Health concerns with sit: black mold, silverfish

We’re fairly new to the site. I’m an Airbnb Host Community leader and an Airbnb Superhost for our own home. Couldn’t find an answer to this in the forum so thought I’d post it here. Last week we had a great pet sit in a very clean home which we left even cleaner than we found it. What would you do if you came to a place that had health concerns? Since I have asthma, which is made worse by allergens, today I spent from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. cleaning black mold in a home of first time user of TrustedHousesitters. There’s also silverfish so all our belongings will need to be sanitized, ozinated and fumigated before we can bring them back into our own house so we don’t contaminate our own home (which is an Airbnb and our sole source of income since my husband is a disabled veteran). How does TrustedHousesitters recommend we address these types of issues? I don’t want to upset our Host and want a good review from her so I just remediated the mold. Let’s have a discussion about this!

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Hello. Your questions have caused me to think about what I’ve learned in my years as a sitter, and also what I’ve learned since joining the forum.

I’ve learned from the forum that the age of homes and climate conditions cause great variances in what can be a reasonable maintenance level inside a home. If it’s merely a difference in my opinion of clean, then I would be accepting. If it’s unreasonable and a health concern for the average person, then I would take photos/videos before I did any cleaning, if I chose to do cleaning. If I felt the conditions were unsafe, I would contact THS membership services.

If I had a health condition that I needed to take into consideration, it would make me more particular about the condition of the home. I might even consider adding that to my profile, as communication is so important. Yes, it might mean a homeowner would not consider me, but maybe that’s for the best.

You will see forum posts about leaving a fair review, as it’s been a lengthy discussion. I feel it’s important to leave a balanced review, to be fair to sitters who will come after you. I am hopeful that any changes to the current review system for sitters will have multiple categories, similar to how the homeowner reviews the sitter. In this case, you might then have scored them well on communication, for example, but a lower score on cleanliness.

Please don’t let this discourage you. In viewing discussions like this on the forum, I think of one sit I did (not THS) where cleanliness would not have scored well, but there were so many positive things I still think of when I reflect back and overall I still think of it as a good experience.

I have found that the more sits I do, the more particular I become about the sits I apply for. Also, I’m a bit of a broken record when I stress communication, but I do think it’s key. Find a way to ask the questions that make you feel uncomfortable. I’m a believer in having a video chat before accepting, and I certainly would mention health conditions (for sitter and homeowner) at that time. I have done a sit where I was asked not to bring or use any perfumed products because of the homeowner’s health condition. Not an issue for me, but it was good that they mentioned it.

I hope your next sit is more encouraging for you.

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To emphasize the very sage recommendations of @Snowbird and to echo what some other sitters have said in this forum, you do become more particular with experience and your process of confirming sits, both as a sitter and HO gets more refined. Personal experience is a great teacher and forums such as this are a great tool for leveraging and fastforwarding the learning curve. I too am grateful for the “uncomfortable situations” for now my sits are extraordinary. Rarely am I surprised by something negative.
It is unfortunate to be in a situation such as this. You @MimiMills were very brave and prudent to do some cleaning for your own health. Different people have different circumstances, different standards for reasons unknown.
We can only learn and move forward, raising our own standards and levels of personal preferences.
Open communication, good questions, video chats and such are great assessment tools for good decision making.

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Thank you both who responded and explained video chats are important to vetting a potential sit. How exactly do I get them in the video to disclose the fleas, silverfish and black mold? Is there particular phrasing or wording to make the ask for disclosure? Obviously these health issues are extremely difficult to be seen on a video chat.

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Another great question. It is difficult to ask these types of questions. You can begin with some general questions and statements such as “Is there anything I need to know about the condition of the house?” or something like “Do you have any concerns or issues that I should be made aware of?”
Any problems with leaks, power outages, pests in the past or present?
Ask about the neighborhood too, is it safe? Do a search of the area online if need be. Ask to shown around while on video or more pictures.

If you keep it vague at first you will get a sense and know to delve further and don’t shy away from saying that you have sensitivities or allergies etc.
This applies to fragrances, nuts all kinds of things. Some people are vegetarian and don’t want to be around omnivores or use cookware that has been used to prepare meats.

The thing is, though this may seem tedious, it will save you a lot of grief. Look at those reviews and if there aren’t any, ask your questions without holding back.

