The presence of mold in your rental home can be anything from a nuisance to a large health hazard. While not all mold is hazardous, the more that any mold is allowed to grow, the more it risks damaging your property and disrupts the clean air you used to have in your rental.
If you have noticed mold growing in your rental home in the past, whether you are a tenant or a landlord, it’s important to understand a landlord’s responsibility for mold before addressing the problem. Once any mold has been removed, this guide to help you learn about the options you have when it comes to preventing future mold in your rental.
WHERE DOES MOLD GROW?
The first thing you must confirm is where mold grows or thrives in your rental. Understanding this makes it easier for you to direct the mold prevention actions to those areas.
Mold grows for many reasons, including excess moisture and inappropriate heating in the home.
That said, here are some of the places you should look for mold in your home:
- Mold grows on clothes that weren’t properly rinsed.
- Left-over foods can attract mold.
- Mold can grow in parts of the home or apartment that are susceptible to ventilation and moisture issues.
HOW CAN I PREVENT MOLD IN MY HOME?
Learning to prevent mold may seem challenging, but thankfully it’s not rocket science. Moisture is one of the major causes of mold growth in the home. Whether you rent or own a rental property, these helpful tips will help you prevent mold in the rental.
TENANTS CAN PREVENT MOLD IN THE RENTAL HOME BY REDUCING MOISTURE:
Renters should keep this have this in mind throughout daily life. If you are a renter, ensure that your health, security deposit, and your belongings are protected by preventing mold-inducing moisture within the rental. Unconsciously, renters can aid mold growth through simple acts like leaving wet clothes on furniture, leaving the windows open on humid days, not using exhaust fans in bathrooms or kitchens. Here are some easy habits renters must get into to prevent mold in the rental.
Keep Doors Closed
The truth is that leaving your doors open will do more harm than good. The reason is that moisture can travel from the major concentrated spot to the other unaffected parts of the home when the door is open. These instances are examples of why you need to start shutting your doors more often:
- Shut the doors of your kitchen when cooking because the excess moisture in the room (kitchen) tends to escape and travel into other parts of your home.
- Consider shutting your bathroom door when bathing so the excess moisture generated from your bath will be confined (allowing the moisture to be reduced by the exhaust fan).
Take Care of Your Bathroom
You already know that your bathroom is one of the top zones for excess moisture. Take care of your bathroom so you will prevent mold from growing.
- Vent out Moisture when Bathing: It is no news that excess moisture is present when you are bathing. Vent that moisture out. If you do not currently have a fan in your bathroom, the best bet on venting out moisture when bathing is to open a window if the weather allows.
- Wipe Your Bathroom Walls: Moisture can build up in the walls of your bathroom. The potential causes are soap studs and water from your body that splash on the walls. A good rule of thumb is to wipe down the walls of your bathroom and tub after your shower or bath. Doing that helps in wiping off the moisture that might be sitting on the walls of your bathroom.
Keep Away Wet Clothes
When you fail to fully dry your clothes after washing, you will be indirectly inviting mold. The same happens when leave dirty and damp clothes or towels inside your room.
- Wash and dry damp items immediately, don’t allow them to settle in your hamper or the floor.
- Whenever possible, avoid air-drying clothes indoors. In areas where there is little or no ventilation to facilitate proper circulation, air-drying clothes could trigger mold growth when the moisture evaporates and settles on the ceiling.
LANDLORDS HAVE MANY TOOLS THEY CAN UTILIZE TO REDUCE HUMIDITY AND PREVENT MOLD IN THE RENTAL:
Landlords may not be able to improve their tenants’ daily habits, but you do have many options to select from when it comes to reducing humidity in your home as a way of preventing mold from growing. These tricks can be useful to ensure that mold does not grow with your rental.
USE A DEHUMIDIFIER
A dehumidifier is an excellent solution to moisture problems. These units serve to drastically reduce the humidity levels in a room. Be sure to install a dehumidifier after you must have sought the professional advice of your local home appliance supplier to find the best unit for your needs.
INSTALL A HYGROMETER
Changes in temperature within a building are easy to sense- there’s no doubt you know when your body becomes colder. However, you may not know if the humidity levels are increasing or not. That is why you must install a hygrometer to help you with that function. A hygrometer is a device that keeps tabs and deciphers the humidity levels in your home. With the installation, it becomes easier for you to know when the humidity levels are increasing.
According to the EPA, mold can grow if humidity levels are not kept below 60 percent, and your ideal humidity range is between 30 percent and 50 percent. Ensuring proper humidity levels can also serve to discourage pests like cockroaches and dust mites. Keep an eye on your installed hygrometer to know when it gets to that point.
CONSIDER INSTALLING EXHAUST FANS
Kitchens and bathrooms are veritable hot spots for mold to grow. Excess moisture thrives there, especially when occupants are cooking or bathing.
