AS RAIN DELUGE CONTINUES, BENSON PUSHES LEGISLATION TO HELP RESIDENTS COMBAT INDOOR MOLD

With record flooding occurring throughout the Garden State over the last two weeks, Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) is pushing two companion bills he has sponsored to create a framework to identify and eliminate mold exposure in residential housing and quickly remove tenants from harmful exposure to these toxins.

The legislation is designed to create standards for unsafe mold exposure levels, mold hazard abatement methods and certification of professionals who will perform such work.

“As a result of post-hurricane flooding and the second round of flooding we received this week, mold presence is extremely high,” said Benson. “Even homes that have never experienced flooding before were hit this time. Mold is certainly going to be an issue for quite a while. Together, these bills form the framework to protect residents from unhealthy toxins that have the potential to impair their health for years to come.”

Benson noted that according to the CDC, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Those with serious allergies to mold, may have more severe reactions. There is also sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people and with asthma symptoms in people with asthma. Some evidence also links indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

Benson’s first measure (A3773) would require the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to establish standards for exposure limits to mold in residential buildings that are protective of the public health and safety, and procedures for the inspection, identification, and evaluation of the interior of residential buildings for mold.

DCA would also be required to establish standards for mold hazard abatement procedures including specialized cleaning, repairs, maintenance, painting, temporary containment and ongoing monitoring of mold hazards or potential hazards.

The bill would also require the department to establish a certification program for persons who inspect for the presence of mold hazards in residential buildings and who perform mold hazard abatement work in residential buildings.

The measure has cleared the Assembly Environment Committee and now awaits approval by the full Assembly.

“Mold can endanger homes, businesses and people’s health,” added Benson. “The repeatedly wet and humid weather we’ve been having create a ripe breeding ground for mold, particularly in homes that have been flooded. It’s important to have the proper procedures in place to quickly and effectively identify and eliminate mold.”

Benson has also introduced a companion bill known as the “Mold-Safe Housing Act,” which would help tenants living in mold-contaminated rental housing to have the mold effectively removed, or be relocated to safer rental housing.

In addition, the bill would create a system of inspection for all rental housing in order to detect the presence of mold. Single family and two-family rental housing would be required to be inspected upon a change in occupancy, as well as every five years as part of the multiple-dwelling inspection. Multiple dwellings would be inspected every five years for mold under the “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law,” which is currently enforced by the Bureau of Housing Inspection in the Department of Community Affairs.

The bill would also allow prospective home purchasers to specify that an inspection for the presence of mold be performed by a licensed home inspector, should they retain such an inspector prior to purchase.

The bill would also permit tenants to notify the Department of Community Affairs, when a landlord fails to abate a mold hazard, upon written request to do so. DCA would be required to investigate each claim and determine whether to relocate the tenant. Current relocation assistance laws would apply in such circumstances.

This measure awaits a hearing by the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.

Benson also encouraged residents to visit the Department of Health and Senior Services’ website to learn more about how mold can impact one’s health or if residents are concerned that they might have mold present in their homes.