Mold a growing problem at student housing building

With evidence of mold growth in at least three of the student housing units in the Clifton House, those who oversee the building said they are doing all they can do to rid the complex of the problem.


Dan Potter, operations manager of College Housing Northwest, the company that manages off campus housing at Portland State, said that the mold is a result of a combination of things, but credited the problem mainly to moisture buildup in the aging units.


“If residents don’t use proper ventilation, it leaves moisture in the air,” Potter said, reiterating that moisture is the leading cause of this mold. He added that water running underneath the concrete of the building and an old tree that has since been removed as factors also intensifying the moisture problem.


Potter said that the residents of the three apartments that College Housing has dealt with were the ones to bring the problem to the company’s attention. Complaints varied from mold growing on the apartment walls and windows, to spreading onto resident’s personal belongings, such as desks and books.


Oregon law requires that buildings be maintained at a certain level, including keeping them mold-free, said Ed Marihart, director of City of Portland Neighborhood Inspections. Marihart added that complaints of mold, which most of the time grows because of moisture and dampness, can result in health issues such as aggravating asthma and allergies, and can additionally cause cold symptoms.


Marihart said that the City of Portland has not received any complaints about College Housing Northwest. A tenant complaint would lead to an inspection of the building.


If a building does not pass inspection, the manager would receive a citation and a notice, giving them 30 days to fix the problem. If the problem has not been fixed after the 30-day period, Marihart said, City of Portland will enforce a fee related to how big the building is that doubles after six months.


Nate Nguyen, a fourth-year student at PSU and resident of the Clifton House said that he has not had any problems with mold but has heard neighbors complain. He added that they moved out close to three weeks ago, and he had heard complaints of mold growing about a week prior to that.


“We relocated tenants in each of the units that were impacted to other [College Housing Northwest] units,” Potter said. The few occurrences of mold in apartments had not caused any health issues that he had heard of or knew had been reported.


Nguyen said that in addition to the mold, there was black water sitting on the roof with mold growing in it.


“I’ve been up on the roof and looked at it,” Nguyen said. “It’s pretty nasty.”


Potter said that this water is not a health issue. “There are spots on the roof where water collects,” Potter said. “Every building in the city has that.”


With the three apartments vacated, Potter is looking for additional ways to prevent further mold problems. He mentioned that the company will invest in automatic ventilation fans for the apartments, which would turn and off according to how much moisture was in the air.


According to residents at the Clifton, a notice was placed on their doors notifying them of the mold problem and what was being done to prevent it. The notice said that company employees would be entering the apartments on the south side of the complex on Wednesday to check for mold and assess those apartments.