Over the past few years, one of the problems that seem to have taken on increased importance for property managers is mold. When a property is suspected to have a mold problem, this becomes a potential health issue for the tenants, but it also becomes a potential liability issue for the property owners or managers. Mold is not a new problem, and many scholars believe that some biblical references in the Old Testament (including some of the ten plagues of ancient Egypt), actually refer to mold-related problems. 

Ironically, one of the reasons that mold issues seem to have increased in recent years has to do with changes in our building codes which were meant to save energy. As construction methods began requiring “tighter” building envelopes in the 1990’s, reports of mold problems started increasing dramatically. It turns out that the drafty old homes of yesteryear actually did a good job of drying out water that may have inadvertently made its way into a home. But as homes got tighter, water problems within walls or under floors actually remained in place for longer periods of time, and as a result, mold problems exploded.

Mold spores are everywhere; they are a part of our environment. They are in the decaying leaves in our gardens, and in the mulch that so many people use around their homes today. These spores need only two things to germinate, a water source, and the proper humidity. Once both of these exist … voila … the mold spores germinate and you start to see the mold growth wherever it is occurring.

Eradicating mold requires two things: that the water source is located, and that the water source is halted. But once these things have been accomplished, you still need to remove the mold. If the mold problem is small, (less than 10 square feet), property owners and managers can generally clean the surfaces themselves using readily available cleaning products. However, if the problem has spread to a larger area, or if the mold has penetrated a porous surface, such as drywall, it is probably best to find a professional remediator to address the problem.

For owners and managers of rental properties who suspect that they may have a mold problem, the first step may be to obtain a mold inspection for the property. In the Bay Area, these inspections range in cost from about $300 to $600 (or more). The companies who perform these services generally take samples at the property (air or surface) and then submit these samples to a laboratory for analysis. The lab then issues a report with their conclusions about the extent of the mold problem.

For property owners and managers, it is probably money well spent to obtain a mold inspection whenever a tenant has complained about mold, or whenever mold is suspected of being present in a rental unit. The presence of mold is often an indication of other issues within the rental unit, such as leaking plumbing, leaking windows and walls, uninsulated exterior walls and ceilings, and other issues. All of these issues are potentially very costly for the owners and managers of rental properties, and addressing mold issues as soon as possible can oftentimes save the building owner large sums of money by addressing the underlying issues before they get out of control.

So if you suspect that one or more of your rental units may have a mold problem, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish! Spend a few hundred dollars now to determine if you may have a problem that could not only adversely the health of your tenants, but may also compromise the structural integrity of the building itself. Whatever the underlying problem, it’s better (and cheaper) to address it sooner rather than later.

Don’t let mold ruin your investment, get your properties tested now to ensure that you don’t have a problem that may cost you thousands of dollars down the road!

Rick Bruce is the owner of Bay Area Mold Pros, and has been buying, selling and renting properties in the Bay Area for 40 years. Rick is also a licensed general contractor and is willing to offer discounts to local property owners and managers who may require his services for a mold inspection. He can be reached at 650-296-0323.