Apartment issues (continued...)
August 16, 2010 6:56 AM   Subscribe

I think my new apartment has a moisture and possibly a mold problem...what steps should I take?

My new apartment has a musty/damp smell which just won't go away. At first I thought it was just lingering from the last tenant...but after employing air fresheners and odor neutralizers for several weeks I'm thinking it's here to stay.

There is a wall in my living area which is set into an embankment (if I look out the window on that side of the apartment, I'm level with the neighbors flower beds. Last night I was leaning on the wall while vacuuming, and my hand sank clear through the wall. It happened again this morning while I was leaning on the wall reaching for something under the bed. The wall has clearly been patched in the past, and when I press around the soft spots I can literally flex entire segments.

It seems like the wall is made of really crumbly, soft drywall - though I could be wrong there. Behind the wall is just a small gap then the stone exterior wall.

I contacted the landlord and expressed an interest in getting out of the lease (this is the most recent in a string of issues: roaches, plumbing, general filth). He said he'll send his maintenance guy out to have a look, who I've met and is completely incompetent.

What other steps should I take? Could I contact someone from the health dept. to do an inspection? Also, is there someone I could get in touch with to make sure everything is up to code?

posted by pilibeen to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First: Document, document, document.

Second: Holy crap, that sounds awful! Can you tell us where you live? You might be able to look on your city's website to find information. Also I have found the site municode.com very useful, it has all the local municipal codes.
posted by radioamy at 7:35 AM on August 16, 2010

It seems like the wall is made of really crumbly, soft drywall - though I could be wrong there. Behind the wall is just a small gap then the stone exterior wall.

well, there's one moisture problem. the drywall is crumbling because it is repeatedly absorbing water from the foundation wall. if the handyman doesn't tear out the entire interior wall, install a sufficient gap between the interior wall and the foundation wall with ventilation and a vapor barrier then he isn't fixing it. and if he does do this, you won't be using your bedroom for awhile.

are you in lancaster? here is the page for their housing code enforcement.


get out of your lease, threaten to call code enforcement on your landlord if he doesn't let you out. take a picture of your handprint in the wall before the handyman tries to patch it.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:32 AM on August 16, 2010

I wrote an article about this. I interviewed several mold-remediation experts. In a nutshell, you need to find the source of the water leak and eliminate the leak; then remove the wet material; then ventilate the space well. As a renter, get an agreement in writing from your landlord before you start tearing down drywall. Read the article for more in-depth information.
posted by Chaya at 11:41 PM on August 17, 2010

This mold and maintenance issue is terrible. It sounds unlikely that your landlord is going to redo the entire retaining wall and foundation to the level necessary for addressing the water intrusion. I agree that moving out is your best bet. Before talking to your landlord, look up the landlord-tenant laws for your city and state.
posted by slidell at 10:19 PM on August 18, 2010

Wow, your apt. sounds kind of like the one I just rented sight unseen. There was a stong odor in the bathrm and I immediately sprayed Lysol Neutra air which seemed to do the trick. Only thing, I have been here almost a month and am feeling pretty awful, headaches, excessive wheezing and congestion (I have asthma) and burning eyes etc. Like your landlord mine don't want to do anything, they said they don't see (I have numerous pictures) or smell mole & refuse to do anything about my other issues. You as a tenant have certain rights and responsibilities and the landlord in turn also has rights and responsibilities. You have the right to a decent safe apartment and the landlord has the responsibility to ensure you have one. It might be time to consult a attorney or you try your local legal aid. Good luck.
posted by theuniqueldy at 2:25 AM on July 18, 2011

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