How To Deal With Black Mold In A Rental Property
Step 1 Notify the Landlord
When you discover mold in your apartment, filing for an apartment mold lawsuit should not be your first step. Instead, you should contact the landlord or send him/her a notice immediately letting them know what you found. Due to the warranty of habitability, your landlord is responsible for removing the mold and should compensate you if you suffer any health problems from being exposed.
Chances are your landlord will react quickly and get the black mold removed. If the landlord shows reluctance in fixing the issue and you are convinced that it is not due to your negligence, you may consider pursuing a legal claim against the landlord.
Step 2 Pursue Legal Action
Filing a lawsuit should be your next move if the landlord refuses to address your mold issue. Depending on your loss you should be fairly compensated. It may be necessary to file in small claims court if the amount of damages falls under a certain threshold. Youll need to research the damage threshold in your state to determine what qualifies as a small claims case.
Who Is Responsible For Dealing With Mold In Apartments
As of 2016, there are no federal laws in the United States regarding mold and landlord/tenant responsibilities. A few states have laws related to this subject, including California, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas. Some cities also have relevant laws, including San Francisco and New York City. Even if you live in an area without laws addressing the subject of apartment mold specifically, though, in all states landlords are expected to provide a habitable rental unit. If mold is making your apartment unsafe to live in, your landlord is responsible for fixing the problem.
In general, landlords are responsible for mold remediation if mold results from something the landlord is responsible for repairing. For instance, if a leaky roof leads to mold growth, the landlord would probably be responsible for removing the mold as well as repairing the roof. Tenants are not typically responsible for roof repair and therefore they arent usually responsible for removing mold that results from a leaky roof.
You should consult an attorney if you need legal advice about a specific situation.
If you have renters insurance – and we recommend all renters purchase insurance for their own protection – it may cover the cost of some of your belongings if they are ruined by mold. It will depend on the specific coverage your policy provides and on the cause of the mold. Contact your insurance agent if you have questions.
Obligations Subject To Limitation Of Liability
A landlord is liable for following the obligations set forth under landlord-tenant law. This includes adhering to the terms of the lease agreement.
In many states, a landlord is relieved of this liability once they sell the property and notify the tenant in writing that the property is under new ownership or management. The new owner then becomes liable for adhering to the terms of the lease agreement and for following the landlord-tenant law in the state.
The landlord who collected the security deposit is still responsible for the tenants security deposit. The landlord usually has two options:
*Be sure to check your state and local landlord-tenant laws to discover additional or different obligations that may apply in your area.
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Risks Of Suing Your Landlord
Filing a lawsuit , however, also has some important potential risks that every tenant should consider.
- You Could Lose: Deciding to sue your landlord is not a guarantee of victory. You can go through all the hassle of a lawsuit and lose. Often times, landlords are protected by limited liability companies or larger organizations that may have in-house legal counsel or fat wallets to hire competent attorneys.
- Costly: Filing a lawsuit is not free. You will have to pay court costs and filing fees. Certain states will also require you to be represented by an attorney, although most allow you, or even require you, to represent yourself in small claims courtand lawyers can become very expensive. You have to decide if the amount you are seeking from your landlord justifies all of these extra costs.
- Landlord Could Countersue: Filing a lawsuit against your landlord could motivate them to file a lawsuit against you. If you lose this countersuit, you could be responsible for court costs, their attorneys fees , as well as damages the landlord suffered plus the original amount the landlord was seeking.
Clean Up Small Mold Patches On Organic Surfaces
According to the EPA, you can clean mold from organic surfaces yourself if the affected area is smaller than 10 square feet . Cleanup techniques will vary by surface type.
Mold on fabrics and other soft surfaces may be hard to remove completely, so consider replacing the damaged item. For example, if your bathroom throw rug has significant mold growth, it makes sense to replace it with something you can wash and dry regularly.
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When To Sue A Landlord
When you should sue your landlord depends on the reason you are suing. If you are suing because the landlord withheld your security deposit, then it makes sense to file the lawsuit after move out. If you are suing because the landlord refuses to perform repairs to make the unit habitable, then it makes sense to sue while you have an active lease.
If you sue while you are still living in the apartment, you do risk the landlord trying to retaliate against you.
However, many states have laws that prohibit landlords from performing an act of retaliation in response to a tenant taking a legally allowed action, such as taking the landlord to court.
