Mold in Bathroom
October 23, 2008 6:22 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my landlord to deal with the mold in my bathroom without compromising my living situation?

There is mold growing on the ceiling and walls of my bathroom. We have bleached and scrubbed it, but it comes back very quickly, so it must be in the walls. The problem is that we are renters and our landlord is a bit absentee. After eleven months of us heckling her, she finally got a fan put in, but doesn't seem to care about the mold. She has promised us some magical spray (that the Home Depot people told her about) but has not followed through despite nearly a year of promises.

We know that we can call the health inspector, but we are really reluctant to compromise our living situation. We have a pretty nice house for a price we could not match anywhere in town - even apartments often cost more than our whole house. Our second lease runs out in April and we'd like to live here for two more years after that.

How can we a) get out landlord to take us seriously without making her not want to sign another lease with us and/or b) identify and get rid of the mold ourselves if necessary?

None of us think we have been getting sick any more than usual, so it's possible the mold is benign, but it's gross.
posted by arcticwoman to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We have a pretty nice house for a price we could not match anywhere in town - even apartments often cost more than our whole house. Our second lease runs out in April and we'd like to live here for two more years after that.

I know that your landlord is legally responsible for dealing with this... but if your deal is seriously this good, and there aren't other major issues with the house, I would just pay out of pocket to have a professional take a look. If it's a cheap fix, then fix it. If it turns out there is an extensive (and expensive) problem, then you can report back to her exactly what it is and that it's damaging her property and the longer it goes unfixed the more expensive it will be (that phrase always gets my landlord moving).
posted by kimdog at 6:34 AM on October 23, 2008

I'd ask Home Depot about whatever spray they might have. If it's just a spray it can't be that expensive.

I had this problem in a wall in an apartment in Vancouver over 10 years ago. It, like yours, seemed obviously to be something beyond the surface and into the walls, and I note the old building has since been demolished. I think that's where mould problems that aren't fixed eventually end up.
posted by Listener at 6:42 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We've had no problems since the landlord went over the ceiling with mold-resistant paint (at least 6 months ago, and as in your case it was coming back very quickly before that). The ceiling was cleaned off with a small amount of mold remover before the new paint went on but it was by no means perfectly clear - that doesn't seem to have mattered.

It seems like the kind of thing you could do yourself if the landlord doesn't mind. Unfortunately I don't know what brand of paint was used.
posted by tomcooke at 6:44 AM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: You're probably looking at mildew, rather than true mold. Even if mold is inside wall cavities, it does not grow through the wall, unless there are cracks and crevices opening into the wall cavities, which should be sealed. If it returns following your scrubbing (which should involve bleach in solution), it's because conditions inside the room allow and encourage it. Mold will not grow without moisture. When you are done showering, are the walls wet? If so, you need to be running the fan during showers, and then leave it on until the room is thoroughly dry. Don't use a humidifier in adjacent rooms, and if there's a washer-drier in there, make sure the drier is properly vented outside.
posted by beagle at 6:44 AM on October 23, 2008

I agree with Kimdog, if you're getting such a good deal, paying to have it done yourself is probably going to work out cheaper than her deciding you're too much trouble and not renewing the lease.
posted by missmagenta at 7:02 AM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: To deal with mold, you have to deal with moisture. Keep the bathroom door open as often as possible. Keep the window open when possible. Even on cold days, you may need to open a window/run the fan for 15 minutes after a shower. Old houses were not built to accommodate the moisture of 3-4 showers daily, esp. if the house has been tightened up to save heat.

I used to be a landlord. What I've done in this situation is spray copiously with bleach:water 1:4 solution. Open window for at least a few hours; bleach is nasty. Wait a couple days. Spray with white vinegar:water 1:10 solution to neutralize bleach. Prime. Paint, using paint that has mildewcide added. Keep bathroom as dry as possible.

I had tenants who kept the bathroom door shut & window closed most of the time, and they had persistent mildew troubles. Next tenants had no trouble because they kept the window open in warm weather. In Maine winter is so dry that it's not usually a problem.
posted by theora55 at 7:49 AM on October 23, 2008

Been there. Forget the landlord. Google house mold remedies and just DIY. Trust. Not worth the hassle with the LL. At all. Never. Argh.
posted by watercarrier at 7:57 AM on October 23, 2008

A couple things,

1). For mold to grow it needs to be damp. Try putting in a de-humidifier or a fan in the room to dry things out. You need to get rid of all that humidity in the air. Wet and cool is a perfect condition for any mold to grow.
2). Use baking soda with water and scrub it with that. Mold and fungi like acidic environments. Bleach might kill 95% of it but it is not changing the PhD. Baking soda will change the PhD and make the area too alkaline for any mold to grow.
3). Don't worry it is not in the walls. If it was it would be showing up on the other side of the wall as well or it would be spread throughout the whole house.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:58 AM on October 23, 2008

Oh, and your landlord may very well be happy to cover any costs. I used to encourage tenants to paint & repair (within reason) and deduct expenses, with receipts, of course.
posted by theora55 at 8:24 AM on October 23, 2008

If the bathroom is under the attic or roof you need to check the insulation. What may be happening is the moisture is condensing on the cold surfaces and no matter how big the exhaust fan is the moisture will condense before the fan has a chance to work. Make sure there aren't any gaps in the insulation, add where necessary.
posted by Gungho at 9:54 AM on October 23, 2008

What has worked for me when the landlord is not fixing a problem is to hassle the hell out of them. Make notes of every time you call. Call every few days for a month. Then write a detailed legalese-sounding letter saying you are going to withhold next month's rent if they don't follow through. At this point the landlord will either give in and fix the problem, or let you handle the problem and deduct it from the rent or bill them. good luck!
posted by radioamy at 10:50 AM on October 23, 2008

The addition of 1/4 ounce tea tree oil to the semigloss latex enamel that I used on our bathroom ceiling cured the problem.
posted by hortense at 10:51 AM on October 23, 2008

Response by poster: Awesome, thanks. I don't know if it's mold or mildew, and I don't know how to tell the difference, but it seems like the treatment is the same either way. We are going to bleach the area and repaint with anti-mold/anti-mildew paint and then ask our landlord for reimbursement. I think she'll be amenable to that, she's generally great, we can just never get her to do anything for us in a reasonable timeframe. Thanks for the reassurance that it's not in the walls/not going to kill us. We feel better about it already and have a plan to take care of it.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:33 PM on October 23, 2008

Threatening not to pay your rent is not so good. I'm not so sure a mildew free bathroom is one of those things your state guarantees. Especially since your landlord has attempted to make repairs in the past, it shows that the landlord is willing to work with you, and could end in a return threat of eviction.

Be proactive, scrub the 'mold' off, repaint with some sort of mold-preventing paint, take shorter showers in the interim, and deal with it. It won't kill you, unless you're hypersensitive to stuff like that, and you'd know that by now.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2009

You might claim to have asthma or an allergy to mold -- this helped when some friends were experiencing a mold problem.

Also, mold comes from sustained moisture. Even after part of the ceiling was replaced, the mold came back due to a leaky toilet.
posted by jander03 at 8:32 AM on April 27, 2009

« Older Time Sheet Software   |   Is there such a thing as a good massage chair? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.