Topping the list of the problems is mold. For a good number of us who are not sensitive to mold spores, the presence of mold may just be a nuisance or an eyesore. However, mold may also indicate a persistent problem with plumbing or general humidity which could eventually be destructive to plaster, drywall and flooring. For some unfortunate few, mold is a chronic irritant to the lungs and may produce more serious problems. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America* has this to say about mold:
The lack of three-pronged (grounded) plugs is also a problem for Warren and his fellow workers, so each truck is equipped with plug adapters which, in effect, defeat the purpose of the three prong grounding. Worse yet, Warren noted, is the lack of the proper ground fault interrupters in the bathrooms and kitchens. More commonly known as GFIs, these plugs are designed to sense a change in current in the hot and neutral wires. This type of plug will trip a breaker within the device and stop the current flow. This is especially handy when it is a person who becomes involved in the current flow - commonly known as electrocution. A typical GFI plug for the kitchen or bathroom costs less than $20 and can be installed in minutes.
Warren has also run into situations in which a toilet has overflowed at one point with the water travelling through the floor and into another unit. This, of course, contaminates everything that has been soaked with this "black water" (what we call sewage). Repairs (mostly cosmetic) have then been made to the flooring around the toilet without further repairing or removing other contaminated material such as drywall or insulation.
As part of their services, Warren and his colleagues also haul junk from rentals, usually from unused basements where material has been gather dust for years. Some areas, he has found, have been contaminated with cat urine which has a distinctive odor. The problem is not so much one for the renters but for those who have to eventually clean these areas as they are exposed (if not wearing proper protective gear) not only to dust and animal urine but also fecal matter from mice and rats. Dried fecal matter can become airborne and when breathed in can be the transmission vector for many diseases, among which is the Hantavirus that can be fatal in humans. Nonetheless, renters need be alert for rodent infestations. I reported on one such infestation, of an especially egregious nature, in the York Neighborhood in 2011.
As the summer ends and the August/September turnover of leases (mostly students) begins, Warren is called in for his cleaning services. His experience is that landlords, not wishing to lose a day of rent, will schedule the move-out and move-in within a single 24 hour period. New renters often sleep in their U-Haul trucks parked in the driveway of the rental so that they can move in on a moment's notice. This allows little time for cleaning crews to do a good job and practically no time for the incoming renters to adequately inspect the unit, even if they knew in the first place what they were looking for in the way of health and safety problems.
I invite my readers to take a second look at the survey of rental conditions conducted by several WWU campus groups in 2011. The results confirm the experience of Warren and his fellow workers.
*Blue type indicates clickable links.