- Statute of Limitations: You must be aware that there is a statute of limitations for property damage on how much time after the incident you have to sue your landlord. Laws vary widely. In Louisiana, for example, you have as little as a year, while in Rhode Island, you have up to 10 years.
What Should You Do If You Find Mold In Your Apartment Or Rental House
Mold in an apartment is a significant health hazard for adults and especially for young children. Many law firms have won multimillion-dollar cases against landlords for their negligence in preventing black mold in apartments and taking care of the mold problems theyre already aware of.
Mold can cause severe symptoms like fatigue, nausea, asthma, rashes, and even internal organ damage. The scariest part is that these symptoms commonly overlap with a myriad of conditions, so theres no effective way for a parent or spouse to accurately diagnose a mold infestation in their apartment without seeing it.
Use this guide to recognize mold in your apartment so you can keep you and your family safe. Learn when your landlord is liable for this problem so you can take the necessary legal action to get the problem cleaned up.
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What If Mold Keeps Coming Back In The Same Areas After It Is Cleaned Up
Mold grows in areas that are kept wet or moist, so simply cleaning up mold is insufficient if there continues to be a water leak, water build-up , moisture build-up, or standing water . If mold regrows in an area where it has already been cleaned, that is an indication that the source of the problem has not been addressed.
What Can You Do
To prevent and get rid of mold:
- Keep your house clean and dry.
- Fix water problems such as roof leaks, wet basements, and leaking pipes or faucets.
- Make sure your home is well ventilated and always use ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens.
- If possible, keep humidity in your house below 50% by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier.
- Avoid using carpeting in areas of the home that may become wet, such as kitchens, bathrooms and basements.
- Dry floor mats regularly.
To find mold that might be growing in your home:
- Search for moisture in areas that have a damp or moldy smell, especially in basements, kitchens and bathrooms.
- Look for water stains or colored, fuzzy growth on and around ceilings, walls, floors, windowsills and pipes.
- If you smell a musty odor, search behind and underneath materials such as carpeting, furniture or stored items.
- Inspect kitchens, bathrooms and basements for standing water, water stains and patches of out-of-place color.
To control moisture problems and mold:
- Fix any water problems immediately and clean or remove wet materials, furnishings or mold.
- Clean up spills or floods within one day. If practical, take furniture that has been wet outside to dry and clean. Direct sunlight prevents mold growth.
- Dry all surfaces and fix the problem or leak to prevent further damage.
- Install a dehumidifier when a moisture problem is evident or when the humidity is high.
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Should I Test For Mold
For testing assessments and/or clean-up, check local yellow pages under Laboratories-Analytical, Environmental Testing, or Mold Inspection. Please note that the commonly used testing methods are limited in what they can detect and measure. Testing for mold is not the same as testing for mycotoxins, toxic substances produced by some molds which may harm a person.
Can Mold Spread From One Apartment To Another
Unlike houses, apartments are not usually self-contained living environments. Apartments exist as interconnected units with common ventilation and plumbing systems.
As a result, if one apartment has a mold and mildew problem, it can easily spread to other apartments through the air in HVAC systems.
This means that even if you remove mold from your apartment, it could still come back if other apartments in the building remain contaminated. In addition, its very difficult to find the source of the contamination especially if you dont have the help of a professional mold inspector.
Did you know?
Only 8% of living rooms we have tested didnt have presence of mold?! Find out more exciting mold stats and facts inside our mold statistics page.
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Cause #: A Broken Washing Machine Hose
“We get a lot of these,” Gross says, placing the blame on cheap rubber washing machine hoses. Those are the ones that break, as opposed to the under $30 stainless-steel-wrapped hoses you can buy at Home Depot that almost never leak.”Treatment: For minor damage, the removal of moldings and drilling of holes to promote air circulation and drying, for a cost from $1,200 to $5,000.If mold has already set in, a full-scale remediation would entail removing the flooring and base moldings, cutting the sheetrock walls up two feet around the perimeter of the room, and then treating the area as described below. Price: $8,000-$12,000.
