call from a tenant they found mold now what?

A resident calls and is somewhat hysterical as she reports they’ve discovered mold in their unit. Not just any old mold – black toxic mold.  Your resident is demanding to be put up in a hotel. In addition, the resident is demanding money for being sick and medical expenses incurred, for replacing personal property, and to cover moving expenses because there’s no way they will live in a unit with toxic mold.  And if no action is taken immediately, resident threatens to hire an attorney.  Now what?

Steps

Your first step is to confirm the situation.  You send your maintenance team to investigate. Turns out maintenance finds a six inch by three foot strip of black mold in the living room of the two bedroom unit. The resident has not reported the mold sooner because the wall was covered with a sofa. Resident was rearranging the furniture when the mold was discovered.  This of course explains why everyone has recently been sick with respiratory problems.

The investigation concludes the water source is a slow leaking pipe in the wall. The damage is minimal, you can promptly fix the problem, and the cost to repair the drywall and pipe are reasonable. However, there’s still the issue of the resident’s demands and threats.  Before panicking, let’s first address some important things about mold.

Respond to their emotions

Residents often get hysterical over mold. Fortunately, the hysteria is unfounded. Mold is everywhere. Mold makes up twenty five percent of the earth’s biomass. This explains why almost everyone has had some form of mold growing in their residence at one time. Given how much mold naturally occurs in the environment, if mold were extremely toxic, serious mold-related illnesses would be an everyday occurrence.

With Google reporting over half a million hits for “toxic mold”, it is not surprising many residents believe that even a small amount of mold has immediate and serious health effects. Just as pollen aggravates allergy sufferers, the fact that mold can cause, or aggravate routine allergy symptoms is not disputed. However, scientific research does not support the conclusion that mold can cause significant and permanent health problems. Tenants will have to prove that their alleged health related issues are proximately caused by the specific mold found in the unit.

Tenants will primarily demand compensation for mold because of the litigious nature of our society. Residents also demand compensation for mold because the media, trial attorneys, and mold remediation companies are constantly reinforcing the negative health effects of mold despite a lack of scientific evidence.

Tenants will inevitably blame you for mold in their unit. Mold needs moisture to grow. Given Utah’s dry climate, mold usually needs a constant water source to grow. Almost all mold is caused by water intrusion events, or leaks either from inside a unit or outside of a unit. The first and most important step is to determine the source of the water causing the mold.  Your primary concern is to minimize the amount of damage caused by the mold and to prevent any future damage to the unit.  Additional articles will address suggestions for residents to help control mold/mildew in their unit. As always, if you ever have any questions or concerns please contact our office.

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