In 2016, residents at a condominium in Toronto’s Fort York Boulevard had found black mold in some areas of the building, including the building’s gym, mailroom and security desk. Although the condo management cordoned those areas off, some tenants had still opted to move out.
Not only is mold a potentially hazardous substance, but a mold outbreak – especially a large one – is certain to cause substantial damage and, in turn, very high repair costs. In addition, because it’s a health-risk, there are strict labour laws and regulations surrounding how it can be removed, making mold abatement a complicated issue as well.
The best way to deal with mold is to prevent a mold outbreak from actually occurring, especially in a condominium where high building standards – including health and cleanliness – are key to attracting and keeping tenants and homeowners.
What is Mold?
Mold (also spelled as mould) is a common type of fungi in natural places, such as forests. It’s a very important for our natural ecology, but a major problem for human-made environments such as homes and buildings, often causing severe damage and health issues.
Why is Mold in Condo Units Bad?
Mold typically enters our spaces through spores, which can accompany animals or flow through the air or water (via leaks or floods). Mold is a problem because once it infects an area, such as drywall, it causes both damage and health problems, such as respiratory issues (among others).
For condominiums, a mold outbreak is bad news.
First, a mold infection – especially a large one – will generally require high repair costs, which will be felt by homeowners in their condominium fees.
Second, the health problems of mold – which can also include severe irritation, headaches and worsening of asthma – will reduce the quality-of-life for your tenants, which can lead to a whole host of problems such as complaints, loss of sales/rent and possibly even legal troubles.
The starting point for all condominium owners or building managers should be preventing mold outbreaks from occurring in the first place.
Warning Signs of a Condo Mold Outbreak
You can get started with preventing a mold infection right away by closely studying the following issues in your condominium. In fact, these are the leading warning signs of a mold outbreak.
Leaks & Water Damage
In general, the leading cause for a mold outbreak is a high moisture level. In fact, common mold outbreaks typically occur in moist and damp areas such as bathrooms, kitchens and basements. These are the areas in your condominium where water damage are the likeliest to occur.
Be it from plumbing problems or rain leaks, internal flooding is a major risk to a mold infection. In fact, because the moisture levels in such scenarios is so high, a mold infection can begin as early as 48 to 72 hours, making it an immediate threat.
When it comes to elevated moisture levels or risk of water damage, it’s important to first inspect your condo’s structural properties. In general, rainwater can only leak into your building if there are serious flaws in the building’s design. No amount of mold abatement will solve such issues, you need to handle them directly as part of a prevention strategy.
Daily Tenant Usage
If not for external factors (such as leaks and rainwater), then elevated moisture levels can also occur through daily tenant usage. You could have tenants that shower frequently (e.g. multiple times a day), and that heavy shower usage results in high moisture levels. If your tenants aren’t ventilation moisture out of the bathroom properly, then those areas are at risk of mold infections.
Check for Discolouration & Odour
If you suspect a mold outbreak, it’s vital to take immediate steps to find it – you might be able to contain and prevent it from becoming a large abatement project. In this case, closely examine vulnerable areas for discolouration and a musty or earthy smell.
Wet & Humid Areas
Areas involving water and elevated moisture levels are at most risk to mold outbreaks. Besides kitchens and bathrooms in individual units, you should closely monitor common amenities such as the gym, swimming pool, party room kitchen and common bathrooms.
Tenant Health Issues
Though not preventative, tenant complaints about health issues involving breathing and irritation to the skin, eyes and nose are strong signs for a potential mold outbreak. Children are at a high risk of exhibiting these symptoms as a result of mold.
You should incorporate the risk of mold infections into your building’s management process, i.e. with an emphasis on prevention. In fact, prevention is the only defence against a mold outbreak.
The following practices will help drastically reduce the probability of mold in your condominium:
Controlling Moisture as a Building
Of the causes behind mold outbreaks, the only area building managers and homeowners can realistically control is moisture. Basically, mold growth depends on nutrients and moisture – by cutting down the latter, we can stop mold from growing.
As the building manager, you should monitor your property’s overall moisture levels, ensure that your plumbing system is not at risk of leaks and that water is not intruding through the structure.
Tenants Keeping Areas Dry
Like building management, condominium tenants and homeowners have responsibilities too. It starts with ensuring that their areas are kept dry and with minimal moisture. Tenants can do this via strong cleaning practices, such as keeping bathrooms and kitchens as dry as possible while regularly using exhaust fans and dehumidifiers.
Professional Mold Remediation
If you have a mold outbreak on your hands, then you should get the affected area surveyed by a professional environmental contractor to determine the scope of your mold abatement work. For example, a Level 2 or Level 3 mold removal job will require you to abide by provincial health and safety regulations as part of the abatement process.
If you or a tenant suspect that there’s a mold infection in your condominium, then you start your process of removing it by first contacting an environmental contractor to determine the extent of the problem and provide tangible next-steps to safety and fully remove it.