Author Topic: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...  (Read 5500 times)

frugally

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Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« on: October 23, 2014, 08:25:17 AM »
Well guys, time to add a 'fun' real-life scenario to work through.  I'll do it with you guys.

Our tenants got ahold of our property manager.  They had to stay in a hotel because one has asthma and apparently they found mold in the house and she was having an asthma attack.  They said they found it under the stove and downstairs.  Our property manager got ahold of us to tell us she already let them out of the lease, and is getting us in touch with a mold tester/remediation service.

Not the situation I was expecting when I woke up.  I think there is mold under the stove because during inspection water was running down into the kitchen (it has since been fixed).  It's probably due to the fact that the water was just never cleaned up (I hope?!).  If there is actually mold in the basement, it's probably on one wall.  We haven't been able to see water coming in, but the basement is definitely moist.  We haven't noticed any respiratory issues ourselves ever, and while the basement smells 'old', we've been in a moldy house before and it doesn't smell anywhere close to the same.  The foundation is poured concrete if that matters.

Unfortunately we are now back to square one and have anywhere between $500 and $30000 worth of mold remediation to do.  I've never dealt with mold before, so I have no idea what I'm in for.

Posted this in a new thread so that I can hopefully get some experienced eyes on this one.

DarinC

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2014, 08:59:44 AM »
That's a lot to pay for clean-up. Just fix any water leaks, and if your have problems with moisture in your basement, install a fan/dehumidifier. Once that's done you can clean up anything that's left with bleach or vinegar.

skunkfunk

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2014, 09:16:28 AM »
That's a lot to pay for clean-up. Just fix any water leaks, and if your have problems with moisture in your basement, install a fan/dehumidifier. Once that's done you can clean up anything that's left with bleach or vinegar.

I thought you had to remove and replace any moldy wood or drywall. Is that incorrect?

In any case, it shouldn't be anywhere near $30000 for a small mold issue, especially if you can do the work yourself.

highcountry

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2014, 09:22:06 AM »
Also, if you DIY mold remediation, wear a good respirator.

frugally

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2014, 09:35:42 AM »
Yeah, I agree it's probably not a large problem - more fear of the unknown at the moment.  My concern is the wall in the basement seems to have some black spots.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2014, 09:56:36 AM »
Had mold remediation done in my dad's house in the master bedroom and tiny bathroom. Was not the terror-inducing stachybotrys "black mold" that everyone freaks out about, but it was considered a dangerous mold for anyone with a compromised immune system. House was a hoarder house, and had sat packed to the gills with crap for over 20 years and the mold was from a leaking window and broken toilet (two different areas effected).

It cost us right around $3K for all of the cleanup and testing (before and after to make sure it was clear). This involved them removing the drywall, interior insulation and some of the flooring where the mold was in both rooms (just a 8 foot section of the bedroom, but the half bath was down to the studs demoed) and disposing of all, wiping down every surface with a mold killer and then negative pressure ventilation to remove the mold throughout the house. This was something that technically we could have done ourselves, but I lived out of state and we were planning on selling the house, so we went with a professional remediation so there were no questions that it was done correctly.

What the mold tester guy told me was just because it looks scary, doesn't always mean it is scary - and just because it's black doesn't mean it is the dreaded black mold. There's a whole bunch of garden variety mold that is black, and the guy said that there is a ton of outside/inside mold spores in every house, but folks don't generally realize it because for the most part they are benign. You can't know what you've got unless you test for it... the testing was about $200 a pop, but it really helped to see what we were dealing with (and we were pretty sure it was bad since the leaking/moisture issues had been going on for YEARS). Oh - and the mold tester guy was not affiliated with the remediation company in any way. We got him from a realtor referral so we knew there was no conflict of interest.

If you feel comfortable doing it yourself, I would probably go that route since it would save you a good amount of money. Big thing is just demoing the mold stuff - like ceiling tiles and drywall/insulation that got wet - and anybody could do that, and then hanging drywall or redoing a ceiling...  But you'll probably want to get the house professionally tested after removing all the soiled stuff and wiping everything down with a mold killer so you can make sure that it is mold free and not lose any more renters because of it. Before testing, give it a week or so for the dust to settle and air quality to improve - but BEFORE closing up the walls/ceilings and might want to air it out really well or rent some big fans for the first day or two to get the air vented outside and help move any residual stuff out. Definitely do some research on the DIY stuff before getting started!


« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 10:03:48 AM by Frankies Girl »

DoubleDown

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2014, 10:20:33 AM »
Yes, mold seems to be up there with Ebola in terms of over-the-top fear-mongering from the media, and inevitably people's reactions to it based on all the fear-mongering. I've known homeowners who did what your tenants did as soon as they were notified their was mold in their house -- moved everyone to a hotel immediately, contacted a company to do an outrageously expensive remediation, and tore up their bathroom and attic. Ended up costing them about $20k. They were even considering throwing away some of their expensive furnishings since they were certain they were compromised too.

What a ridiculous overreaction, it's just mold. Easily killed by bleach or similar products. OP, try to resist the fear of expensive remediation. It can almost certainly be handled easily and inexpensively. Too bad your tenants and property manager succumbed to the fear-mongering and overreacted.

Some easy things to take care of the problem:

1. Correct moisture problems (fix leaks, consider dehumidifiers or ionizers in humid places like basements)
2. Clean visible spots
3. Spray with bleach
4. Paint over with "Kilz" paint as needed
5. If drywall or wood is completely compromised, consider replacement though it may not be necessary

DoubleDown

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2014, 10:22:38 AM »
One other thing: Without knowing the specifics of how your property manager handled the situation, I'd consider replacing them. I think a reasonable manager would have calmed your tenants down, and definitely should have discussed with you first before unilaterally "letting them out of their lease." She could have worked with the tenants on a simple plan to correct the problem instead of feeding into their hysteria. If it was me, I'd discuss holding the manager accountable for any loss of rents you suffer as a result. I'd also check the agreement you have with them as to whether she was within her authority to make that unilateral decision.

frugally

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2014, 11:02:17 AM »
Thanks for the responses, folks.  We're having two mold companies come out to take look (it's free), to see how we want to proceed.

In regards to our property manager, I don't think she handled it well.  I'm going to be looking through our contract with her tonight to see if she was able to make this call, and at the very least we'll be looking for a new one.

Dollarbill49

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2014, 11:50:31 AM »
If you file an insurance claim to have the remediation work paid, your policy will most likely be cancelled the next policy year.  Happened to us and we were put into a state risk pool for three years.  AFter that waiting period we were then able to shop the private insurance market once again.  This was in Massachusetts.


frugally

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2014, 08:25:27 AM »
Update:

I had two different mold remediation companies in to take a look at our house.  Both independently said that we don't have a mold problem.  Jeebus.  I'm quite frustrated with our PM and have started calling around.

DoubleDown

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2014, 01:31:40 PM »
Well, that's definitely an interesting turn of events. Certainly raises the whole property-manager-unilateral-poor-decision-making angle to another level.

Glad you're checking things out. You didn't ask my ongoing opinion about this, but if it was me I'd definitely be having a discussion with the management company about reimbursing you for all lost rents during the vacancy period if your tenants end up moving out. I think the PM's actions were egregious enough to warrant them reimbursing you. I mean, they weren't horrible, but it was pretty reckless prematurely telling the tenants they can be let out of the lease without any further validation or discussion with you of the alleged problem. The assessments you got from a couple of independent professionals seals it that they really jumped the gun.

DoubleDown

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2014, 01:41:35 PM »
Mold reactions vary a lot between people. From what you describe, neither the tenant, nor the property manager seems out of line to me. I am one of those people who has thrown away all of my soft furniture due to mold, and believe me, it was not an overreaction.  If anything, I under reacted. Eventually I ended up moving to a different part of the country. I still have some of the mold from that house in my stuff, and when it gets really humid I notice it, but things are much better in a dryer climate. I have a messed up immune system, and the mold allergies are just one symptom of that, but they are definitely real. I loved that moldy house, and lived there over a year before my reactions got bad enough that I realized I needed to move. I wish I'd bailed when I first saw how moldy it was.

I agree with you that mold reactions can vary between people. Perhaps even more importantly, severity of mold problems themselves can vary a great deal. I, for one, am not intending to make light of actual problems that can happen or to suggest it's all in people's heads. No doubt people can have reactions to it.

But, in my opinion, the "mold problem" has been greatly exaggerated through inflammatory media pieces that highlighted some supposed nightmarish scenarios starting a decade or so ago. I remember in these pieces seeing how every disease known to man could be tied to mold in houses, and how entire houses were being completely torn down because "it was the only way to get rid of it." It led to a whole industry springing up of these mold remediation companies because it was portrayed as such a horrific, life-threatening issue. It's like the Ebola and Islamic State reporting -- listening to the media, you'd think we're all facing certain and imminent death from beheading or bleeding to death out of our eye sockets.