Tell Your Landlord Manager Or Super Right Away
If you rent in New York City, your landlord must take specific steps to eliminate all visible mold as well as the poor housing conditions that led to the mold. Leaks, moisture entering your apartment, and lack of ventilation can lead to recurring mold and related conditions like infestations of roaches and other pests. Mold grows rapidly so report the condition immediately and provide your landlord ready access to your apartment for repairs.
Once you report the problem, be ready to schedule time for the landlord and/or contractors to inspect and repair the issue. Under New York City regulation, you must provide the landlord access to inspect the condition upon reasonable notice , and the landlord should provide you one weeks written notice prior to entering your apartment to perform work. If the condition constitutes an emergency , you must provide access to the landlord right away. If you live in NYCHA, call the Customer Care Center at 707-7771 or make a complaint online to request repairs. You can also contact 311 to make a record of the complaint.
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What Can I Do As A Tenant
Renters can address some minor moisture problems themselves.
- Always use bathroom fans during and after bathing/showering
- Clean up spills and leaks quicklyâespecially on carpets.
- Use kitchen fans when cooking to reduce humidity.
- Dont run showers or boil water to humidify your home.
- Avoid using humidifiers unless there is a medical reason to use one.
- Ensure good air movement in your home to help prevent condensation:
- Open windows when possible,
- Don’t block supply and return registers with furniture
- Keep a few inches of space between furniture and walls
Tenants should promptly notify their landlord when they find a moisture problemor indoor mold growth. Common moisture problems such as pipe leaks, roof leaks, sewage back-ups and overflowing toilets/sinks/bathtubs can become mold problems if they are not address quickly. For ongoing problems, notification should be in writing to help avoid misunderstandings. Request that repairs be completed within 14 days. Tenants should keep copies of letters. If there is mold growing indoors, the moisture problem needs to be corrected and the mold removed. Simply painting over the problem is not going to solve the issue. Growth on surfaces, such as concrete, metal, tile, and solid wood, can be cleaned with water and a household cleaner, if the building material is structurally sound. Porous materials with mold growth, such as dry wall, carpet, upholstery, and insulation, are difficult to clean and should be thrown away.
Are There Any Laws Regarding The Safety Of A Rental Environment
Your landlords responsibility and liability in handling a mold problem can vary from state to state. The federal government has no established standards concerning this environmental and health hazard.
However, a few states, as well as some municipalities, have passed their guidelines.
Searching the National Conference of State Legislatures database for mold will help you determine if any statutes exist for your local community.
Even if you live in an area where no laws are in place to address the mold issue in a residential rental, your landlord is still responsible for providing proper maintenance and repairs.
But just as the landlord has obligations where mold is concerned, so do tenants.
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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.
Black Mold Is A Health Hazard
Technically known as Stachybotrys chartarum, black mold poses a serious threat to human health by causing respiratory problems, mental impairment, skin inflammation, and internal organ damage.
Black mold thrives in moist, dark places that have poor air circulation like between walls or beneath floorboards. That means it can go unnoticed until its too late.
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Liability For Toxic Mold In Texas
If you have health problems caused by mold on a Texas property you are leasing, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the landlord or property manager.
It is their responsibility to keep the property in habitable shape and to protect the tenants physical health and safety, as noted before, in Texas. As such, any problems associated with the building would be their problem to handle.
Also, if you just purchased a new home in Texas and toxic mold becomes obvious, the previous owner could be held liable for losses. If the previous owners knew about the mold problem, they were legally obligated to disclose this information to potential buyers.
Just like they were obligated to tell you about a leaky roof, they had to tell you about the black mold if they knew about it.
Request A Mold Inspection
If your landlord refuses to take action after you have notified them of the mold problem, you may want to request a mold inspection. In many cases, landlords will not act until a formal inspection has confirmed the presence of mold.
A trained inspector will be able to find any existing or potential sources of moisture in your building that could lead to mold growth. They will also be able to determine the extent of the problem and recommend remediation.
Once the mold inspector has completed the assessment, they will provide you with a detailed report of their findings. This may help you and your landlord determine a long-term solution to the problem.
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Should A Tenant Call The Health Department About An Unhealthy Or Unsafe Apartment
In some egregious cases tenants have taken their health & safety concern complaint to the local health department.
If there is a serious and obvious problem with mold or other health concerns in a rental apartment, the health department may condemn the property and require the owners to act. In our opinion this is a rather drastic step though it may be appropriate in dire circumstances. In our opinion you should: