Limit Environmental Liability For Landlords

Protect Yourself! Before tenants move into your new property get an environmental inspection!

Due to current real estate market conditions an environmental consultant’s inspection isn’t usually possible. So, after you purchase a property, an environmental survey will give you a professional, complete evaluation of the status of mold, asbestos, or lead with next steps to mitigate the problems. Mold is always caused by water where it doesn’t belong; whether it is from tenant lifestyle issues, or a roof leak, building damage will occur until it is correctly fixed. If your building was built before 1981 asbestos testing should be done before you begin any repairs/renovations or rent any areas. It’s much faster and cheaper to know you are dealing with asbestos than after it’s been incorrectly removed. Or to pay for content cleaning after a new tenant moves into a moldy area. You can use bleach and repaint, but it’s more likely than not the mold will return. 

As a professional real estate investor, you want to avoid costly environmental issues with your properties. So, during your initial inspection, if you see discoloration or water damage or smell anything, more investigation is indicated. If you smell mold or musty smells be sure to check out the foundation. Mold is caused by water damage. Water damage may impact the foundation.

Sometimes retail real estate agents think baking cookies or bread will entice buyers. However, those smells can cover up a host of issues for professional investors – everything from mold growing under the kitchen sink to sewer gas from non-code compliant plumbing.  We identify these issues, test using industry standard methods, and give you a report that lists the problems with solutions. We also can give you clearance documents after repairs to confirm no environmental problems exist. This level of documentation is invaluable to your attorney if you encounter a lawsuit.

Many San Francisco landlords are adding a clause in the rental agreement requiring the tenant to purchase renters insurance that names the landlord as co-insured. Barth-Calderon or your attorney should review your lease agreement.

It is suggested the tenants be required to notify the landlord of known water leaks within 12 hours of the occurrence. After a water event, if professional drying can begin within 24 hours, the probability of mold growth is diminished.

Good communication with tenants is critical. If your tenant complains of a musty odor, discoloration, leaky sink, etc., it should be investigated, photographed, and repaired, if appropriate. All our reports include photos for a record of the problems and the contents. If there is a mold problem, it is sometimes difficult to determine if the issues are coming from the tenants contents or originated from your building. We can sort this out.

Our report will give you a Scope of Work so that all environmental contractors are bidding on the actual work necessary, not their concept of what they want to do. This will save you time and money.

We are available to answer your questions, before or after purchase. Please give us a call.

 There is no charge for phone calls. We charge by the visit to your site and the number of samples necessary. We communicate the costs to you before we begin, so there are no surprises. We are insured and licensed. We have been in business in San Francisco for 20 years. 

Additional Tips to Limit Environmental Liability

Our report will help you limit environmental liability for asbestos or other contaminants that are of concern such as mold, lead, or VOCs. 

All buildings built before 1981 may contain asbestos. Here’s a link an EPA list of Asbestos Containing Materials.

Identifying asbestos is not a DIY project. A licensed, trained environmental consultant holding a CAC license should be considered. 


Asbestos abatement is usually the most expensive, and most necessary, environmental liability you will encounter. Buildings built before 1981 should have preliminary asbestos testing to determine if asbestos is present, and how many square feet of the asbestos materials need to be removed.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District is becoming more strict daily. Fines are increasing. Citations and Stop Work Orders are becoming more common.

If you or unlicensed workers remove more than 100 sq. ft. of asbestos containing materials you are exposed to fines, significant delays, and costly cleanup.  File for a Permit with a 10 Day Notification here.


We had one client that thought he knew how to remove asbestos because he was a previous property manager. So, as a house flipper, he had our report but decided not to use a professional abatement contractor. Well, long story short – he contaminated all the soil below the floor framing with asbestos fibers. The cleanup took two years. We went back to clear that project a dozen times. It is very difficult to removed asbestos fibers from soil. He finally followed our instructions to pour cement over the all dirt below the foundation. He lost a lot of money and time.