Sometimes we get caught up in the client requests, the deadlines and the antics of our client managers or co-workers, and the reports just keep flying off our desks into the hands of our clients who sometimes read them but more often than not just glance at the executive summary and then stick the report in their files. But occasionally, every so often, we work on a project that actually has a change to make a difference.
We recently were hired to perform a pre-acquisition PCA of a Section 8 housing complex in Southern California. The conditions were deplorable: Kitchen cabinet doors dangling on single hinges, fire alarms not tested since the 1990s, leaking roofs and damaged ceilings with holes repaired using duct-taped cereal boxes, and dozens of cockroaches roaming the kitchens or squished between the bathroom door and frame. Our standard inquiries at the building department identified 21 open building code violations with the city.
Then there was the mold – with moisture seemingly from all the usual sources at one time -window sills, perimeter walls, floor slabs and roofs. Several tenants complained of chest colds from which they never seemed to be able to recover due to the damp conditions of their apartments. Moisture and mildew were obvious in the majority of the 160 units. We noted a teenage girl’s bed – a mattress lying directly on a reportedly consistently damp carpet – in one of the units. Adding insult to injury, nearly half of the apartments had been surveyed for mold in 2009 and we’d received a list of specific units at which mold had been abated at that time. But when we interviewed the tenants at those units, several of them reported no abatement work had been performed at all. Clearly someone’s uncle had a “mold business” and was making a lot of money by not doing the work.
This project was one of the more obvious opportunities to see how our report could make a difference. Even if some of the code violations are addressed or the mold mitigated, the living conditions would be improved. Amassing all our recommendations into the report, our client is going to be using our findings to negotiate a more favorable sales price. I’d also like to think that a change in the conditions would take place with a change of ownership, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. With so many of our reports just ending up in some file cabinet in a lender’s office, perhaps when the stars align our reports can sometimes actually do some good and make people’s lives better.