Winter is here and that means one thing when it comes to mold: it’s time for it to grow and spread. Since mold prefers areas with high humidity and moisture, winter can pose an issue for apartment and condo complexes in particular as it is harder for these spaces to regulate the condensation that happens in individual units. HOAs and property managers need a plan to deal with potential mold growth during the winter.
Here, we’ll discuss:
- what makes winter an ideal time for mold growth,
- related issues that can encourage unseen mold growth,
- steps managers and HOAs can take to be preventative, and
- how to deal with a mold outbreak if it has already occurred.
The Winter Effect on Mold Growth
There are actually a couple of reasons for increased humidity and condensation in apartment buildings during the winter. First, there is the condensation that occurs on the many windows and HVAC exit vents throughout a building. This can lead to mold growing on windows and other entrances to the building, including balconies. You will likely see this sort of mold growth occur in the window and door frames, where it can grow in the cracks and crevices where people may not see it.
As for HVAC vents, increased condensation occurs where hot air leaving a building meets the cool winter air. This, in turn, can lead to more water in the HVAC system, which could develop a mold outbreak without people noticing, especially if the building does not invest in regular mold inspection or HVAC inspections and maintenance.
The other reason for increased humidity in the winter is simply more water in the air. This can be due to replacing air conditioning, which dries out the air, with heating, which can increase the overall humidity. It can also be the climate itself. If you live in an area that hovers around the freezing mark in the winter, the constant melting and freezing of water can lead to increased indoor humidity.
The Danger of Unattended Spaces in Apartment Complexes
Another factor that can lead to unseen mold proliferation in apartment complexes is spaces that are shut for the winter. These areas are often completely ignored in the wintertime after they have been closed off. As such, condensation and other humidity issues can help mold grow unseen for months. This can mean mold can increase in one area and then potentially spread elsewhere through the HVAC system, which can take in the spores and redistribute them throughout the building. This is why regular inspections of areas closed in winter are essential for preventing mold growth.
What Every HOA & Community Manager Needs to Know
Acceptable mold levels during inspections are usually rated 100 since mold can simply exist in a space. At levels above 800, many professionals will recommend remediation services as mold at this level will likely start to impact the health of those living in the space.
While laws and regulations are different for counties and states, there is often a requirement of landlords to deal with mold issues if they are reported by tenants. This is called the “implied warranty of habitability.” This states that a landlord has a duty to maintain healthy living conditions in their units. Failure to do so can lead to legal consequences.
HOAs need to keep abreast of potential mold outbreaks as well, especially in common areas, even if they are not held responsible for individually-owned units. They will need to understand their legal obligations related to their specific area.
That said, health impacts aren’t the only problem that can come with mold growth in apartment buildings. Mold can also lower rent rates as people don’t want to live in mold-infested areas. The mold itself can also cause damage to a unit, leading to expensive renovations that could have been easily, and cheaply, avoided.
How to Deal with Potential Mold Growth
The best, least expensive and easiest way to deal with mold growth in apartment complexes is to be proactive. This means regular inspections and testing. This should be handled by companies dedicated to mold inspections and remediation, not simply a property management company. This is because mold testing needs to be handled by professionals who can test for mold levels and also recommend preventative maintenance before mold becomes an issue. If it does become an issue, however, or if you already have a mold issue, then it’s time to call for mold remediation experts.
How to Get Rid of a Current Mold Outbreak
If you have an outbreak already, then you will need the help of dedicated, professional mold remediation experts. Mold remediation is the process of safely containing and removing mold from a space. This work must be carried out by experts who understand the necessary health and safety issues that come from the dangerous work of mold removal.
The process usually involves sealing off the area needing remediation. From there, the team will remove the mold. Most of the time, this is done through heat, which will eliminate all of the mold without damaging much of the space and items inside. Once the mold has been completely destroyed through this process, then the team will ensure that it is removed and anything needing replaced is noted and catalogued for future renovations. The team will likely also be able to point to the core issue that caused the mold growth and help you figure out a plan for preventing mold outbreaks in the future.
If you have a mold outbreak in your apartment building or condo complex, then you will need to call mold remediation experts immediately. The issue will only get worse with time, and it’s imperative that it be dealt with sooner rather than later. It’s the only way to ensure the mold growth doesn’t get worse and will restore the space back to safe and healthy levels.