Mold is an incredibly sensitive subject when it comes to multifamily and should not be ignored. The reality is untreated moisture can become a much larger issue. A simple water leak can turn into a full-blown mold crisis in less than 48 hours if not properly handled. And, all mildew needs is a little warmth and moisture to fuel its growth and quickly spread. Mold can spread by producing spores that travel through the environment and land on other surfaces. These spores can travel through doors, windows, HVAC systems, and even on people and pets.
The key to stopping mold in its tracks is cutting off the source of the water damage as quickly as possible. Train your staff and residents to promptly report even seemingly minor mold or moisture issues located anywhere on the property. Dealing with small issues swiftly can prevent emergency situations altogether.
Below are five easy steps you can take now to help prevent moisture and organic growth. Strategic planning is crucial. By creating a properly thought-out mold and moisture (M&M) plan, you will be better equipped to address mold and moisture concerns in a timely manner, saving your residents from health concerns and you from costly repairs.
1) Train Your Staff on Mold Protocol
The entire staff should be a part of your strategic M&M plan. Don’t limit your training to only maintenance employees. Make sure everyone working at your property knows how to recognize moisture and mold issues and understands the urgency of responding as quickly as possible.
When a moisture issue is reported, conduct a water intrusion inspection right away to find out where the water is coming from. Mold typically grows within 24-48 hours of a water incident, which is why having a sense of urgency around water issues is key.
Units that sit empty for an extended amount of time or have been recently remodeled are prime candidates for organic growth simply because they are not observed daily. Your staff or a hired professional should continue to perform in-depth inspections of empty units, including checking the plumbing system, air conditioning equipment, ventilation, sprinkler systems, roofing and gutters, undersides of carpets and pads, and plumbing fixtures and appliances on a regular basis.
All staff should also be trained on how to appropriately address mold concerns from residents without stirring up fear or panic. Effective communication with residents is essential during the remediation process.
2) Educate Your Residents About Mold and Moisture
Properties that don’t treat moisture issues as a priority are not only putting their residents’ health at risk, but leaving their bottom line exposed to costly litigation. Dealing with moisture problems efficiently and effectively will also minimize the loss of revenue from having inventory offline during the remediation process.
Preventing mold growth requires everyone’s involvement, not just your maintenance and management teams. Residents can prove to be strong allies when it comes to mold and mildew prevention. By building moisture education into the move-in process, residents will have a better sense of what to look for and how to report any issues they find.
To help prevent mold and moisture, residents should be educated to:
- Report water leaks and flooding immediately
- Report any sightings of mold in their residence immediately
- Ensure indoor humidity levels be kept at 50 percent or lower
- Follow temperature and moisture guidelines:
- Keep the temperature in their homes between 60° and 80° Fahrenheit
- Use ceiling fans to circulate air in the home
- Keep windows closed during damp or rainy days, and open windows during dry weather
- Encourage exhaust fan use in kitchen, bathroom and laundry areas
- Keep their residence clean
- Follow proper washer connection guidelines at move-in
Make sure you tailor your education to best suit your residents. For communities that house residents such as students or seniors, be sure to provide extra clarity so residents know what to look for and when to report issues.
3) Select a Trusted Provider in Advance
The last thing you want when dealing with a water or mold emergency is having to scramble to find a provider. Choosing a professionally trained provider ahead of time is essential for efficiently dealing with problems that may arise. Make sure you establish an agreement with a professional restoration contractor in advance, so you know exactly who to call in an emergency.
Untrained workers typically don’t have the technology or know-how to properly assess the full scope of water damage or the skills to fully mitigate damages. This can significantly increase the amount of time and money spent on the remediation project. You’ll also want to be sure you know your state’s requirements on contractors and whether they are required to be licensed to perform work.
When choosing a restoration provider, evaluate your options with questions like these:
- Is the contractor available 24/7?
- Is the contractor licensed to perform the work?
- What is the average response time on weekends and after hours?
- How many certified crew members does the contractor employ?
- What equipment does the contractor own?
- What levels of liability insurance does the contractor maintain?
- How does the contractor establish fees for projects?
- Are client references available?
- Does the contractor have experience working with insurance providers and are they familiar with insurance protocols?
- Is the contractor familiar with state guidelines and codes?
When working with a professional restoration provider like FIRST ONSITE on a water loss or mold remediation project, here are some things to keep in mind:
Describe your situation: Be prepared to adequately describe the situation your team uncovered to your provider over the phone. Communicate the details including source of water, time frame, and any whether there are visible signs of mold spotted.
Follow instructions: Your restoration provider should have extensive experience in mold and moisture remediation. In some circumstances it may be necessary for your restoration provider to request a written protocol from an industrial hygienist or other qualified indoor air quality professional to follow in conducting the remediation. Follow their instructions and be as cooperative as possible to ensure the process runs smoothly.
Review progress daily: The best contractors will tell you exactly what needs to happen and when you can expect the job to be done. Hold them to their promises. Ask for daily progress reports that covers actions taken and next steps as well as photo documentation. Make sure someone from your team visits the work area frequently.
Document the process: Be sure to keep detailed accounts of every step of the remediation process for insurance purposes and in case of legal challenges. In your documentation include steps taken by your management team, reports from your restoration provider, and photos of the process.
4) Do Not Skip Regular Inspections
It is incredibly important to have regular inspections, not only for residents but also to protect against lawsuits or support insurance claims. During this process, it’s important to collect photo documentation and prepare reports. Reports should include regular inspection of humidity. Inspections help to show, in good faith, that you took the precautions needed to prevent and address any moisture or mold issues. Inspections by hired professionals is important because they can take photos and document these measures. Make sure to timestamp any photos to show progression of the issue and/or remediation. The inspection can make the difference between whether you win or lose a case based on resident’s claims. Take every precaution necessary to avoid having to pay out a multi-million-dollar settlement. Protect your residents and yourself by performing regular inspections.
5) Activate Your Mold and Moisture Protocol
Once you have determined you have a water or moisture problem, it is important to evaluate the situation quickly. You must consider the potential revenue loss if the affected unit needs to be vacated while repairs are made. However, keep in mind that cutting corners will only end up costing you more in the long run. Remediation of the moisture and mold need to be addressed in the first attempt because additional attempts at remediation in the future will be costly. Only a thorough inspection with professional equipment from a trained restoration provider will determine if there is mold and moisture lurking out of sight.
The following are the most crucial steps when activating your protocol and should be included in your M&M Plan:
- Act immediately
- Isolate contaminated areas
- Relocate residents
- Protect anyone on site with proper gear
- Call in your team of specialists
- Document and take photos
- Schedule remediation and repairs
- Ensure remediation meets EPA guidelines
- Implement cleaning protocols from remediation specialists
- Use fans and dehumidifiers as recommended by specialists
- Test to ensure issue has been addressed
- Continuously follow up to ensure future safety
Get Started Creating Your Mold and Moisture Plan Today
By following these steps, you will have a clear and concise plan to prepare you for dealing with a moisture issue of any size, saving you time and money when disaster strikes. Contact our team of specialists should you need assistance creating a plan for your property or should you have water damage or mold concerns.