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In testimony before Congress recently, groups representing the nation’s apartment owners and managers suggested that the problem with mold is something landlords and tenants should work on together.

The National Multi Housing Council and the National Apartment Association testified that instead of passing new regulations, Congress should find ways to promote scientific research that could identify and deal with molds that tend to contribute most to indoor pollution.

They also urged Congress to act “to avoid an insurance and financial crisis as a result of mold claims.”

The multifamily groups received support from the National Association of Home Builders.

"NAHB encourages efforts to find ways to help prevent or minimize the conditions that lead to mold growth and we support further research into construction practices, building materials, building design and occupant practices to identify factors associated with mold growth within indoor environments,” said Jerry Howard, chief financial officer of the NAHB.

The issue of mold, its effects on health and how to deal with it is playing an ever-larger role in the housing industry. Yet there appears to be no consensus among scientists about which molds affect human health and at what exposure levels.

One reason is not everyone has an adverse reaction to mold, just as not everyone reacts in the same way to additives in paint or to tree pollen.

There is no denying that mold can be a problem. News reports of homeowners burning their houses and possessions to get rid of mold can make a buyer wary when he sees some evidence of mold in your basement.

There are ways to keep mold and mildew in check.

For mold to grow, three factors have to be present: excessive moisture, a temperature between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and an organic food source.

The only factor that can be controlled is moisture.

The apartment groups offered a number of ways renters can reduce moisture in their apartments or limit its effects.

Some of these ideas also can be used by homeowners:

  • Periodically clean and dry the walls and floors around the sink, bathtub, shower, toilets, windows and patio doors using a common household disinfecting cleaner.
  • Regularly wipe down and dry areas where moisture sometimes accumulates, like countertops, windows and windowsills.
  • Use the pre-installed bathroom fan or alternative ventilation when bathing or showering and allow the fan to run until all excess moisture has been vented from the bathroom.
  • Use the exhaust fans in your kitchen when cooking or while the dishwasher is running and allow the fan to run until all excess moisture has been vented from the kitchen.
  • Ensure that your clothes dryer vent is operating properly, and clean the lint screen after every use.
  • When washing clothes in warm or hot water, watch to make sure condensation does not build up within the washer and dryer closet; if condensation does accumulate, dry with a fan or towel.
  • Do not overfill closets or storage areas. Ventilation is important in these spaces.
  • Do not allow damp or moist stacks of clothes or other cloth materials to lie in piles for an extended period of time.
  • Thoroughly dry any spills or pet urine on carpeting.
  • Open windows. Proper ventilation is essential. If it is not possible to open windows, run the fan on the apartment’s air-handling unit to circulate fresh air throughout.
  • In damp or rainy weather conditions, keep windows and doors closed.
  • If possible, maintain a temperature of between 50 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit at all times.
  • Clean and dust regularly. This is usually required by a rental lease agreement.
  • Regular vacuuming, mopping, and use of environmentally safe household cleaners are important to remove household dirt and debris that contribute to mold growth.
  • Immediately report to the management office any evidence of a water leak or excessive moisture in your apartment, storage room, garage, or any common area.
  • The landlord or management office should also be told immediately if any mold cannot be removed by simply applying a common household cleaner and wiping the area. Also report any area of mold that reappears despite regular cleaning.
  • A failure or malfunction of a heating, ventilation, air-conditioning system or laundry system also needs to be dealt with immediately. Leases usually prohibit a tenant from blocking or covering any of the heating, ventilation or air-conditioning ducts in an apartment.
  • Inoperable doors or windows and musty odors also should be reported quickly.

    The National Multi Housing Council maintains a library of information on mold at its Web site, www.nmhc.org.

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