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Opinions on how to handle funky fumes in new space please

Discussion in 'Picture Framing Business Issues' started by MurrayBoy, Jul 3, 2018.

  1. MurrayBoy

    MurrayBoy Grumbler

    Hi all, this is a long one! Sorry! I just moved into a new space in the same building as where I have been for the last 2yrs as a commercial picture framer.I've leased space for many years in the building as an artist and have had no problems at all. I've also had a good relationship with maintenance and management. I don't want to burn any bridges because of all this.
    Maintenance repainted everything and re-waxed the floors before I moved in. It looks like they used aerosol oil based primer in spots and then painted over it with latex on the walls and then proceeded to shut everything up until I moved in 2 weeks later. When I opened the door the fumes were intense! They gave me 3 days to move from one location to the other location. So I had no choice to try and air it out and work through it. I rented an air scrubber and tried wearing a respirator for fumes. Unfortunately, it made me so sick I had to go to the ER. The chemicals irritated my lungs and I was put on prednisone. I spoke to the manager of the building and maintenance. They are concerned but I get the feeling they think I'm kinda making it up. The fumes are still there (not as bad) when I come in and had to have a bunch of fans going and the windows open . Its put a huge burden on the shop and me being able to complete orders while trying to put my shop back in order. Maintenance has decided to encapsulate the paint with a new paint that is supposed to stop the outguessing. So they want me to move everything out and do this. The thing that bothers me the most is that they haven't been paying for all of this and think it's not a big deal to be moving everything around. So far I have the air scrubber rental, respirators, special filters for the central air,ER visit (super expensive!), and a missed anniversary concert from ER visit.It's up to about $4,000. It's been a month since they redid the space. Obviously, some chemical or application method didn't mesh well! How would you all handle this? It's such a bizarre thing to be dealing with that is having a huge impact though.
    Thanks!
    Also, the ER physician wanted to call the county health inspector and have my space looked at. But since the management is being supportive, I felt it best to give them a chance to fix it first.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  2. bruce papier

    bruce papier MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    You may want to talk to the landlord and then the call the health inspector. The health inspector might be able to put a finger on the offending chemical. This will save everyone a lot of headaches (maybe literally). As it sits now, everyone is just guessing as to what went wrong without really knowing what to fix.
     
    shayla and MurrayBoy like this.
  3. Al B

    Al B CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    My wife has run into this several times with new construction and remodeling. The first incident was new carpeting in our local library. It took a few visits until we figured out the connection to the new carpeting. She didn't go back until it finally aired out enough. The next was a major construction renovation that she was involved in. She and one other person were the only people that got sick, so many were skeptical. The other person chose not to return. My wife had to go back so she had to find a way to deal with it. Her doctor sent her to an allergist. He had her bring the specifications from the paint, tiles, and carpeting that were used in the building. He sent them to a lab with her skin samples. He found what she was allergic to. He was able to put her on medication until the building finally aired out enough to an acceptable level for her to breathe and be not be covered in rashes.
     
    MurrayBoy likes this.
  4. MurrayBoy

    MurrayBoy Grumbler

    Thank you for the replies. I set up an appointment with an allergist and hopefully we can get to the bottom of it. One problem I'm having is that maintenance can't remember which products were used in my space. They have an idea but are not certain what exactly was done. For instance they can't remember if the floors were waxed. I think at the very least this will make them realize that better record keeping is a must. I know they used an aerosol primer that the safety sheet is pretty scary.I think I will go ahead and contact the health department for suggestions. After a month the fumes should be gone. When I came in today the fumes built back up over since Tuesday so it seems unlikely the off gassing won't be gone any time soon!
     
  5. Al B

    Al B CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    Let us know how you do - best of luck with this.
     
