There Are Few Clear Guidelines About Mold
Few jurisdictions have clear rules about landlord responsibilities for mold, partly because the health impacts are uncertain. There is no federal law, and only a handful of states and cities have addressed the issue directly . Without clear guidance, landlords may mistakenly assume they can’t be held liable for tenant damages caused by mold.
Your Responsibilities As A Tenant
Did you know that if a landlord suspects a departing tenant of causing a mold outbreak, they can deduct the mold remediation costs from the tenants security deposit?
While your landlord is liable for mold-related damages, you should also do your best to maintain a clean, damp-free home. Heres how.
- Never allow sinks, toilets, and other appliances to overflow
- Keep windows closed to ward off rainwater
- Use exhaust fans to ventilate your home
- Install a dehumidifier for exceptionally humid climate
Also, you must note that mold that accumulates through daily household wear and tear is not your landlords responsibility. For example, if you spot mold patches growing in your sink, your landlord will most likely not fix it.
Is It A Violation For There To Be Mold In My Apartment
The citys housing department will record mold growths as C class, or immediately hazardous violations. However, many tenants find the enforcement of laws by the citys health and housing departments to be insufficient when dealing with a landlord who is resistant to spending the money to cure the problem. If your landlord is not responsive, you may need to take futher action such as taking your landlord to court
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Is A Landlord Responsible For Mold In A Rental
Ultimately, since the landlord owns the home, they’re responsible for taking care of the mold. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to make sure the property is safe and habitable for tenants and that means no mold should threaten the health of those living there.
Since mold is uncontrollable and unpredictable, you’ll want to educate your tenants on mold and how to prevent it in the home. Let them know the places where mold is common, like under sinks and in the corners of bathrooms and other humid areas, and ask them to check for it often. Then be sure they understand they should let you know as soon as possible if they ever find mold so you can correct the problem before it gets too big.
To Find Out If You Have Mold In An Apartment Or Rental Home
To find out if you have mold in an apartment or rental home, you can purchase a do-it-yourself mold test or you can call in a certified mold tester. Having a professional test for mold costs more, of course, but it provides more accurate results. You can ask your landlord to cover the cost. Follow this link to get a list of certified mold testers in your area.
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The Health Risks Of Living With Mould
The Housing Health and Safety Rating dictates that damp is an essential repair as it can cause health issues for tenants.
Mould is a fungus which can trigger or exacerbate the following health problems
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin rashes
- Asthma attacks
Not only is mould detrimental to physical health, it can also have an impact on tenants sense of wellbeing. This is why its so important for landlords to deal with mould swiftly and efficiently.
When Is Mould The Tenants Responsibility
Drying clothes on radiators and not ventilating bathrooms and kitchens can lead to mildew and mould growth. In the absence of structural problems such as rising damp, leaking pipes, or a broken extractor fan, the responsibility may lie with the tenant.
Mould doesnt grow overnight, so keep a close eye on the property during inspections. It might be worth making your tenants aware of how mould and mildew can form if you notice they frequently dry clothes on radiators or if they dont use the heating very often.
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S To Take If A Landlord Refuses To Remove Mold
In case your landlord fails to take any action after you report a dangerous mold outbreak, you have the legal right to:
- Stop paying rent until the remediation is complete
- Pack up and leave
- Charge your landlord to pay for alternative living expenses
- Use a months rent to hire a mold inspector and remediator
- Complain to appropriate authorities
- Sue your landlord for damages
California mold disclosure laws are designed to protect tenants from the dangers of mold. If your landlord does not comply, then you can take legal action against them.
How Can I Test My Apartment For Mold
Tenants should stay vigilant when it comes to mold in apartments. Be on the lookout for signs of mold growth such as water spots or suspicious stains, a musty or moldy smell, and leaky pipes. If you have been experiencing allergic symptoms, headaches, or difficulty breathing, it may be to mold. Make sure to alert your landlord as soon as possible. Your landlord can inspect the rental unit and test for the presence of mold.
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Can I Sue My Landlord For Damages From The Mold In My Home
In some situations, you may be able to sue your landlord in civil court for damages from the mold in your rental home. As previously mentioned, if there is mold that has not been remediated, your landlord may be held liable for your damages. They may also be held liable if they knew about leaks, flooded carpets, and ventilation and plumbing issues but fail to take action to prevent mold from developing.
As with other personal injury cases, you will need to prove duty, damage, and causation. Additionally, you will need to prove that you actually suffered damage as a result of the landlords failure to maintain habitable conditions. Further, if the mold damages your personal possessions, causing you to suffer property damage, you may have a claim for those damages as well.
