Mold Hysteria!

There is a lot of hysteria about mold and I believe most of it is unfounded. Mold that causes reactions in some people does indeed exist. However most mold is totally harmless and is no danger. Sure it’s a bit gross, but gross and dangerous are two different things.

Basement bathrooms are a great environment for mold. The key is to A) take short showers as a general rule when you can B) always open the door wide and air out the bathroom for a full half hour or longer after bathing C) clean the walls and ceiling above the tub frequently and regularly—three or four times a month—with a biocide like Lysol or diluted bleach.

I take seriously any report or concern about mold. That said, despite the approximately 20 or so times since I’ve been doing this work when tenants have brought up a concern about mold, every single time except once there was no problem, rather the issue and solution was simply a need to step up houskeeping and cleaning practices. The time it wasn’t a housekeeping issue was when a hose spigot line burst in a wall. The tenant didn’t notice the dampness for a while because furniture blocked it. We put in a deeper shut off for the hose spigot to avoid future flooding and we remediated the drywall and etc. properly.

Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to a tenant recently who had a concern about mold. I will follow up with her as needed after I get more info from her.

“It’s good to be concerned for your health. So let’s investigate together so we can know 100% whether it’s ordinary, common, safe mold.

“Please tell me what you’ve done so far, and how frequently you’ve done it, to address the mold. Also please describe what happened if/when anyone had a reaction to the mold and how you know it was the mold versus some other influence.

“Please “reply to all” so all roommates are in the loop. I will come in person to see it if needed after I hear the answers to the query in the paragraph above. I ask that AT LEAST two of the roommates on the lease be in attendance. I can be very flexible on when, so you tell me when is good for you and most likely I can make it happen.”

Roommate Etiquette: Basic things to know about being a good roommate

I have a sheet I give all new tenants called “Basic Things All Renters Should Know” that helps explain things like how to reset a breaker or a garbage disposal. Since a lot of my tenants are new to living with roommates and new to being renters in general and they sometimes look to me for guidance, it could be helpful to log here my thoughts on how to be a good roommate.

Here are some basic things to know about being a good roommate:

– Do your share of the household cleaning and chores like taking out the trash and recycling.

Have a house meeting. Decide on a reasonable cleaning plan that is fair and to which everyone can agree. Then do what you promise to do when you promise to do it (cross reference this with “Being a Decent Human Being 101”).

– Pay your bills on time.

– Be respectful of your roommates’ needs for peace and quiet.

Communicate with each other and find out what each person’s needs will be for the duration of the lease. Respect all reasonable needs, or work out ones that don’t seem reasonable. And do this IN PERSON, not by using social media or email.

– Check with your roommates if you are planning to have people over or have a loud activity planned for any common space to make sure that it’s not happening at a bad time for them. If it is, then do not have the event. Be respectful of your roommates.

– If you have a significant other, you need to stay at their place as much as they stay at your place, and check with your roommates before starting a habit of having that person over regularly. Also before letting a significant other hang out at your apartment when none of the roommates are home check with your roommates to make sure they are comfortable with this.

– Do your share of chores!

– Make friends with your roommates, but give each other space. Smile, say “Hi” and be kind to one another, and to your neighbors.

The Sacredness of Security Deposit Money

I take very seriously my responsibility to be fair and reasonable about charges out of a security deposit.

One important document for a new tenancy that helps this effort is a “move-in condition report sheet.” At the start of a lease I meet the tenant at the property and we walk through together to document the condition. I show them how I would log issues in one room and then I leave the form with them to complete and turn in to me in a week after they’ve moved in.

I look over these documents very carefully to identify maintenance issues and I query the new tenants to get more information on issues they listed if I don’t understand. I make notes on the document and then I scan it and email it to the renter so that they can confirm my notes. Then this document sits in the lease file until they move, at which time it’s our guide for assessing whether any new damages exist.

Any time there are charges out of a security deposit I provide a receipt from the vendor who did the work. I never mark up any vendor bills—ever in any circumstance. The only time I would not provide an untampered-with, authentic invoice for actual charges taken out of a deposit is in the case when I pay new tenants to clean what the previous renters didn’t clean (which I do if there’s not a lot of cleaning to do, otherwise I hire a professional cleaner), or if I charge departed renters for standard things such as $5 for a light bulb, $5 for a key not returned, things like that.

Many renters have legitimate concerns that a given landlord or manager will take out unfair charges from their security deposit. I like to educate renters that Colorado has a law that states if a landlord retains any amount that is not justifiable, a tenant who wins in small claims court could be awarded triple the erroneously withheld amount as a remedy.

Water Heaters

Water Heaters!!Smiley_Logo

Most water heaters die right around 10 – 12 years. For properties with unusual water heaters, such as electric (vs. gas), I recommend pre-emptively replacing a water heater if it has the potential to do damage to units below or other areas if it were to leak. Most water heaters start leaking a little bit before they completely cease to function. Renters can be instructed to check on the water heater periodically, but it’s not a guarantee that they will notice a dying water heater in time before it starts leaking badly. Or becomes in urgent need of repair.

Renters expect not to be without hot water for more than a few days, so when replacement is needed it’s usually done in crisis and in a rush. That’s why I recommend foreseeing any challenges in getting a water heater on short notice and planning ahead.

In my experience for the last 13 years, tank water heaters rarely have issues during their lifespan. But when they do it can be a hassle. I recently had a 3 year old Frigidaire water heater that needed a new part. I called the company to order it and even though I had the model number of the unit they insisted that they also needed its serial number. So I had to go back to the house to get the info.

The next time a single family property I manage needs a new water heater I’m going to see if the client will consider a tankless water heater. They are smaller, and much much much more energy efficient.

Which brings me to a topic for a future blog: the conflict for a landlord in regard to spending money on energy-saving things because the tenants, not the landlord, reap the financial benefit of the improvement. So basically, I have to hope that my clients just want to be good world citizens. Here’s hoping : )