Don't Let Hidden Mold Turn Your Community Toxic
Has mold been discovered in one of the units in your community? Taking steps right away to fix the problem can help you avoid complaints about mold-related illnesses or unsafe living conditions. You should clean up the mold and fix the water problem that caused it. But there could be moisture—which creates a breeding ground for mold—in a part of the unit that isn’t visible to you and the member. This “hidden” mold may be on the back side of drywall, wallpaper or paneling, the top side of ceiling tiles, and the underside of carpets and carpet pads. Other possible locations of hidden mold are inside ductwork and inside walls around pipes that leak or produce condensation.
According to the “EPA Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home,” there may be times when a member or maintenance worker suspects hidden mold because of a smell or because members are reporting health problems. Don’t try to uncover and clean up hidden mold by yourself though! Removing wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores if there is mold growing behind it. The EPA recommends hiring a professional who is experienced in hidden mold remediation.
Promptly fixing water leaks and water damage and asking members to report leaks and mold as soon as they discover them, can help ameliorate the problem in progress or after it’s been found. But your mold prevention efforts can start before then, by properly maintaining your community’s HVAC system.
An improperly maintained HVAC system could turn into an inefficient system that not only is unreliable and wastes energy, but also creates indoor air quality (IAQ) problems. For example, if a humid environment develops in the ductwork, microorganisms—like mold—can grow and make members sick. The problem, known as “sick building syndrome,” can lead to member complaints and lawsuits. What should you do? Set up a preventive maintenance program to ensure the community’s HVAC system runs efficiently and effectively—and mold-free—at all times.
For steps you can take to avoid liability for mold-related injuries and a Model Letter you can use to remind members about leak and mold prevention tactics, see “Don’t Rely Solely on Clause to Escape Liability for Mold-Related Problems” in the current issue of the Insider, available on our homepage.