Is Your Home Bad for Your Health? Know if Mold, Roaches and Rodents Are a Problem Before Moving In

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January 21, 2019
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–  What’s lurking behind your walls? Are you worried about the spots on your bathroom ceiling? Have you found mouse droppings under your sink?

For many New York City house hunters, knowing if an apartment has hidden asthma triggers like mold, mice, rats or roaches is critically important. Now there’s an easy way to find out — before moving in.
Apartment hunters can turn to Localize.city to learn the complete history of every building in NYC, and uncover what’s lurking behind the walls, such as a history of issues such as mold or pests.

>> Worried about mold, rodents or roaches? Find your building’s housing violation history at Localize.city.

“A fresh coat of paint often covers up serious maintenance problems which New Yorkers only uncover after moving in,” said Localize.city President Steve Kalifowitz. “Having done one of the most extensive studies on housing violations, we’re enabling all New Yorkers to know if the building and apartment they’re considering moving into have been well-maintained.”

Kalifowitz continued, “This capability isn’t just valuable for people who are planning to move. We’ve heard from many residents who didn’t realize the extent of the problems in their building until they searched their address at Localize.city.

Asthma has significant effects on people’s health and household expenses, and high rates have a big impact on a neighborhood’s health and economy. The costs of missing school and work, as well as frequent hospitalizations, add up. In turn, missed work and school and ER visits often cause more stress and increase economic hardship. The New York State Comptroller estimated that the illness costs the state $1.3 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity.

Will a new law help?

Advocates spent more than a decade fighting for the Asthma-Free Housing Act, which took effect on Jan. 19 and seeks to make landlords more responsible to address indoor allergen-related housing violations that breed mice, rats, rodents and mold. Landlords of buildings with three or more units will have to follow new rules, including performing yearly inspections of every apartment and common area. They also must remediate any underlying conditions that cause mold or attract pests. That means they will have to fix moisture or leaks that result in mold, for instance, and use integrated pest management to deal with mice, rats and roaches, like sealing holes in apartments and removing pest nests.

The new law aims to ensure that landlords fix asthma-related violations more swiftly and take them more seriously. Any apartment or common area found to have mice, rats, roaches or mold will now be deemed “immediately hazardous,” and the landlord has 24 hours to fix the problem.

There are, of course, questions on how well landlords will comply with the new law. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development tends to be lax with landlords who violate the law and deprive tenants of basic services, according to a recent New York Times report. The agency often fails to enforce the maximum penalties for even the most egregious offenders, the publication found.

Checking Localize.city for the history of housing violations gives tenants more power to see what’s happening and to hold landlords accountable — and potentially help would-be renters from avoiding such buildings altogether.

Know Where Asthma Triggers and Asthma Cases Are Most Prevalent

If you’re concerned about health issues like asthma, it’s imperative to find out if a building has mold, roach or rodent infestations. Even if your apartment doesn’t seem to have problems, you should know what’s happening in the building as a whole. Mold from a neighbor could potentially spread or indicate a bigger problem in the building; a rodent infestation in one unit means the whole building may have a problem.

Certain neighborhoods suffer from these problems more than others. The correlation between high rates of these violations and high rates of asthma is strong, according to an analysis by Localize.city. The analysis looked at housing violations from January 2013 through December 2018 (of non-public housing buildings with three or more units) as well as asthma rates for adults ages 18 and older from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’ Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 2015-16.

      •  Low-income neighborhoods, particularly in the Bronx and Central Brooklyn, were disproportionately affected by high rates high rates of asthma, as well as housing violations that are asthma triggers. The Bronx — where about 63 percent of the city’s very low-income renters live — had seven of the top 10 neighborhoods for asthma rates, nine of the top 10 neighborhoods for pest violations, and five of the top 10 for mold violations. The borough also had a disproportionate number of housing violations overall, with 34 percent of the city’s total, Localize.city found in a previous report that looked at all quality-of-life-related housing violations.
      • Brooklyn’s Brownsville had the highest asthma rates (14.2 cases per 100 residents older than 18), and it ranked 25th for pests and 37th for mold violations (about 17 and 7 violations per 100 renting households, respectively). The Bronx’s Morrisania had the city’s second highest asthma rates (13.5 cases per 100 residents older than 18). It had the city’s fourth highest rate of pest violations and 13th for mold violations (23 cases and 10 cases per 100 renting housing households, respectively).
      • The gap between neighborhoods with the highest and lowest asthma rates was large. For instance, Brooklyn’s Brownsville and the Bronx’s Morrisania had the city’s highest asthma rates. The rates were nearly twice as high as neighborhoods with the lowest asthma rates — Manhattan’s Battery Park City and Garment District, Queens’ Little Neck/Douglaston and Oakland Gardens, and Brooklyn’s Dumbo.

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What to do if you have mold or pests?

Let your landlord know if your apartment has mold or if there are rat, mice or roach infestations. If your landlord does not address the issue satisfactorily, or not all at, you can file a 311 complaint about mold or pests.

For a violation to be cited, however, a city inspector must visit the building and see the conditions. (Inspections, however, tend to be during the workday, making it difficult for many tenants.)

If filing a 311 complaint doesn’t help, there are several organizations that might be able to help. Justfix.nyc is one free service to help New Yorkers to get repairs for their home. You can reach them here.

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