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Mold is writing new law

Insanity is a communicable disease which can be spread by extreme ignorance of a subject; hence the stock market foot-in-mouth variety. That means that trillions of dollars are greenbacks-in-waiting to see which way is up and which is down, since the speedway called change defies all laws of gravity.

I believe that we are going through an evolution in our style of government, which is filled with irony. To call it a paradigm shift is insultingly simple. We have a party in power that has been shouting "government is too big and unnecessary," and having taken office, now is begging for more government to shelter our money from harm. They have learned that the free enterprise system is any thing but free, that unregulated capitalism can accelerate greed, and that this accelerating velocity of change can make litigation a for-gone conclusion.

One example for owners or renters of homes and apartments, as well as lenders, is the "new calamity," mold. My fabulous mother used to love any cheese coated with mold, but apparently it loses its nutrition when it coats a wall or ceiling, or is in an air conditioner.

Before you buy a home or rent an apartment, I warn you, you'd better assign some attention to what's going into your nasal passages and your child's play room before it becomes your biggest personal problem or cause for litigation. Suing is a national pastime in our culture, which is constantly evolving, faster than germs can breed.

"The saddest thing is to have a lack of knowledge of danger where you live," my wise and diligent attorney friend writes me. You notice a musty odor in your kitchen or pantry. The woman takes some Clorox Bleach and rubs down her floor, all the while inhaling the bleach. She has no appreciation that she has exposed herself to mold and is probably spreading it around (the bleach will not remove the spores). The damage is done, maybe unnoticed except for a headache. Being busy takes her away from the immediacy of the threat to all occupants -- not like a masked intruder with gun or knife. The result can be the same, only much slower, and mostly invisible.

Mold is as ugly as a caterpillar in its chrysalis stage and as surprising as what emerges -- a butterfly of beauty and mystery; only mold is the chrysalis and ugly is what it brings. I have worked in many sub-standard neighborhoods in which frequently absentee owners care for nothing but the cash flow. I have also taught many investment classes to people interested in owning an apartment house, and warned them about management of same; it isn't fun, especially with the growing awareness by tenants and lenders.

So I contacted the smartest person I know in this field, Gary Smolker, because he has experienced the destitution and loneliness of interior toxicity and mold. He is also a conscientious and ethical attorney and has studied implications and the still evolving rules. This isn't just a law book-schooled lawyer. He is a father and husband of the afflicted. Gary tells me that dealing with mold is an art and a new field in flux. Here is a little of his counsel to you, as a potential renter or buyer or owner, or lender:

Learn what the permissible levels are on the dangers, cost to control, whose ox is gored, what is practical and reasonable, the value of human life, health -- you know, little things that have to do with quality of life or nightmare.

If you rent a vacation home, check the air conditioning system and any mold buildup, especially if it's been shut off awhile. You will need someone to document and make a legal evaluation of a suspected toxicity situation, through sampling, testing and a safety/protection plan. Remember, it is your family's or your client's health we are protecting here.

Understand that insurance adjusters and business owners do not want to hear about mold and water damage, but they are being forced, by law and industry guidelines, to take notice and do something about it.

Goodkin is an international real estate adviser and strategist, and has been a housing analyst since 1956. He can be reached at sandy.goodkin@sddt.com.

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