Since the risks of mold growth in the kitchen are high, ensure that cooking spaces are equipped with exhaust fans. Installing kitchen hoods will also be ideal, as they help to suck up moisture and grease when you are cooking. Similarly, ensure that you have adequate exhaust fans in bathrooms to ensure that your tenants’ morning showers aren’t doing permanent damage to the rental by causing mold growth.
DETECT LEAKS QUICKLY AND CHECK FOR LEAKS DURING INSPECTIONS
If you have detected excess moisture in the rental home – it makes sense to check for leaks in your kitchen or bathrooms. Household appliances might be leaking without your (or your tenant’s) knowledge. When that happens, excess moisture will settle in the walls and flooring or pool around the leak. This causes expensive damage to the unit and serves as an excellent catalyst for mold and mildew growth.
Unfortunately for landlords, it is only when you figure out when leaks are occurring that you will find the best way to address the excess moisture. While your tenants are likely to notice and report a large leak from a burst pipe, they may not be aware of the significance of a steady drip under the kitchen sink. Regular inspections can be vital for this reason, be sure to regularly check for leaks, and remind your tenants to submit a maintenance request whenever they notice even a small leak occurring. In addition to regular inspections, you can install a smart leak detector to get regular updates if there is a leak.
Here are some common spots where undetected leaks can occur:
- Check under sinks and dishwashers
- Beneath the radiators or heat pumps
- Check around washing machine and toilet
Mold can be a costly problem for your health and your pocketbook. Preventing mold in your rental home is a matter of knowing what to do – a few helpful habits can go a long way to ensuring that your rental is mold-free. Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, you are now in a better position to put down your foot and stop mold growth in your rental.
Keep Safe & Rockin
HOW TO DOCUMENT YOUR BELONGINGS FOR RENTERS INSURANCE
By now, many responsible tenants know the importance of renters insurance.
Policies can save renters thousands in the event of damages caused by personal negligence or unforeseeable threats to the property. Knowing that you have the right renters insurance policy can offer you a great deal of peace of mind, and will allow your landlord to rest easy knowing his property is fully protected in the event of an accident for which you are financially responsible.
However, having the proper renters insurance policy is only half the battle. The other half is knowing what you will need in order to file a claim on your renters insurance policy. This starts with having prepared an inventory of your belongings.
CREATE A COMPREHENSIVE INVENTORY OF YOUR THINGS
Your policy’s effectiveness is largely based on how well you have documented what you own. It’s not enough to simply take out a policy and forget about it the next day. Instead, you need to create a list of your household belongings–most especially those of a higher dollar value. Naturally, this list needs to be kept in an off-site secure location since it will not be useful to you if the list was damaged in the event that is causing you to make a claim.
Thankfully, in the days of mobile apps and cloud services like Google docs, this process has become a lot more streamlined than when you had to handwrite a list and invest in a safe deposit box. Apps like Sortly, Encircle, and iKeepM all can be useful in tracking your stuff to ensure you can file a claim easily in the future. Some insurer websites also provide free inventory services, so be sure to check with your renters insurance provider.
DOCUMENT THE DETAILS OF YOUR ITEMS:
While a comprehensive list is vital, it is not all that your insurance provider may require when responding to a claim. Many times, an insurance company or other parties will ask for supporting documentation above and beyond your inventory list. This is especially important in cases of theft since police reports and your insurance claim can rely heavily on properly documented serial numbers.
Take photographs of any of your items that possess serial numbers, or simply write the numbers down next to the item on your lists. One good rule of thumb is to always keep shopping receipts for valuable items. If you don’t want to store all of these little papers, simply take a photograph of the documents or use a receipt storage application for easy future reference. Be proactive in documenting the value of your items.
TAKE VIDEOS AND UPDATE YOUR LISTS:
As life goes on, your belongings will change. Things you once owned will wear out and some will be tossed, donated or sold. Likewise, you will acquire more items–and over time–often will acquire more quality replacements of those past belongings. This means you should be continually updating your inventory of items (once or twice a year is ideal), and should also consider a yearly video documenting the things in your home to ensure there are items that you did not miss.
Should a fire, robbery or other claim-creating situation occur, you will be able to easily reference the video and ensure that you are not forgetting what items you had at the time. During this process, it is also a good idea to compare your new list of items (and their respective replacement values) with your current renters insurance coverage.
Chances are, the policy you took out when getting your first apartment in college will not cover all of the higher-dollar-value items that you may have acquired as a working adult in your latest rental. To ensure that you will not be stuck in the lurch if a disaster strikes, reevaluate your coverage yearly and look into your provider’s policies regarding items that may appreciate in value (like heirloom jewelry or a coin collection) as these items may need an additional insurance rider in order to be fully covered.