Any feelings that make you feel uncomfortable, move on.
And whenever you have something like this, PLEASE leave the appropriate feedback and let THS know.

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Hi @MimiMills , while neither of them are good, what you may be referring to is mildew, such as the black stuff that grows on shower grout. Mildew can be removed by bleach products. It’s not nearly as toxic as black mold. Black mold may not even be visible. It penetrates the surface and is very detrimental to health. It should be removed by mold remediation experts who are dressed in hazmat suits. Black mold often causes a musty smell in the house. As for screening the homes you are considering, all you can do is state in your profile that you have respiratory issues and request a home that is clean and has no odors. In the video interview ask for a video tour of the house including the bedroom and the bathroom(s)you will be using. It will help you get a sense of the home’s level of cleanliness but you will still have to go with your gut.

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The video chat is one of the tools in your sitter toolbox. From the minute you view a listing to the time you may be selected, you have a variety of tools to use along the way. In your situation, the photos in the listing should give you some clue as to their home maintenance and cleanliness levels. Don’t ignore any red flags there, just because other features are attractive.

If there are previous sitters, read their reviews, and in particular it’s just as important to look for what’s not mentioned. If all reviews rave about the pets as the highlight of the sit, and nothing about the home itself, that may be an indicator. Then read the responses to the reviews, and if the homeowner raves about returning to a home far cleaner than they left, for EVERY sitter, that can be telling.

If you get to a video chat, I think you should discuss the things that may trigger your asthma, such as dust or dander and see how that conversation develops. Some sitters ask for a video tour, and again you may see something. I agree that mould may be hidden, in which case you can merely ask if they have had any problems with mould. The problem is that this only eliminates one that you’ve experienced, but something else may cause problems for you.

In my opinion, your chosen standard of cleanliness, which can often be seen in photos, would be your best guide. If you’re not seeing photos of the kitchen and bathroom, wonder why and ask why they weren’t included. Don’t settle, just because you don’t like to ask. It’s important that it’s a match for all concerned.

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I only once bad a sit at a home that was not as clean as it should have been but it was only a few days and in the city I live in. I was reluctant to mention this in a review so I did not leav ed a review at all.

OOOOOFFFFFFF I wish you could see my facial expressions…

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As Mars said, black mold is toxic, and cannot be remediated by anyone but professionals. It usually involves tearing out walls and packing up and/or disposing of or sending out for professional cleaning all clothing, linens, etc.

Edited to add that my parents had been dealing with black mold issues and their effects for a few years. My dad is gone now. The retirement community finally sent out experts to test–and yes, there was black mold. Remediation involved tearing out walls and using bleach etc., removing everything, closing off rooms, etc…

Silverfish get into food in pantries.

It sounds as though this sit is unsuitable, unhygienic and unhealthy. I would seriously consider cutting it short with the assistance of THS.

@MimiMills , as I’ve said earlier, if you feel the conditions are unsafe, our you would feel better speaking with @Therese-MembershipService for guidance, please do that. You’ll see that I’ve tagged Therese, who will see this when she’s next online tomorrow morning. For privacy reasons for both you and the homeowner, Therese will contact you by email. If you would like to direct message her now with the details, click on her username in this message and use the green message envelope.

Francine,
Voluntary Forum Moderator

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@Snowbird - thank you … Hi @MimiMills I will email you directly from membership services. Kind regards Therese

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I think there is a difference between environmental issues (factors caused by climate, age and types of house etc) and cleanliness. Silverfish for example are harmless to most people and common in older houses/damper conditions, there presence is not really related to how clean a house is. Different countries and climatic zones have different pests and getting to know the local ones can be part of the experience! I think it would be worth mentioning your specific health issues in your applications so home owners can be aware and suggest if there may be issues.

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@RosieB You have hit on a great point there.
I sit mostly in SE Asia, and ants, spiders, caterpillars, bugs of all sorts, including cockroaches, are quite common.

The homes are not dirty or uncared for. It’s just nature.
The villa I am currently in is ground level - so anything in the garden walks or flies into the house. Caterpillars, spiders, geckos, frogs… it is all part of the experience.

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I had a bat flying around the sitting room last night - not sure where it came from, or where it went…