The Dark Side of Rental Living

By Paul C. Scheib

According to the latest data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of an owner-occupied home in the United States is 35 years old, as of the 2011 survey.

Rental units tend to be even older. Housing that was previously owner occupied is often converted to the rental market once the owner moves to accommodate lifestyle changes. This was particularly true after the 2008 housing crash.

Aging has implications and in housing, that means leaks. I experienced this first hand in the apartment I rented for my family, while building our house.

Our rental was billed as a luxury apartment and appeared to be well maintained. The grounds and amenities were nice, but the structures were over 20 years old.

When we moved in, we noticed a wet spot in the carpet outside the kids’ bathroom. It dried up in a couple of days, but within a week, all of us living in the apartment started having headaches.

That told me the problem was environmental, because when multiple people experience an common symptom there is generally an external cause.

I tested the air for mold using an agar test plate. These are culture tests that capture and incubate mold so you can determine the level of mold in your environment. The results came back within healthy ranges;however, they showed a mycotoxin-producing mold variety in the air.

The real discovery was the carpet tap test. This test uses the agar plates to test individual objects. By tapping on specific objects a puff of air pushes mold into the agar. The test revealed mold counts well above healthy levels, and they were also of a toxic variety.

I treated the apartment’s air by burning EC3 Air Purification Candles for three hours in each room of the apartment. Then I treated the carpet with EC3 Mold Spray by applying it to the carpet to the point of being damp and the headaches all went away.

Our mold problems were alleviated for about 5 months. Then, the hot water heater one unit up and over burst, flooding the apartment next to us. The open pipe spewed water for more than 20 minutes before maintenance could do an emergency shut off.

Our unit was not completely flooded, but a lot of water seeped in, and portions of the sheetrock fell in.

Emergency clean-up services were called in that night to dry out the apartment. Everything was repaired, but the carpet was left in place, and only the sheetrock that fell in was replaced. The property management did repaint everything and cleaned the carpet, so it looked like it did prior to the flood.

The management assumed dehumidifiers would reduce moisture enough to inhibit mold growth, so nothing else was done to prevent a subsequent mold problem.

For this reason, I again treated the apartment with the EC3 products to prevent the mold-related headaches from returning.

Two months later, a spreading stain on the ceiling revealed a new leak. When we informed the complex, they sent a maintenance person who told us it was probably a spill from above, and it would dry up.   Three weeks later the ceiling was still wet.

The leak turned out to be a pinhole in a water supply line caused by a nail from the remodel that was done 6 months earlier. The vibrations from the building worked the nail loose and started a steady but slow leak.

Maintenance cut out the wet, stained sheet rock, replaced it, and painted over the problem. Again, it looked as though the problem never happened, and nothing was done to prevent mold growth.   Therefore, I used the EC3 products to clean the apartment again to make sure mold would not affect my family’s health.

Three weeks later, the drain pipe for our A/C unit backed-up and over flowed, soaking the carpet in the hall and in my daughter’s bedroom. The drain was unplugged, and the carpet allowed to air dry.   I applied the mold prevention, as before, to the wet area. And, as before, I cleaned for mold.

All of these catastrophes occurred within our 9 month lease. Unfortunately, this is not a unique problem. I talked to the maintenance guys when they were working on our apartment and, apparently, this kind of problem keeps them very busy.

Renters need to be aware that these kinds of problems happen regularly; thus, they should be taking preventive steps safeguard themselves and their families from the dangers of mold. Cleaning to kill and prevent mold using the EC3 system is easy, low cost, and effective. If you are having unexplained headaches, sinus problems, or other health problems, testing and treatment of your rental may go a long way to help you feel good again.

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