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This past winter was especially brutal for property managers in the New York-New Jersey area. Not only were there more snow events but a number of them were ice-related.
That means a lot of wet ground, and as temperatures have quickly risen this spring, the perfect breeding conditions for mold.
To compound the challenges of being a property manager, you may also be contending with the after-effects of a rash of burst pipes after an exceptionally cold winter – burst pipes that mean water, which can lead quickly to mold if the water is not properly dried and the pipes sealed and repaired.
Sometimes you may not know there’s mold in any of your units until it’s already manifested and become a concern but if you inspect early and get ahead of the problem, you can avoid some of the dangers and liabilities.
Here are a few of the challenges that property managers face when it comes to dealing with mold so that you can be prepared to tackle them effectively.
Mold is a dangerous and devious villain. It can certainly be recognized by its blue, black, green, or even white and gray colors, but that doesn’t mean it’s always visible.
In fact, obvious signs of mold are good – that means you know where to start tackling the problem and what areas to address. The bigger problem is mold that lurks in walls, ductwork and air conditioning units. Left to its own devices, this type of mold will proliferate quickly. It may not be until you hear reports of other side effects – bad smells and even health issues – that you know you have a mold problem.
It’s a good idea to keep homeowners and tenants educated about mold – where it thrives and what to look for, including the obvious visible signs, and even the subtler effects on air quality that can cause serious reactions like allergies, breathing difficulties, headaches, fatigue and other symptoms.
The sooner your tenants or homeowners report their concerns to you, the sooner you can take action, eliminating health risks and reducing your liability.
It’s important to recognize that while some molds pose health risks, others do not. So before your residents panic, be sure they understand that the mold that results from a leaking air conditioning unit is not the same as the ugly, slimy stuff that grows in the corners of their shower stalls.
One can be handled with a bit of bleach. The other requires remediation, repairs and proper drying to not only clean the area but to make it inhospitable to future growth.
Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to tell the difference between harmful and benign mold unless you hire a mold inspector. So when any instance of mold is reported to you, it would be wise to seek the advice of a professional.
Remember, not all mold can be seen – and even mold that is visible may still conceal more mold behind walls or within ducts or other parts of the home’s structure.
Residents are not the only ones affected by mold. In fact, anyone who spends time in an affected space can feel the side effects. Often utility workers from telecom providers to internet providers, electrical utility workers and more will refuse to work in a space where mold is present.
That means delays in projects and perhaps cost overruns – none of which any property manager wants to contend with.
Your best bet is to act quickly on reports of mold and even take precautions to prevent mold from forming in the first place by inspecting building elements, repairing pipes and leaks quickly and taking appropriate drying measures where water and moisture are discovered.
We mentioned earlier that a bit of bleach could remedy some common household mold problems. But that’s not the case for other types of mold, which can quickly spread from a wall near a leaky pipe to infect surrounding sheetrock, insulation and even grow on pipes deep within walls.
Once mold has become this rooted in a home, it becomes difficult and expensive to remove.
In addition, removing visible mold – or even deep rooted mold – may still not be enough if the area remains wet or damp. A perfectly cleaned area can still see quickly returning mold unless the underlying issue is addressed.
If mold is either recognized or suspected, it requires professional remediation to ensure that the area is both properly cleaned and effectively dried.
Neither the residents, management company or general contractors should attempt to remediate mold.
Beyond the health hazards of inhaling mold, spores can also be spread inadvertently through air vents to land in other parts of the home, in carpets or upholstery, where they can live to wreck havoc another day.
The management and removal of contaminated materials is as important as the cleanup process itself.
Remember, mold is tenacious and prolific. It can easily spread, grow and create problems where none were found before. Call in a professional inspector and abatement team to deal with the problem thoroughly.
As a property manager, insurance may be your largest budget item and costs keep rising every year.
Part of your responsibility includes property maintenance, and insurance companies can be very unforgiving if they suspect that a failure to properly maintain your property has resulted in mold.
That means your mold costs may not be covered, or if they are you may see untenable rises in insurance costs or worse – your policy provider may drop you entirely.
Avoid insurance disasters by preventing mold in the first place – repair leaks, properly and professionally clean and dry wet spaces, and act quickly when mold is reported.
Property managers have challenging jobs. The properties themselves require maintenance, upkeep and repairs, and residents require information and the peace of mind knowing that their needs are attended.
One of the most frightening things to homeowners and tenants is mold. It makes news, it becomes a topic of conversation during doctor visits and people are aware of its dangers and side effects.
That means that as a property manager you need to be proactive about preventing mold and immediate in your response to it. Now that you understand more about the dangers and challenges of mold you can be better prepared. And if you need help with mold remediation, let us know how we can make your job as a property manager easier.
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