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Posted at 05:30 AM ET, 10/08/2012

Ask the real estate expert | What to do about mold?

We’re always getting questions here at The Washington Post Real Estate section about the Washington area housing market, and sometimes, we don’t have the answers. Fortunately for us, we know who to call.

Since many of you have the same questions, we thought it might be useful to pose a question from a reader to an expert and print the response here. If you have a question you’d like answered, please e-mail us at realestate@washpost.com.

This week, we have a reader who has a problem with mold in his condominium.

There is severe mold in my condominium. In a period of three days it destroyed my kitchen and bathroom. The mold is white, red, blue and black.

The property manager brought a “mold inspector” to evaluate the situation.  He took no samples for evaluation. He said it was just rust.

The severity of the mold began when the unit above me had the bath and kitchen remodeled.

They have demolished two buildings here. I talked to the property manager. He told me it was due to water damage because the roof was built incorrectly. And he is correct. Water gets inside the walls. That is where the mold grows.

I understand HVAC. I’m an engineer. There is no separation on the ventilation between units.  So the mold spreads like wildfire.

I’ve called the city, county, state and the EPA.  Nobody would do an inspection. Fairfax County said they did mold inspection but they stopped three years ago.

I love blue cheese. It’s full of mold. I don’t like it when mold destroys my home because of a bad roof.

— A.G.

 We asked our columnist Harvey Jacobs, a real estate lawyer in the Rockville office of Joseph, Greenwald and Laake who has written about mold in the past, to suggest some options for our homeowner:

The “mold” inspection” you described as having been conducted by your property manager does not appear to have been anything of the sort. Mold inspections always require the sampling of mold spores as well as air quality testing. The samples need to be sent out to a lab for analysis and take a week or two to be conclusive. 

In Virginia, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation recently de-regulated home improvement contractors who conduct mold inspections and remediation and thus will be of no help whatsoever.  Their Web site, www.dopr.virginia.com, merely provides links to the federal EPA information guide on how renters can clean up residential mold problems. They suggest that if the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet, in most cases, the EPA advises you can handle the job yourself by following these guidelines.

There are about half a dozen industry groups that regulate, certify and accredit mold remediation businesses. One organization is the American Council for Accredited Certification, formerly known as the American Indoor Air Quality Association. It certifies mold remediation specialists and maintains a nationwide database of certificants. The Indoor Air Quality Association sets industry standards for mold and other environmental remediation. These organizations should be the starting point for anyone in need of a mold remediation contractor.

If your results turn out to be mold, send those results to property manager and all members of the condo board. Request that this issue be brought before the board at its next regular meeting or even call a special emergency meeting for sole purpose of addressing the mold problem.

Document all communications to and from all parties. Insist that condo board contract with accredited mold remediation company to remedy the moisture and then mold issues. It is also prudent to have all ductwork professionally cleaned as well. It’s a good idea to notify all condo owners to attend this meeting whether they are directly impacted or not.

You also may want to insist that the condo board notify its insurance carrier to file a claim to pay for the damages and remediation. A public adjuster is likely a good idea as well if there is any “pushback” from the property manager or condo board. If reports do show mold at unhealthy levels and board refuses to act, you may need to sue the board, property manager and insurance carrier to get their attention.

By  |  05:30 AM ET, 10/08/2012

 
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