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So you think you have mold?

Before contacting your landlord or property manager, its important to consider the three requirements in order for mold to develop. The last thing you would want is to mistake mold for something else and you end up getting charged for having a mold test done. Many landlords will react quickly when a tenant claims mold and most of the time, it turns out that it was something else leaving the tenant with a hefty bill.

Just like any other living organism, mold needs a food source. Essentially, mold is part of the decomposition process breaking down organic material. Hence, it feeds off of things such as wood, paper, fabrics, etc. It does not grow on grout, caulking, fiberglass, metals, or other man-made products that do not contain organic materials. If you have a black substance growing in your bath tub or shower, it is most likely mildew or bacteria which can easily be cleaned using a bathroom cleanser.

The second requirement for mold to develop is water and moisture which is why it is often associated with water leaks. Just like you need to drink water, mold needs moisture to survive. Without water, mold becomes dormant, and once it does the threat level drops close to zero.

Finally, mold needs oxygen. It can have food and water, but unless it can “breath,” it will not grow. Much like all living organisms, mold needs these three basic elements to survive. Before contacting your landlord, think twice and make sure you have all three elements before making that call. If you are unsure, you can always ask your landlord to send someone experienced with mold out to verify whether all three exist before requesting a mold test.

If a tenant moves into a property and there was black discoloration underneath the kitchen sink, along the baseboards in the bathroom, or in the downstairs ceiling below the master bath, this does not necessarily mean that the home has elevated levels of hazardous mold. If these spots developed from a previous leak which was repaired, its quite possible that if it were mold, it has reverted to a dormant state.

When mold is dormant, its not releasing spores into the air. Spores are like seeds and they attach themselves to various surfaces. In fact, you are exposed to mold right now. Its everywhere all the time. There are different types of mold and some are more likely affect you compared to than others. If its become dormant, then its not release spores into the air which is what causes you to have a reaction.

Now this does not mean that these discolorations should be ignored. A tenant should notify their landlord or property manager right away so they can look into these items as there is a possibility of a leak. If there is a leak, it should be fixed right away. In either case, the discolored surface should be treated or removed depending on the severity. A licensed professional should be contacted to perform any treatment to contaminated surfaces.


Tenants Guide to Mold Contamination and Exposure: Part 1 - by