High profile lawsuits involving claims for property damage and personal injury arising from toxic mold have received significant publicity in recent months. Although many of the highest profile cases have involved residences, commercial landlord liability for mold has changed too as a result. As a landlord of a commercial building, you should arm yourself with knowledge about your landlord responsibilities for mold, so you can protect yourself as well as your tenants and their health.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for people sensitive to mold, exposure can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. In particular, "severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings. And some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs."
"But I don't see any mold?" Commercial Landlord Liability for Mold:
A recent Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) document, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reports that in some cases, indoor mold growth may not be obvious. It is possible that mold may be growing on hidden surfaces such as: the back side of dry wall, wallpaper, paneling, the top of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, etc.
Possible locations of hidden mold can include pipe chases and utility tunnels (with leaking or condensing pipes), walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), condensate drain pans inside air handling units, porous thermal or acoustic liners inside ductwork, or roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation).
"I've determined that I have a mold problem. Now what?"
- Call a mold remediation specialist immediately, and work with them to develop a mold remediation action plan for your building. Here at AdvantaClean we understand that minimal down time and disruption are essential for you and your tenants.
- Fix the water or humidity problem. Complete and carry out the repair plan recommended by the mold specialist. Keep in mind this may be revised if more damage is discovered during remediation.
- Communicate with building occupants, as appropriate to the situation. Be sure to address all concerns.
- Carefully contain and remove moldy building materials, working with a mold remediation professional and/or wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) attire.
"How do I know when I've finished remediation/cleanup?"
- Completely fix the water or moisture problem. Remember, mold always needs moisture to grow.
- Use professional judgment to determine if the mold removal is sufficient. Visible mold, mold-damaged materials, and moldy odors should not be present.
- Revisit the site shortly after remediation. It should show no signs of water damage or mold growth.
- Your tenants should be able to occupy or re-occupy the space without health complaints or physical symptoms.
More info? For more information on commercial landlord liability for mold, check out our other post, Healthy Office Environment? Commercial Mold Causes and Tips.