Is there Liability in your Workplace, with Rental Properties or are you Selling Real Estate with Mold?
Our fellow professionals from Wilmington, NC offer some valuable information regarding what workers, employers, property owners/renters, and real estate sales professionals should know about mold, duct cleaning, and real estate inspections.
By Allison Ballard
Wilmington-based Advanced Air Solutions has been making a name for itself for the air quality services it provides, ranging from heating and air conditioning services and crawl space renovations. There is another aspect of their work though; they would like to share with local business owners – Commercial Duct Cleaning and Preventative Mold Assessment.
"A lot of these HVAC systems do have some sort of dust or mold growing in them," said Lee Sweeley, general manager of Advanced Air Solutions. Right now, commercial work accounts for about 25 percent of their business, he said. But it has a large impact on the health of many people. When these systems are left untreated, the level of fungi, mold, and mildew can build up to unsafe levels that can instigate or irritate health conditions such as sinus problems, asthma and other respiratory issues."Basically there are coils that drip all summer long and that can lead to a moisture problem," he said. The National Health Institute says "mold can cause health problems. Inhaling or touching mold or spores may cause allergic reactions or fungal infections".
When businesses run their heating or air conditioning, the mold spores, as well as dust mites, fibers, dander and skin cells, are re-circulated throughout the building. A build-up of these irritants can impact the health of workers, visitors and customers. Reactions show up in the form of allergies, nausea, headaches, eye irritation, sinus problems and other respiratory issues.
The health of workers and tenants is an issue, he said, but it can also cause problems for employers and landlords in terms of future legal actions and loss of revenue through increased worker sick days, health insurance claims, poor morale, worker's compensation claims, and employee/ tenant mold lawsuits. Reports from the American Bar Association show there were more than 10,000 mold-related lawsuits filed in the country in the past 3 years and many were workman compensation claims as well as landlord liability. There is also liabilities for landlords with tenants and can create liability with Real Estate Agents . In one case noted in an article from the Chronicle Law firm on May 27, 2009 a moldy matter proves toxic to one North Carolina real estate firm:
"It happened in Berkeley County, North Carolina, in August of 2008. Prudential Carolina Real Estate was held liable because one of the firm's agents didn't disclose that certain properties she represented had toxic mold issues. The verdict wasn't huge, just $50,000 in actual damages and an additional $75,000 tacked on to the liability for punitive damages. But the residential property that the agent was selling did indeed have mold. The negligence on the part of the Prudential agent involved mold reports which were never provided to a couple who were buyers. Although the verdict went against the real estate agent, the original lawsuit had asked for $1.5 million in damages. The property in question was a single storefront (a house and store) valued at $110,000. Although it became a bike shop, the premises were discovered to harbor black mold. The issue became whether the property had been purchased "as is" with the Prudential saleswoman asserting that the mold's presence had already been known by the plaintiffs, or whether the black mold had never been disclosed. One plaintiff remarked, "She knew about the mold problem and didn't tell us." Sweeley stated "We help real estate agents everyday prevent loss of sales and liability issues while also reducing landlord liability for rental properties by doing free inspections for problems in the air ducts, HVAC systems, and mold underneath the homes.
At Advanced Air, the Air-duct cleaning service uses a vacuum under negative pressure to remove pollutants and debris from the HVAC system. "We also sanitize the system with EPA approved, green sanitizing agents to kill mold and help prevent future mold growth," he said.
The sanitizing agent, called Envirocon, is safe for children and pets, requires no evacuation and has six months of bacteriostatic properties. It is also effective against flu viruses. Electrostatic air filters and air purifiers safely clean the air and UV light air purification kills bacteria, viruses and mold as they pass through the HVAC system. (This step is one recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Sweeley added, "their management team has more than 100 years of combined experience in building and complex project management."