Most mold removal landlords have heard the name Amanda Bonnen. And if you have, you know why you wouldn't mold cleanup services want her name on your rental lease. Her name can send shivers down your spine if you are a landlord... you see, Amanda used to be a tenant of Horizon Realty Group and she once posted the following 'tweet': (paraphrased) "Horizon Realty Group said sleeping in a moldy apartment is OK."
Horizon Realty Group released a statement saying they found out about the May 12th "tweet" while preparing to defend themselves in a class action lawsuit brought about by Bonnen (who was on their lease agreement). She filed a suit against her previous landlords alleging violations of the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance.
Horizon claims that no mold was ever discovered in Bonnen's unit. But, in March water had leaked into her unit as well as several other units in the building resulting from a poor repair job on the roof of their building.
Horizon also said that they contacted all of the tenants that were affected by the water damage letting them know that it would be resolved. Bonnen was apparently the only one not satisfied with Horizon's response. Bonnen moved out of her apartment upon expiration of her rental lease on June 30th.
There are many reasons mold causes such anxiety for landlords. Mold has several health risks associated with it: allergies, asthma attacks, chronic sinus infections, memory loss and even lung infections. Landlords: the best way to arm yourself against your very own Amanda Bonnen incident is to get as much information as you can so that you know what mold is, what to look for and how to have it professionally removed.
You should, of course, do your own research, but know that mold is a natural, growing organism called a "spore". It can never be completely removed. But why? Because once you have sanitized an area and open it back up to the surrounding environment, the spores will be brought back in from that environment and start growing in that place again.
Remember that not all mold is bad and not all spores considered "black mold" is toxic. It is the specific strain of black mold that carries "stachybotrys chartarum" that is toxic, because it manufactures mycotoxins which are what cause health problems for your tenants.
There are 6 conditions that are needed for mold to flourish:
o No light
o No air
o The correct temperature
o The correct amount of humidity
o A "seed" spore (the reproductive system of the mold)
o A ripe environment host (place for the mold to flourish)
Mold is bound to grow anywhere that these 6 conditions are present. Areas particularly susceptible to mold are areas where water has found it's way in - like in a basement or from the roof.
If you find mold present at one of your properties, the amount of time you have by law to remove it varies from state to state. However, regardless of the time allowed to remove it, you should absolutely resolve to fix the water intrusion. Mold spores can develop in as little as 2-3 days.
The process of cleaning mold is called mold remediation. Professionals should handle the job as they are trained in the identification and removal of materials that contain mold and mold spores. The containment of the mold spores is just as important as its removal as you don't want to accidentally contaminate other areas of your property that were clean before. The products professionals will use include: air scrubbers and HEPA filters.
How much does this cost?
Well, it depends on the size of the space, accessibility and the extent of the mold. It could range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands, but most places professional removal companies will give you a free estimate.
If you are a landlord and think you have a small amount of mold to deal with, some states will allow you to clean it yourself as long as the space isn't over ten square feet in size.
You will find guidelines for all aspects of remediation on the EPA website located at: http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html.
As a landlord about to sign a lease agreement with a new tenant, do you have to disclose that you have found evidence of mold in their unit?
Most states have not outlined whether or not you have to do so. At a certain point, it becomes an ethical call. Would YOU want this information disclosed?
TIP: If the mold is a direct result of the landlord's failure to maintain the property and insuring the unit is in habitable condition, then the landlord is legally liable. However, if the mold is due to faulty tenant behavior like creating high humidity, or failing to clean the premises, then the landlord is not liable.
A landlord that is on top of his game will limit his exposure to being sued by being proactive and inspecting his property for the presence of mold at least twice a year. This gives you the opportunity to correct the problem, and to document that it was handled appropriately. With proper record keeping, you will head off legal action before it even gets started.