Austin Code looks to improve how it inspects mold in rental units

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Growing mold problems after the February winter storm caused several apartment complexes to vacate their tenants. Now, the Austin Code Department is looking for ways to improve the inspection process.

In March, the city manager commissioned the code department to come up with a plan. Austin Code had until Wednesday to finalize a resolution for Austin City Council.

The city of Austin routinely gets complaints about water damage or moisture intrusion, but damage from the winter storm created a spike in these types of complaints. 

“There was mold just growing on the walls of my apartment closet,” said David Rojas.

Rojas has lived at the Mueller Flats apartment complex for years. Following the storm, he was forced to vacate his apartment after black mold was found growing inside his apartment.

“There was a massive campaign to get code to come and inspect our units,” said Rojas.

Mueller Flats wasn’t the only complex hit; the problem spans across Austin. In March 2020, Austin Code averaged 30 calls, but that number spiked this year to more than 120.

“It wasn’t unexpected that we would see a spike in these things as a result of the winter storm,” said Daniel Word, assistant director for Austin Code. “Where we are looking at improving our response is through our inspection process. The biggest purchase will be providing our inspectors with moisture meters.”

The moisture meters are believed to be able to assess the mold and moisture inside the apartment walls, but they’re used after the repair is completed to address the possibility of future mold growth.

It’s a process Rojas argues doesn’t help in the interim.

“It is an improvement, but at the same time there’s not — it’s not addressing the need for housing. These are living people still breathing in that air,” said Rojas.

Austin Code is also looking at increasing access to renter’s insurance and creating a rental housing assistant program for situations like these.

The ask for the city of Austin is an upfront $44,000 and roughly $7,500 annually.

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