Having renters insurance is one of the markers of a responsible tenant, and can hint at the qualities landlords look for in a tenant. And while you may know the many benefits of renters insurance, and may even know that coverage is often cheaper than most renters think, it can be easy to feel that having a policy of any kind will ensure that you are properly covered. In the end, however, keeping an inventory of your items and matching your policy to your current lifestyle is key to guarantee that your items will be covered the way that you expect.
THE REAL COST OF LYING TO YOUR LANDLORD
You may have heard the parental admonishment “my house, my rules” at one time in our life, and when you’re renting, there’s no doubt this phrase can still apply in some sense. Thankfully, as adults, it is a much more understandable concept to swallow than it may have been at 15-years-old.
A good tenant remembers that while the home or apartment they are leasing is their living space, in the end, your landlord is entrusting you with their property. It is imperative to be mindful of that fact.
Whether it’s a seemingly small fib or a knowingly bald-faced lie, lying to your landlord can have significant consequences. Failing to follow every last detail on the lease agreement may seem innocuous, but it could have lasting damage—to your relationship with your landlord and to your pocketbook.
THE LIE: LATE RENT
Telling your landlord that “the check is in the mail” may roll off the tongue, and a ‘white lie’ might seem prudent, at the time, but as they say “honesty is the best policy.” If you caught a gruesome flu that kept you home sick, and you know that your paycheck will be short, it might be tempting to wait it out—and hope your landlord doesn’t notice that your rent is overdue—or simply tell them that the check is on its way.
The Cost: Rental fees can add up, and can eventually land you in hot water. If you are consistently failing to pay on time, it can even result in eviction. Not to mention, even a first-time-fib can undermine your landlord’s trust, and ensure tension down the road. Rather than waiting for your landlord to call, and falsely replying that the check is in the mail, be proactive and contact your landlord as soon as possible. If he or she has advance notice, you might have given them the ability to arrange their finances accordingly. They may be willing to grant you some grace by waiving the late fee, or allowing you to pay this month’s rent in increments.
Find out more about what to do if you can’t pay rent on time. A good rapport and a past history of on-time payments will greatly work in your favor if you ever run across an instance like this.
THE LIE: PETS
Hiding a pet may seem simple in the moment, but it could cost you more than just an unpleasant conversation with your landlord. If your co-worker has puppies for sale, think before you stock up on puppy chow.
The Cost: Animals can cost untold damages to property – untrained dogs can chew carpet, animal accidents can be nearly impossible to fully remove, and pets can bring in fleas and other pests requiring extermination. If you chose to hide a pet, you can be liable not only financially, (requiring that you pay fees and/or forfeit your deposit) but you can even be evicted for breaking the lease.
If you already have a pet you can’t live without, look for a pet-friendly rental from the start. If you recently found that you would like a pet, speak to your landlord before taking any action. If you have proved to be a responsible occupant throughout your tenancy, your landlord might find it as simple as adding a pet deposit to your current lease. If not, stick to the truth and live by your rental agreement.
THE LIE: SUBLETS
Hiding roommates or unapproved subletting can also put you in just as great a risk. While it may just seem like a formality, landlords have a specific vetting process for before agreeing to tenant residency, and allowing a friend or significant other to bypass that without your landlord’s knowledge can set you up for trouble.
The Cost: If your friend goes from a part-time invitee to a full-time roommate without your landlord’s knowledge or consent, you risk breaking the rental agreement, and forfeiting your security deposit. If your name is on the lease, and your roommate causes damages, you could even be setting yourself up for a potential lawsuit. If you and your best friend or significant other decide you are ready to room together, make sure you have formal consent from your landlord before allowing them to stay long-term.
It might seem easier to tell a lie at the moment, but clearly, it is best to remain honest throughout your tenancy. A good tenant-landlord relationship goes a long way, and having a great referral ready for your next rental is indispensable. Lying just isn’t worth the short-term stress, or the long-term cost.
Norbert G. Huston, Broker/Realtor
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A RENTAL PROPERTY
If you’re considering entering the rental game and adding “landlord” to your title, then you’ll want to educate yourself on the various pros and cons of this business endeavor. Becoming a quality landlord as well as a successful one who actually sees a return on their investment, takes quite a deal of patience, effort, and savviness. Avoid mistakes when purchasing a rental property that may end up costing you more than you bargained for. Turn to these tips of what to look for when buying a property to help give you an advantage when shopping around.
DON’T: LOOK FOR A FIXER-UPPER
All of those popular home improvement reality shows make buying a rundown home look so glamorous and fun. Beware of signs that the fixer-upper you’re being shown is a mistake. Buying a fixer-upper may be cheap in the beginning, but transforming it into a gorgeous and livable home isn’t a project for the inexperienced. Unless you’re particularly blessed with an ability to perfectly execute large scale home improvement projects, you’re going to need to rely on professionals, which will add up and gradually deplete the value of your return.