In some cases, a tenant may have a mold related illness as a result of their landlords violation of Californias building code laws. Examples of mold related illnesses include:
- Throat, eye, or skin irritation or
- Upper respiratory issues.
If your landlord is found liable for your mold related illnesses, you may be able to sue your landlord for your damages. These damages typically include the costs of medical expenses such as past or future medical bills related to the condition, as well as lost wages and other financial losses caused by the illness.
What Is Your Responsibility
Mold is present everywhere, but it doesnt become a problem until you give it an environment to grow in. Make sure your property is well ventilated, and educate your tenants about mold prevention. Give them advice on how to regularly clean vulnerable areas such as bathrooms, and have them alert you as soon as they notice moisture buildup or leaks. Get the problem taken care of quickly to prevent mold growth. If your tenant reports the presence of a mold problem and you fail to act, it could get you in legal trouble as well as potentially cause serious health problems.
Mold or not, its the landlords responsibility to ensure that the property is habitable. Under the law, youre required to maintain the property for your tenant and make necessary repairs such as fixing broken windows, leaky pipes and roofs. Neglecting to make those types of repairs is often what leads to mold growth, so as long as you stay on top of property maintenance, your rental should stay mold-free.
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Do I Have To Have The Property Inspected For The Mold Removal To Be Covered By The Landlord
Not always. Mold removal can be covered without an inspection where:
- Your landlord agreed to the mold removal or
- Without an agreement, a court finds that the mold condition materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant and lets you:
- end your lease, or
- get a court order requiring mold removal.
If, however, you want to use the repair and deduct remedy, you must have the appropriate local housing, building, or health official provide the landlord with written notice that the mold condition materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant. This official might be a city health inspector, for example.
Health Effects Of Mold
Individuals with allergies or asthma are most at risk for developing symptoms associated with mold exposure. Such symptoms include coughing, runny nose, itchy eyes and skin and difficulty breathing. More severe effects include flu-like symptoms, respiratory dysfunction, nose bleeds, diarrhea, and headaches. Inhalation of mold spores released into the air cause most of the ailments from mold. Other compounds released by active mold, including mycotoxins, may causer some of the most severe effects and are the subject of further research.
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Should A Tenant Leave If Mold Is Found
Mold is a type of microscopic fungi that thrives in moist conditions and grows on any organic material including wood, paper and fibers. Colonies of mold can cover a large area and are usually black, white, grey, brown or green. Not only does mold damage the surfaces it grows on, it can also cause serious health problems. Depending on your sensitivity to mold and the extent of the mold growth, it could be a good idea to move out of your apartment if mold is present.
Mold And Human Health
With too much exposure to toxic mold, humans can suffer a range of negative health effects. Respiratory problems, allergic reactions, neurological problems and more are all results of prolonged exposure. Children and the elderly are particularly at risk for health-related problems.Here is a list of symptoms that could mean someone has been exposed to toxic mold:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Runny nose
Asthma, sinus infections, allergic reactions, fungal infections and mycotoxin toxicity are conditions and diseases that are common in those who have been exposed to toxic mold spores. Ill health can range from short-term illnesses to long-term, permanent effects. Landlords can be liable for failing to provide a habitable residence, and toxic mold growth certainly falls under this definition. Because landlords are the owners of rental properties where people reside, they are therefore responsible for complying with state and local health standards.
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Condensation And Mould: Advice For Tenants
If youre a tenant living in a rental property, there are some simple ways to prevent mould
- Dry clothes outside when possible or keep them in the bathroom with the doors closed and windows open
- Cover pans with lids when cooking to prevent excess steam escaping
- Close the kitchen and bathroom door when in use
- Use a bath mat to soak up excess water
- Turn on the extractor fan when cooking or bathing
- Leave a gap between furniture and external walls
- Air out cupboards and wardrobes regularly
- Turn on the heating regularly and try to keep the house a consistent temperature
What Happens If The Tenant Fails To Notify The Landlord Of A Problem
A landlord cant fix a problem he knows nothing about, so the onus is on the tenant to report mould when it arises. Always keep track of correspondence between you and the tenant, whether they use email, instant messaging, or voice calls. If there is a subsequent dispute, it will be helpful if you can produce detailed records that show how you and the tenant communicated during the period in question.
Bonus Tip: Landlord Vision lets you track tenant-landlord correspondence in a tenant journal.