    MurrayBoy likes this.
  6. Rick Granick

    Rick Granick SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Do you have a business attorney you work with on your lease and other matters? I think you need someone who knows the way things are supposed to be handled in situations like this. It sounds like there was major incompetence on their part in the handling of toxic substances and lax record keeping. (Just my opinion.) But, you don't want to suffer long term consequences of this, nor to expose your employees and customers to unsafe conditions.
    :cool: Rick
     
  7. cjmst3k

    cjmst3k SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I would indeed recommend having the health inspector out before having them do any more work. This gives you leverage, but even if you don't use the leverage, it gives the landlord incentive to correctly address this.

    We had a 4 year major issue with our space due to the landlord, and they promised for years they would address the issue and they were also friendly about it. And they dragged it out and in the end did not address the issue correctly, and through a series of half measures. I sued the landlord, and the landlord acted to resolve our issue.

    In your case, the health inspector witnessing the issue before work begins should be able to give you a neutral party to observe, and also should know whether their means of "resolution" are correct, or are not the right avenue.
     
  8. Daniel Smith

    Daniel Smith Grumbler

    Might check to see if an Ozone Generator will work to kill the odors. They are used to get rid of fire odors and might work with yours. While it is running you can't be in the place. Running while unoccupied overnight may help?
     
    MurrayBoy, Grey Owl and ckelley like this.
  9. MurrayBoy

    MurrayBoy Grumbler

    Hi everyone. Thanks for all the suggestions and I wanted to give an update. The health inspector did come out but it was after they had already started painting with the encapsulating paint that is supposed to get rid of the fumes. It's been a week and the smell came right back. In fact it seems like it just activated it more. I went to the allergist and I now have asthma. The health inspector did have a VOC tester and said it wasn't dangerous. But they definitely smelled the fumes. She said it smells sour and I agree. The VOC machine doesn't pick up everything so she couldn't tell me for certain it is all clear. She recommends airing it out when I'm here and shutting the windows at 4pm everyday because the downtown traffic at rush hour causes my CO alarm to go off :-( . I am technically closed at this point and feel defeated. I cancelled all my work because they started painting and moved all my equipment to the center of the rooms and it took them a week to do that. My customers are fairly upset with me because I promised the work for a big art exhibit that had a deadline I couldn't meet. I gave them plenty of time to go somewhere else but my reputation is faltering fast. I think it's time I stop giving them the benefit of the doubt and get more aggressive.

    I will say the health inspector was pretty eager to walk around the building and check other things out though.
     
  10. MurrayBoy

    MurrayBoy Grumbler

    No, I don't have an attorney. I am a one person show and have closed until this is resolved. I will say the owner is probably one of the wealthiest people in my state and is pretty intimidating. He comes off nice but incredibly privileged to the point people fall all over themselves to try and make him happy.So I would say I would lose any sort of legal battle especially since the health inspector didn't find toxic levels in the shop even though the fumes are still there.Thanks!
     
  11. Rick Granick

    Rick Granick SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Do you have a lease on this or your previous space? If so, it should ensure you the occupancy of a usable space. Your current space may not be usable.
    I would contact an attorney to look at the language of your lease. Do you have any friends who are attorneys? Don't be intimidated by the owner, his wealth or anything else. It's all about what is in your lease, which is there to protect both parties. If you can't work or do business in your space, you don't have a business. Unfortunately, you are going to have to spend some money to resolve this.
    :cool: Rick
     
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  12. MurrayBoy

    MurrayBoy Grumbler

    Yes I have a lease on both spaces. The other space is right down the hall and when the bigger space came available I jumped on it.The leasing management has been looking for a bigger space for me in the building for the last year. My previous space has been rented by someone else in the building and her space has been rented by someone new to the building. So I can't really move back into my smaller space. I am in limbo. They let me have access to the old suite until the new renter takes over but it doesn't really help because I can't just move my entire shop back in. I tried running back and forth. Customers were always trying to find me and it is so unbelievably unprofessional! That is partly the reason I decided to temporarily close. My client base are artists and commercial accounts so that is why my space seems a lot more unusual than a typical retail shop if your curious. I will have to dig out my lease and see what the lingo is all about. Thanks!
     
