In regards to their housing, tenants have a variety of rights. Perhaps the broadest of these rights, however, is the right to a safe and habitable environment, a standard that ensures that tenants don’t need to tolerate infestations, serious leaks, or other hazardous conditions. One aspect of this right that many tenants don’t think about much, however, is their right to safe indoor air quality – or at least they didn’t think about it much until recently.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants and landlords alike have turned their attention to indoor air quality as part of addressing the risk of viral spread in multi-family properties. And while the risk of viral spread between units is ultimately fairly small, improving ventilation in rental properties more generally can have significant benefits. The key is knowing what air quality issues are at stake, what’s bothering your tenants, and how to best address those issues.
Persistent allergy symptoms are one of the most common indicators of air quality issues, and while Katy and other parts of Texas are known to boast substantial ragweed, tree, and grass pollen counts, managing those allergens largely falls to tenants. Outdoor allergies can be minimized by regularly vacuuming, keeping the windows closed, and taking other simple mitigation steps.
Indoor allergies, on the other hand, are another matter altogether, and are often caused by mold exposure. Mold is a serious problem in Texas due to frequent storms, including hurricanes and flooding, and often the problem isn’t visible. Landlords and property managers should work with skilled inspectors to determine whether there is mold in any of their units and employ trained remediators to remove it, as improper treatment can make the problem worse. In addition to common allergy symptoms, exposure to mold can also increase asthma symptoms and make residents more vulnerable to respiratory infections.
As for mold prevention, proper ventilation can actually help with this problem. The goal should be to make sure any areas of the home where moisture may gather, particularly in areas like the bathroom and laundry room, dry out quickly and completely, minimizing the likelihood of mold and mildew development.
Another air quality complaint commonly voiced by Katy tenants is related to industrial exposure. Petrochemical plants and other industrial sites common to the Houston and Katy areas, along with the areas traffic, can negatively impact indoor air quality, especially because they are a year round issue. In order to deal with such persistent exposures, property owners should be conscientious in maintaining their HVAC systems, including changing the filters frequently.
In older buildings that might lack centralized HVAC systems and which are more likely to be effected by structural issues like drafty windows that let pollution through, maintenance issues are even more pressing. Make a point of budgeting for upgraded windows and invest in high-quality air filters available to tenants at no charge. Not every tenant will be concerned about air quality issues, but for those who do feel the effects of such pollution, such steps will be greatly appreciated.
For years, carpet was considered a nice touch in apartments, making the spaces feel comfortable and homey, and carpet is also great for minimizing sound transfer in multi-family buildings. On the other hand, carpet also traps allergens and can be very difficult to clean completely, a fact that’s made it less appealing to many tenants today.
As a landlord, deciding what to do about carpet in your units is something of a catch-22. If you remove the carpet and opt for alternative flooring materials, you eliminate a potential irritant, but may magnify the transmission of noise between apartments. Alternatively, you can keep the carpet and pay for professional carpet cleaning and change it between tenants, but that gets expensive. The ideal option is to place soundproofing material beneath new flooring, choosing bamboo or laminate, but ensuring the kind of quiet carpeting would otherwise provide (and which is actually required in some areas).
Smoke And Smells
Most landlords today don’t permit smoking in their units, but many do allow it on the property grounds, usually at a certain distance from buildings. That being said, most don’t enforce this policy very well, especially since it can be difficult to identify the source of secondhand smoke. Completely banning smoking on the grounds can go a small way towards minimizing the issue, but is also rarely a manageable solution unless you plan to monitor your properties in-person 24/7.
One option for addressing this problem, which not only damages your properties but is dangerous for other tenants, is to use a cigarette and marijuana smoke sensor in your units. This, paired with proper seals around doors and windows can help prevent other residents from being exposed while the sensors can allow you to quickly act to address the behavior of tenants who are breaking rental rules.
A Persistent Problem
As a landlord, it’s common to test your indoor air quality and find that it’s not very good – that’s the status quo in homes around the country. What you do need to address, however, are the sources of these problems. It’s one thing to have some of the same mild air quality issues everyone has, stemming from cooking smoke, paint, perfumes, and other aspects of daily life, and a very different problem when there’s mold, carbon monoxide, or other harmful and irritating substances in the air. Then, you have to act.
Does all this sound like just another bullet point on your long maintenance list? That’s understandable, but you don’t have to tackle the issue alone. Get help handling your rental property to do list today by contacting Green Residential. Our team of experienced property management professionals can help you address maintenance issues, in addition to screening tenants, collecting rent, and so much more.
Managing rental properties is a lot of work, and it takes skill and experience to do well. As a real estate investor, this may not be your area of expertise, but it is ours. Let’s work together to help your properties succeed – and let’s start with happy, healthy tenants.