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How the Economy Compromises Indoor Air Quality in Rental Property, Schools and Small Businesses

October 4, 2012

Everyone relates to the visible effects the economy has one their lives: gas prices rising, home values plummeting, and even the rise of grocery bills. But what we cannot see might have one of the most consequential effect of our poor economy. In a series of three op-eds, environmental engineer Jeff Bradley will tell us how the current market affects the everyday, indoor environments of rental properties, schools, and small business.

People who rent their homes, and even those who rent commercial space, detect more indoor environmental issues than before the economy went sour. Because the financial burden on property owners often causes them to turn a blind eye to non-essential costs such as proper air testing.

Even further, landlords are not as quick to respond to complaints about a flooded basement, a leaky pipe or an area of visible mold growth. If these property owners are working just to pay the mortgage on the building, they are more likely to ignore tenants’ requests that do not seem to carry the same financial significance as skimping on bills. Renters, in turn, are tentative to request assistance with what seem to be less timely concerns. Living with a water mark on the bedroom ceiling, or mold growth in the bathroom, for example, present far fewer immediate consequences than complaining to the point of eviction. Landlords’ financial frugality in the current market, then, creates hesitant tenants who become sick from breathing poor indoor air.

The problem is that there is no bad guy in this scenario. The property owner wants to accommodate his renters but cannot afford to do so and the tenant wants an environmentally sound living or work area but does not want to risk eviction based on persistent requests.

The solution? Property owners must address environmental concerns as soon as possible: an asthma-inspired trip to the Emergency Room costs quite a bit more than an air purifier or even a professional mold test. If an environmentally-rooted health issue arises, tenants need to contact their landlords to request environmental consulting. Once the problem has been identified, all parties benefit from the prevention of further damage.

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