TARGET 8: Renters report mold complaints, health concerns

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COLUMBIA - While mold is everywhere, experts say it has the potential to pose a health risk to everyone. 

"Anybody who is exposed to mold for a period of time will probably have symptoms from it," Nurse Practitioner Cindy Rose said. "The more you're exposed to it, the more likely you'll have symptoms."

KOMU 8 News found mold in Columbia is relatively unregulated.

"There isn't any EPA or federal regulations pertaining to mold presence, so what we base our stuff of on for the city comes from that, as well," Andrea Waner, Columbia and Boone County Health Department spokesperson, said.

The Columbia and Boone County Health Department only has jurisdiction over public places, so Columbia rental inspectors try to hold building owners accountable by siting the root of the mold issue.

"We don't test for mold, that's something if a person wants to test for mold, they'll have to bring in their own private firm to do that," Code Enforcement Specialist Bruce Martin said. "But what we might look for in the situation, if we have mold problem, is any type of violations that might create moisture problems, which could be a ventilation problem, leaky plumbing, leaking roof, or something of that nature." 

There are around 29,000 apartment units registered with the city. Three inspectors do the rental inspections. A routine inspection, also known as a rental compliance inspection, is performed every six years, unless there is a complaint. 

City documents showed two complaints of mold were made in the past five years in one local apartment unit in a complex, a complex where multiple tenants have expressed concern to KOMU 8.

In 2010, the first written complain expressed concern about flooding. It stated there was "pouring water through the ceiling and down the walls" and "visible mold". The complaint requests an inspection for safety. 

Records show the city came, inspected, sited things to fix and reinspected. The apartment passed the inspection.

Three years later, a different tenant moved into the same unit and filed another complaint regarding mold. That tenant said in their complaint they had "been sick for most of the time I've been living at the apartment."

KOMU 8 News asked the landlord of this apartment how he dealt with this particular unit. 

"I don't know specifics other than to say that anytime we have situations, whether it be mold or dirtiness, you have to aggressively try to treat the problem and address the concerns a tenant might have," he said. 

KOMU 8 News obtained photos and a mold test from the unit with two complaints. The results of the mold test indicated the kitchen had elevated mold levels. 

Knowing that background, there are things to know about mold in Missouri: The Missouri Department of Health and Seniors Services' website states if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary in most cases because mold will always be found in testing. Further, the department states mold testing is not standardized, no training is required to be a licensed mold tester and sampling for mold does not asses health risk.

So while mold might be everywhere, with relatively few regulations, inspectors say tenants and landlords need to work together.

"Oftentimes, complaints come in and they've never contacted the owner," Martin said. "Just an effort to talk to one another there, problems can be resolved."  

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has these tips for renters who may encounter mold.