Bob W

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2014, 07:50:19 AM »
Get a couple of books from library or amazon.   When we bought our home it was a vacant moldy mess.  Did all work ourselves.  Mold most have a water source.

DarinC

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2014, 10:08:19 AM »
That's a lot to pay for clean-up. Just fix any water leaks, and if your have problems with moisture in your basement, install a fan/dehumidifier. Once that's done you can clean up anything that's left with bleach or vinegar.
I thought you had to remove and replace any moldy wood or drywall. Is that incorrect?

In any case, it shouldn't be anywhere near $30000 for a small mold issue, especially if you can do the work yourself.
You can replace everything, but you can probably replace just the drywall and insulation. I think the big box hardware stores sell a primer that's supposed to resist mold growth, so priming/painting the wood could be an alternative to replacing it, although I wouldn't use this stuff on anything that could come into contact with occupants like drywall because it's likely carcinogenic. Ultimately, it's more about controlling moisture than anything else. if you fix those problems you'll also fix any mold problems.

I agree with doubledown about exaggerating the problem too. If you're allergic or have a compromised immune system, mold can be a problem, but for most people it's not.

Another Reader

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2014, 11:26:29 AM »
I would fire a property manager that let tenants out of a lease and called in a mold remediation company without discussing it with me first.  That individual agreed there was a problem without any investigation and created a potential liability for you.  Once you bring in a mold remediation company, that is disclosable in future transactions, including leases as well as sales.  Your property is stigmatized as a result.

The proper way to deal with most mold is to stop the source of the moisture that allows mold to grow and to clean it up with bleach or a similar mold-killing cleaner.  Mold spores of many varieties are present in the environment.  Keeping them from growing in large numbers is the way to prevent allergic reactions and other illnesses.

Clean up the problem, correct the moisture issue, and most important, get some documentation from the remediation contractors you called that there is no major, ongoing mold problem.

Bob W

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2014, 08:35:42 AM »
An interesting thing I learned in our moldy house renovation is that people smell mold better the more they are exposed to it. 

For women, in particular, there is an increase in olfactory sensitivity of up to 2000 times.   

As I mentioned in the previous post it is best to get the books.   We read two.  I can't remember the name of the really good one but it was written by a real pro.   He suggested not testing for mold.   The mold test most often used is to put a petri dish outside and one inside.   They are sent off to the lab and the results are compared.  You see, mold spores are all around us. 

Mold spores can survive for millions of years so it is highly unlikely that you can eradicate them all.  But they do need water.   No water, no mold.

I removed drywall and insulation in areas of our home the most moldy.  (Of course we removed all carpet and painted every surface after treating)  We have proudly lived in a home that was 50% mold covered for almost 4 years now.   We seem just as healthy as anyone else. 

We bought the house at such a discount (35% of completed value) that we are hoping that when we move we can find another moldy house.   The false stigma attached is unwarranted and a real bonus to those who have done their research. 

Regarding disclosing in a real estate contract.  I guess it depends on the state.  I don't plan on mentioning it because our home is probably more mold free than most other homes at this point. 

VirginiaBob

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2014, 08:47:10 AM »
Get rid of the source of moisture first and keep area ventilated.  After that the mold will go inactive.  No need to actually clean it up other than for aesthetic reasons.

mooreprop

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Re: Next Update: First house seems to have a mold problem...
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2014, 11:06:35 AM »
As an aside, I just added an item to our lease this year regarding mold.  We own houses, many of which have basements that are not modern.  Some even have dirt floors.  In these houses, there is never a problem until a tenant decides that they want to get out of a lease early.  Then, all of a sudden, the mold is "intolerable" and they must move.  I have even had a tenant say that their health was being adversely affected due to mold in their bathtub.  My husband scrubbed the spot with bleach for 3 seconds and solved the mold "problem".  (They had never cleaned the tub the entire time the lived there and the supposed mold appeared to be dirt.)

Now, our lease states that the house and basement are deemed acceptable and free of mold by the tenant before moving in and that they are responsible for keeping it that way.  It states that they are liable for any mold problems that result since it was not that way when they moved in.  It probably will not hold up in court, but it sends the message that we could sue them for the mold "problems" and makes them think twice whether they want to fabricate a nonexistent problem.  It also holds them accountable for eliminating or reporting moisture problems rather than sue us after mold develops due to water they spilled or did not report.   That is what I am shooting for.