DO: LOOK FOR A HOUSE WITH MINIMAL REPAIRS
This type of house may be more than your traditional fixer-upper, but you won’t have to worry about investing in a handful of expensive repairs. If the property needs some tlc, look for a home that is priced under the average market price to still feel as though you’re getting a deal with your investment.
DON’T: LOOK WITHOUT CONSIDERING LOCATION
Even if you find the perfect house to invest in- it’s affordable, below market price, has minimal issues- you could be left struggling to fill it with tenants if it’s located in an undesirable location. No matter the amount of effort that you put into a home, if the house itself is far away from the majority of jobs or has a considerable drive to major grocery and department stores, then it may be seen as too much of a hassle for those looking to move in.
DO: LOOK FOR A PROPERTY IN HIGH-TRAFFIC AREAS
Buying and renovating a rental property within an area that has a thriving rental market will increase your chances of receiving a large return on your investment. Purchasing a property within this type of area will provide an advantage, as most people flocking to this location are looking for rentals. Additionally, choosing an area that caters to a renter demographic may also give you an edge. Young professionals, those with travel heavy occupations, or those needing a place close to a college or university are in the market for rentals specifically.
DON’T: SETTLE WITHOUT INVESTIGATING “MINOR” DAMAGES
If the property you’re looking at requires minor repairs to pipes or needs a simple water heater replacement, calling in a plumbing professional will have this issue fixed in no time. However, don’t take the “minor” issue at face value. If there are detected leaks in the house, there may be potential water damage that can be much more serious, time-consuming in its repair, and especially costly.
DON’T: FORGET TO CHECK GUTTERS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
If the gutters were not maintained throughout the winter, your rental property could be (or already has been!) the potential victim of flooding. Check gutters to see if there are any signs of cracks or severe dents caused by harsh weather and ice. Survey the base of the house for any cracks that may allow flooding brought on by damaged gutters to pool up and seep into the foundation of the home.
DO: VISIT THE HOUSE DURING AND AFTER RAIN
If you do see cracks in the gutters or base of the home, be sure to visit the house during or after moderate to heavy rain to check if flooding occurs. This can additionally help you gauge if there may be water damage within the infrastructure or basement that is worth investigating further. This is especially important if the property has a finished basement, as potentially dangerous substances like asbestos may have been used in tiling or ceiling insulations. Water damage can cause asbestos to become airborne, which can be a liability as a landlord should a tenant become sick. Inquire about the timeframe in which the house was built- older homes constructed before the mid-eighties are most likely to have asbestos present. Age may be helpful in identifying if this may be an issue!
DON’T: OVERLOOK COSMETICS
If the house is in a great location, doesn’t require major repairs, and you can get an awesome price for it, don’t assume that this means you’ve hit the jackpot with the perfect rental property. If the house looks outdated, the yard itself is dingey, and the inside needs some updates, potential renters might be less likely to pay a price that will help you see a return.
DO: LOOK FOR A PROPERTY WITH SMALL BLEMISHES
Look for a property with cosmetic faults that can be easily updated, especially on your own. Houses that have one or two rooms with old, worn out wallpaper can be taken down and repainted within a single weekend, and at little cost to you. Use DIY tips to redo kitchen cabinets that are outdated but in good shape, such as repainting, installing new pulls and knobs, or putting on a fresh, modern cabinet door.
Although there is a long list of things to keep in mind when searching for your rental property, don’t be deterred from making this investment. Having a rental property may be similar to running a small business but it is entirely possible to be wildly successful in your endeavor. Taking your time while searching for the perfect rental property, and being mindful of some simple dos and don’ts will have you on your way to being a great landlord.
Effective September 1, 2019, weekends and court holidays will no longer count in calculating the time periods for the following tenant notices in California:
- Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
- Notice to Perform Covenant (Cure) or Quit
- The five-day period in which a tenant has for filing an answer to an unlawful detainer summons
Starting on September 1st the three days must exclude weekends and court holidays. For example, under the current law, a tenant who is given a three-day notice to pay rent or quit on a Friday would be required to pay by Monday. Under the law effective September 1st, Saturday and Sunday would not be counted towards the three days, so the tenant would have until Wednesday to pay.
The new law also applies to the five-day period that tenants have to respond to service of an unlawful detainer summons and complaint. A tenant served with an unlawful detainer summons will now have five days excluding weekends and holidays to respond. The law does not impact the notice periods for 30 or 60-day termination notices, or notices based on uncurable breaches such as illegal use, unauthorized subletting, nuisance or waste.
Norbert G. Huston, Broker/Realtor