D&Z Present: What Were You Thinking Moments... Mold

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It’s just MOLD, clean it up…..  Maybe use bleach, that should be enough, right?  
Have you heard this, or heard this statement?  This is defiantly one of those “What were you thinking moments” 

Suzy Leasing: Dana, I had a resident that phoned the office and complained that there was mold developing in their apartment.   I instructed them to clean the area with bleach.  I mean it is their apartment, so they are responsible. Right?
D: Suzy, although the bleach and clean up is a typical suggestion, mold is very serious and must be addressed immediately.  Of course, I am sure you plan to follow up with that resident to ensure that the problem has been taken care of. Swift action can eliminate future mold or health issues, and not to mention avoid damages to the property.
SL: Is mold really that serious? I mean my maintenance techs deal with it all the time.
D: Suzy, I am glad that you are reaching out to help you understand how to minimize a potentially hazardous situation.  It is important that everyone that works in property management understand fully the ramifications of mold.
Here are a couple of tips to get you started.

  1. Here is the EPA website that has valuable information regarding mold.  http://www.epa.gov/mold/index.html
  2. Dana’s philosophy on forms and addendums, if there is a rental form or addendum for it, use it.  $1.50 is a small price to pay if it could possibly save you thousands in court. The Mold & Moisture addendum explains how the tenant’s behavior directly influences mold & moisture.  This could be important in the future if mold becomes present in an apartment.
  3. Document, Document, Document! It is always a good idea to start a Mold log with the conversation that transpired between you and the resident.
    I don’t want to have to say. “What were you thinking” Be prepared, don’t have that moment!

D – Zach, what is your opinion, how should mold be addressed?
Z: OK folks can we put the whole “use bleach” response to bed?  There are two inherent problems with telling residents to use bleach.  1. Bleach has been thrown at mold and mildew for so many years that many of the most common types of mold have actually mutated and built up immunities to bleach. 2. If we tell our residents to use bleach and they drip it all over the carpet then we are technically liable for the damages because we told them use it.  In the past the EPA recommended bleach and that has stuck, but the EPA changed its recommendation nearly 5 years ago.  Also take a look at you mold and mildew addendum to be sure it doesn’t state bleach as the resolution. If it does it should be updated. There are many products on the market that are better at killing and preventing mold than bleach some of my favorites are X-14 and Zinnser Perma-Wash. 
Now let’s go over the best way to attack existing mold and treat it to prevent future growth.
Step one: Spray a clean rag with X-14 or other mold cleaning product. Never spray the wall or surface directly it will cause spores to become airborne (very bad). Wipe the surface once with your rag, fold your rag, re-spray wipe again, fold the rag, re-spray, and so on until the surface growth is gone. Take the rag place in a garbage bag and dispose. There may be some residual stain but we will tackle that next.
Step two: Use warm soapy water and a soft bristle brush and clean the surface gently.  You don’t want to saturate the surface with water just clean the spores down to surface level.  Wipe dry with clean rag, place in garbage bag and dispose.
Step three: Once the surface is dry use a spray shellac over the area.  This will seal the odor from the mold growth. Shellac is alcohol based so it will dry very fast, but have some fumes as, so ventilate the area well.
Step four: Once the surface is dry, use an oil based primer like Kilz and spray the area.  This will seal the stain from the growth, but may also give off odor so ventilate well.
Step five: Once the surface is dry it’s ready to paint.  I always recommend using paint with a mold inhibitor.  This can be added while in the manufacturing phase ,or as an after market additive.  In addition, I like to scent my paint, so whatever I paint smells like tropical breeze. 
This is the way to do it, and for your in house staff they can follow these procedures every time with a great result.  Always remember to wear the correct Personal Protective Equipment such as latex gloves, N-100 particulate paper mask with filter, and eye protection.  This cleaning method along with the moldicide paint will create a surface that mold does not like to stick to and cannot colonize.  Industry standard states that your onsite staff can handle mold occurrences that effect 10sq/ft or less.  Remember, you can measure 10sq/ft more than the standard 2’x5’  if you have 6”of mold growth on a baseboard and a few inches up the wall then your site staff could do up to 20’ of continuous wall and still stay within the 10sq/ft rule. 
Dana Brown and Zach Howell have been working and training Managers and Maintenance staff in the property management industry for 20 + years. They are excited to give back and share the crazy stories that can only happen in our industry. We would love it if you would share your stories and “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING” moments with us as well as questions that you need answers to. Dana can be reached at: dana@multifamilynw.org. Zach can be reached at: zach@aminstitute.net

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