  13. Rick Granick

    Rick Granick SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    It sounds to me like, with that clientele, you might be better off in an office/warehouse type space, which would be less money per square foot.
    For now, you essentially don't have a space, or a business. This is unfair to you as you are paying for a space you can't use... which I'm guessing is a violation of the lease. If so, you would be within your rights to put the rent/cam money in escrow until the space is safe and usable. But don't act on my advice. Again, I would speak to a business attorney for help with resolving this untenable situation.
    :cool: Rick
     
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  14. PaulSF

    PaulSF PFG, Picture Framing God

    I'm a former framer, and an attorney. I have handled a lot of commercial leases. Typically, there is a clause called a "quiet enjoyment" clause - this is the landlord's obligation to provide you with quiet enjoyment of your space. It may encompass things like excessive noise and similar disruptions. Persistent fumes for a month after renovations may very well qualify, too.

    I think you should get a local attorney with real estate experience, and put together a proactive plan. You don't want the landlord to do the renovations again - clearly painting over the same bad paint is not going to be acceptable. I think the plan should involve stripping the existing paint from the walls, and repainting with something better. You might also include stripping any wax from the floors and refinishing. You should supervise the work, and the landlord should pay for it. The landlord should also pay for your expenses to date in dealing with this, including moving expenses.

    Paul
     
  15. MurrayBoy

    MurrayBoy Grumbler

    The building is unique that it is four stories and covers an entire city block in an urban setting. We have everything from artists to attorneys in the building and I pay $1.25 sq foot that includes all utilities. So it is a very good deal and keeps me connected to many artist, art buyers, and professionals like attorneys and architects. I really don't want to move, but geez I need this solved ASAP. Thanks for your help!
     
    Rick Granick likes this.
  16. MurrayBoy

    MurrayBoy Grumbler

    Thank you for the info! Unfortunately, it was my idea to paint it with encapsulation paint because they offered no ideas or solutions. It's the only thing I could find that had worked for some people with the same issue. I had to buy my own fans to air it out with. It's not some run down slum lord building either. They have a full time staff of 11 maintenance workers. Surely they had some fans hanging around. I called maintenance numerous times, they said "they don't smell it, or it smells like cardboard, or oh we had this problem in the hallway with oil paint last year, to could it be my matboards, or it's my boxes I had delivered on the dock that smelled". I have a feeling the super expensive encapsulation paint will be added to my August rent invoice. :-/ Sorry to vent, but it is beyond frustrating! I am getting in touch with an attorney ASAP.
     
  17. Daniel Smith

    Daniel Smith Grumbler

    If you are going that way - why not Environmental Health Dept? Or State Industrial Commission? Or EPA?

    Workplace safety may be the question with fumes that may well have an effect on health, not to mention that may cause problems with your framing materials and clients artwork.
     
  18. cjmst3k

    cjmst3k SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Have a lawyer review your lease. like.... yesterday.

    If there is any language which can help you, a lawyer should find it.

    And if it is NOT specified in your lease, it may be such a basic thing that it doesn't need to be in the lease. You may even find that they may be in breach of a "Quiet Enjoyment", as this disturbance is affecting your "quiet enjoyment" of the space.

    If you scan and PM me a copy of your lease, I'll be glad to read it over to see if I see anything. I'm not a lawyer, but having just won two real estate lawsuits over the last 2 years (they settled to 100% of my demands, just prior to the trials) based on breach of contract, I might be able to spot something that may help you.
     
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  19. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    For in-house projects that haven't been completed, do you know any other framers who might be able to help by finishing them? Do your suppliers provide matting/framing services? Is there (now it's writing italic, and I don't know why) another space in which you could temporarily work to finish those?
     
  20. David Waldmann

    David Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Probably because you pressed <Ctrl> with your <Shift> when you made your "I"...
     
  21. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    Thank you, smart person. Yet another reason that we like having you around.
     
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