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What Options Do I Have If My Landlord Refuses To Remove The Mold From My Apartment Or House
- End your lease and move.
- File a lawsuit against the landlord in court.
- Hire a contractor to repair the mold and deduct the cost of repair from your rent. You can only do this under very specific circumstances .
Important: Talk with a landlord-tenant lawyer before you move forward with the above options if the landlord refuses to repair a hazardous mold condition.
If you need to talk with a lawyer, you can:
- Check our Legal Clinic Calendar.
- You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic.
Mold Clause In The Rental Agreement / Lease
You can save any future landlord-tenant mold drama by putting EVERYTHING into writing in the lease.
Here is an example of how you can do that:
Having that in the lease will cover just about all scenarios in writing. That way there is no disputing what the tenants responsibilities are.
If you are a tenant, if you treat the home as if it was your own, and if you are a landlord that treats the home as if your own family lived there, a dispute should never arise!
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Checking For Mold In A Rental Property
Before a tenant even moves in, you should thoroughly clean and check your property for any mold or signs of future mold issues. Common places where mold appears are underneath kitchen sinks and in bathrooms. You should also note other places that may have extra humidity and moisture in the rental, like the laundry room, closets or basement corners as these are often environments where mold grows unnoticed.
You can also use an at-home mold testing kit if you’ve found something you think might be mold or you can call in a professional to check the home out.
Different Types Of Mould
There are many different types of mould fungus, but the main varieties you are likely to see in a rental property include:
- Mildew is the most common type of black mould and is often seen in areas of high humidity such as bathrooms. Mildew looks like black spots on walls and ceilings. When wiped with bleach, it fades away.
- Green mould is most unsightly. This may contain Penicillin, but its not good for your health. Green mould looks fluffy and can sometimes be found growing on damp carpets and soft furnishings. It can cause nasty respiratory problems.
- Blue mould is more common in moist bathrooms and is usually spotted on walls around showers and baths. It needs lots of moisture to grow, so a steamy shower cubicle is perfect.
- White mould has a furry appearance and is often spotted in damp cellars. It can look like the salt deposits seen on damp masonry, but it wont dissolve when water is sprayed on the surface.
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Can I Withhold Rent For Mould
If your landlord refuses to make repairs, withholding rent can be risky. Technically, tenants do not have the right to withhold rent and could be subject to repossession or even eviction.
However, tenants do have the right to make the repairs themselves and make up the cost in future rent. If you decide to go down this route, you need to be certain that the repairs needed are the responsibility of the landlord. Be sure to seek legal advice before making this stance and follow the correct procedures.
When Does Mold Become Harmful To Health
According to information provided by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and the NYC Department of Health, most molds that grow in small quantities are harmless for healthy people but obvious mold growths in homes or work places should be cleaned up immediately.
Some molds can be very harmful to humans, especially young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Even healthy people can develop severe illnesses and allergies when exposed to large mold growths. Illnesses related to mold growth include allergic reactions , asthma, and severe respiratory problems.
Tenants around the country have complained for years about very severe illnesses, including hemorrhaging lungs, caused by mycotoxins which are chemicals produced by some harmful molds. In large quantities, according to some sources, mold mycotoxins can induce allergies and chronic, severe health problems in previously healthy people.
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Landlord Legal Responsibilities For Tenant Exposure To Mold
With a few exceptions, landlord responsibilities regarding mold have not been clearly spelled out in building codes, ordinances, statutes, or regulations.
No federal law sets permissible exposure limits or building tolerance standards for mold in residential buildings, and only a few states , and a few cities , have taken steps toward establishing permissible mold standards or guidelines and regulations for mold in indoor air.
To see whether your state is considering mold-related legislation that might affect residential rentals, you can search the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Environmental Health State Bill Tracking Database. Check the “Indoor Air QualityMold” box in the “Topics” column, and check the box next to your state.
For local mold-related rules, contact your city manager, mayor’s office or other local government department.
Mold Clauses In Leases
Some landlords include clauses in the lease that purport to relieve them from any liability resulting from mold growth. At least one court has refused to enforce such a clause, ruling that to do so would be against public policy. More cases from other parts of the country are sure to arise as mold litigation makes its way through the courts. Some states require landlords to disclose information about mold to tenants.
A smart landlord will try to prevent the conditions that lead to the growth of moldand tenants should be the landlord’s partner in this effort. This approach requires maintaining the structural integrity of the property , which is the landlord’s job. You can help by preventing mold problems in your home in the first place and promptly reporting problems that need the landlord’s attention.
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