I recently heard someone talk about their tenants, who were very well behaved young men. They paid their rent on time and there were no complaints. About 8 months into the lease, one of the tenants reached out to the landlord explaining how mold kept turning up on their medicine cabinet. No matter how often they cleaned the cabinet and the bathroom, the mold just kept coming back. Turns out mold was creeping up on the back of the toilet too. The landlord had just done a major rehab on the property before renting it out. They had installed a new HVAC, but since the boiler and the radiators still worked just fine, they decided to leave them intact as a backup system. Everything was fine for a while, until it wasn’t. A pinprick leak formed in one of the pipes behind the walls, and sprayed hot, steamy water everywhere. This caused mold to start forming. By the time the young tenants had thought to call the landlord to ask about it, over a third of the house was contaminated with mold.
It cost the landlord over $30,000 to get it all taken care of.
I know of another instance where the tenants just could not get the apartment to cool off. They were getting cold air on the first floor, but the 3rd floor was just sweltering. They had most of the vents shut off, or turned to very little flow. Their landlord never explained to them about the baffles that were on each floor, or how to regulate the airflow. The tenants were having to pay huge electricity bills, and not getting much relief from the heat.
You might think, “Operating a house’s systems is all just common sense!” But it’s really not. Each house, apartment, condo, etc. has its own set of designs, layouts, and idiosyncrasies. And each person that has lived in them has changed something, whether something as simple as installing a new digital thermostat, or planting a new tree in the garden. A house that was built in the early 1900’s is so different from a house that was built in the 1950’s, 1980’s or even 15 years ago!
Matt and I bought a house in 2003 that had polybutylene pipes in it. When we bought the house, we were told “These were the wave of the future!”, and that this system was the best plumbing system. When we sold the house recently, feelings and regulations about this piping system had changed drastically. We had to replace the home’s entire system before the sale would go through.
Things change. Regulations change. Houses change. As a tenant, whenever possible, perform a thorough walkthrough the house and its particular systems with the owner, property manager or if they are not available, with a home inspector.
This is also why it’s important for landlords and property managers to conduct an evaluation check on rental properties at least every 6 months. A regular evaluation can help catch some of these issues before they get too bad, or to help with minor system adjustments or training the tenants on operating the systems as needed.