Super smelly trash chute in modern 2015 apartment building—red flag?
September 21, 2019 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I’m about to sign a lease for an apartment that’s great in most every way—new building, location in a walkable neighborhood, access to transit, clean, good layout—except for one thing that’s making me hesitate. The trash chute. It stinks. Is this simply an annoyance or a health hazard that I should think twice about?

When opening the chute during the tour, a foul, rotting odor permeated the trash room located in the hall of the floor of the unit on the 10th floor. It doesn’t seem right for a 4-year-old LEEDS-certified silver building with 16 floors. I currently live in a 15-y-o building where there is no odor.

1. Is this an indication of poor maintenance or building mismanagement? Anything I should ask about it?
2. I was thinking that the smell is simply an annoyance, and I can hold my breath when throwing out the garbage. But a trusted friend said that the rotting air could be a health hazard.

The smell doesn’t seep into the hallway or units as far as I could tell. Should I take this apartment? Thanks!
posted by bioubiou to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Best answer: I'd say you just got an enormous clue that stuff doesn't get taken care of in that building. I'd ask about it first though -- maybe it's a new and pressing problem that they're dealing with. But if they're not concerned, you have to imagine they're not going to be overly concerned if/when other things go wrong.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:42 AM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Sometimes things break in trash chutes or someone throws something especially noxious away. Was this a single occurrence? I’d go back and check again the next week,
posted by spitbull at 9:13 AM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you can, swing back by and talk to some of the residents when the leasing agent isn't around. Generally if things like that are a constant problem, you'll find someone happy to complain about it to you.
posted by Candleman at 9:45 AM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One problem with highly sealed buildings is that air doesn't get replaced/recirculated very often. The toxic stuff says on the inside of the envelope. That isn't true in all cases, just a problem that they found with super-insulating buildings.
In any building, there are always quirks and behaviors the builders did not predict. Your building might be pushing airflow up the trash chute and out any open orifice, like the chute door.
It may not be so much that the trash stinks, it's normal for a trash bin to have a lot of odors, it's getting that faceful of odor compared to the air you've been in, the discrepancy makes it seem very strong and aversive.
Perhaps if there were a way to make the air pressure higher in the chute so the airflow is headed down towards the bin, that would fix the odor or ameliorate it. A fan in the top of the chute pulling in the fresh air and pushing it downwards?
posted by diode at 9:47 AM on September 21, 2019

It's also entirely possible that you visited the trash chute right after someone threw out some diapers or something. Not sure that a single data point is necessarily indicative of long term trends. If you can ask someone who lives there about it, then that might be better.
posted by Aleyn at 3:18 PM on September 21, 2019

Best answer: Can you ask them to let you in the trash room (ie, where the chute dumps out)? Then you could see if it’s just smelly vs. obvious signs of neglect.
posted by capricorn at 4:16 PM on September 21, 2019

Response by poster: I think diode’s got it. The chute is a shifting one that lets you do garbage and different types of recyclables, so I think it’s an air pressure thing. The other places where I’ve lived have had trash chutes that empty directly into dumpsters that get rolled out for collection.

I went back to ask if I could see the trash room, and apparently it’s not the same place where residents can go to take oversized recyclables and garbage—the leasing part-timer wouldn’t let me go see it. The odor wasn’t a new problem, and he basically shrugged and said “it’s a trash chute”. They apparently don’t have complaints about it, I don’t see anything in online reviews. There weren’t residents around to ask, or else I would have.

My plan is to check in with my own leasing agent about it again, but I think I’ll take the place. If it ends up becoming a nightmare, I’ll update the thread to warn future readers. :)
posted by bioubiou at 9:01 AM on September 24, 2019

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