Renting a house or apartment presents unique challenges when it comes to home improvement. While most renters won’t undergo major renovations, a landlord might. These renovations can include chemical components that tenants likely have no control over. And it’s not only renters who face such challenges.
Even if you own a condo or live in a co-op, major renovations can occur just outside your windows and doors. This can be frustrating! But even when you’re not in charge, there are some steps you can take to create a healthier environment at home.
1. Establish a good relationship with your landlord.
Let your landlord know you lean green, and prefer eco-friendly everything, including building materials. This isn’t a guarantee good materials will be used, but when there’s a solid working relationship, there might be an opening for discussion.
If you live in a co-op or a condo, this relationship should be established with someone on the board or owners’ association.
2. Ask to be apprised of work being done in the building, and know your legal rights.
Knowing what’s going to be done and when gives you the opportunity to suggest alternative materials. Again, this isn't a guarantee they will be used. It also gives you a chance to clear out for the duration of the project.
If for some reason, what your landlord or building association has planned is not legal where you live, speak up. It never hurts to know your rights. Though there are common renters’ rights, some set up by the Fair Housing Act, they can also vary by where you live. Brush up on things like lead notification laws on the city, county, state, and federal levels.
3. Ask anyone coming into your home to be cautious and offer them alternative shoes.
Some work will inevitably require access to, or will occur via, your home. Offer any workers booties so they don’t track pesticide sprays and other unsafe materials into your living space, especially if you have a crawling baby.
4. Offer to pay for what you want.
When you move into a new place, landlords tend to prep for your arrival. This commonly involves a fresh coat of paint, and often newly refinished floors. Specify that you would like no or low-VOC paint and finish used and are happy to pay for any difference in the cost. It isn’t that much more expensive, and it's a wise thing to factor into your moving budget.
The same goes for work done on common spaces in co-ops and condos. And always ask that the house or apartment be well ventilated before your move-in date. This just involves opening the windows — who could object to that?
5. Get the mold out.
If you have mold in a basement or in a bathroom — especially an unvented one — ask your landlord for dehumidifiers, fans, and other ventilation measures. Sometimes some cleanup might be needed. Taking care of a problem when it first comes up will save your landlord, co-op, or condo money in the long run. So speak up!
By taking these steps, you will also be educating others about harmful chemicals in home improvement and renovation projects. And you’ll be working to protect the surroundings of everyone who lives in your shared space. For more information on healthy home improvement, download Healthy Child Healthy World's free e-book, Easy Steps to Healthy Home Improvement.