Develop a Mold Prevention Plan

Black mold
Black mold

Mold - a health hazard

In the last ten years lawsuits due to toxic mold infestations in residences have exploded, most recently because of mold damage and injuries caused by defective wallboard imported from China. Mold infestations are a major problem because they cause structural damage that may require expensive repairs. But, more seriously, toxic molds cause human health problems, particularly in children, the elderly, and those with respiratory disease.

If you manage apartments, condominiums, college dormitories, resident hotels, nursing homes, or any other multi-tenant property your insurance company will likely have you develop a moisture and mold control to protect the health of your tenants and your building. An effective plan will provide guidelines on preventive maintenance, infestation investigation and response, and mold remediation procedures. This article identifies the various elements necessary for a mold prevention plan and guides you to useful resources so you can customize the plan to your property.

Identify responsibilities

Successful mold prevention depends on the joint efforts of the property manager, building maintenance staff, and residents. Ensure your plan spells out the various responsibilities of each individual.

Generally the property manager is responsible for general oversight and administration of plan policies, budgeting for maintenance and remediation, and tenant communication. Maintenance staff is usually responsible for inspection, preventive maintenance, investigation, and small remediation projects.

Written tenant agreements should make residents responsible for the immediate report of any water intrusion inside their units (flooding, leaks, condensation, mold growth) or suspected moisture problems, such as bad odors or high humidity. Tenants know their living areas best. Management must work with them to keep communications open.

Preventive maintenance program

Routine inspection of the building is a very important element of mold prevention. Your plan should describe the required, periodic inspections of common areas, basements, underground garages, utility closets, exterior foundations, drainage systems, and roofs. Also describe required HVAC equipment inspections, maintenance procedures, and filter change-out schedules. Explain who makes the inspections, how often are they made, what areas and equipment are checked, and how to respond if moisture intrusion is suspected.

Include a standard inspection checklist as an attachment to your plan and make inspectors document their findings on the form. This ensures consistency in the inspections and also provides evidence of your due diligence in pro-active preventive maintenance. This will help defend you if their is a lawsuit.

Improve your preventive maintenance program as well.  Your plan should Include preventive maintenance procedures for

  • General prevention measures
  • Indoor humidity controls
  • Proper housekeeping methods to discourage mold growth
  • Resident education programs that describes ways they can reduce water intrusion and mold growth in their units

Publications that describe effective preventive maintenance programs in detail are listed under Resources.

Investigation procedures

Establish an investigation procedure for suspected or reported moisture and mold intrusions. Elements to include in this section of your plan are procedures to report and document incidents, employee safety procedures while investigating reported incidents, and investigation follow up. Make reporting easy for tenants by giving them a form or phone number to use if they suspect water or mold intrusions.

Response and remediation
Response and remediation

Response procedures

Establish a procedure for responding to a reported water intrusion incident. Describe how incidents should be reported, who should respond, immediate action to take, and any follow up actions. Include as a plan attachment a list of pre-qualified remediation, drying, and restoration contractors that specialize in cleaning up after a water intrusion event.

Water remediation procedures

Describe procedures if remediation of water intrusion is necessary. Include guidelines on when professional contractors should be called in and when employees can handle the problem themselves. Also incorporate the four principle drying techniques and general guidance for water damage clean up. You can find these described in detail in the EPA document Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, listed under Resources.

Mold remediation procedures

Describe step-by-step procedures to manage the situation should a mold remediation project be necessary. These should include generally accepted industry guidelines so employees better understand the remediation process. Outline general procedures, remedial methods, safety precautions, required personal protection equipment, and resident communication plans. Also include a description of employee training that is required for maintenance staff who perform preventive maintenance, inspection, response, and remediation activities.

Develop a list of pre-qualified, licensed mold remediation contractors property managers can call if a mold remediation project is necessary.

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