1. The Moldy Apartment Blues – Who Is Liable?
Mold in rentals is a joint issue of tenant-landlord liability, responsibility, and prevention. If you find mold lurking and seeping in from the corners of your walls, you are living in an environmentally hazardous situation. There are a variety of mold strains that can cause any number of health problems.
2. Toxic Molds You Should Run Away From
Aggravates asthma, cystic fibrosis and immune-deficiency diseases.
Can cause infections of the eyes, nails or skin, and systemic infections of weak immune systems.
Can cause hypersensitivity of the skin and respiratory system.
Can cause permanent damage neurologically and psychologically as well as permanently damage immune systems, causing bone and internal organ infections, skin lesions, and respiratory disorders.
Stachybotrys (commonly called “black mold”)
Can cause respiratory complications, aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma, can cause nose bleeds and memory loss.
3. Are There Any Laws Regarding the Safety of a Rental Environment?
Your landlord’s responsibility and liability in handling a mold problem can vary from state to state. The federal government has no established standards where this environmental and health hazard is concerned.
However, a few states as well as some municipalities, have passed their own guidelines. Searching the National Conference of State Legislature’s database for “mold” will help you determine if any statutes exist for your own local community. Even if you live in an area where no laws are in place to address the issue of mold in a residential rental, your landlord still has a responsibility to provide proper maintenance and repairs.
But just as the landlord has obligations where mold is concerned, so do tenants.
4. Tenant Liability & Responsibility
A tenant’s failure to notify a landlord of the presence of mold could result in the landlord holding the tenant legally responsible. The more serious the mold infestation is, the more costly the clean-up. If a tenant ignores the problem, they could get stuck with the bill. If you detect the growing presence of mold, it is important to act quickly. In regards to mold, tenants have legal rights and landlords have legal obligations.
In fact, your lease may contain an addendum, clause, or disclosure specifically regarding the issue of mold. Once a landlord begins addressing the issue, there is a possibility that temporary relocation may be necessary while work is performed. If a landlord relocates a tenant to a hotel during this time, the tenant is still obligated to continue paying their rent but the landlord picks up the tab for the hotel. A tenant is responsible for reasonable preventative measures while living in the residence. Follow these tips for controlling moisture:
- Properly vent clothes dryers to the outdoors.
- Request air conditioning and clothes dryer ducts to be routinely cleaned.
- Use exhaust fans during showers, running dishwashers and while cooking.
- Clean up water spills immediately.
- Report water leaks to landlord/management immediately.
If you live in an area of high humidity, frequent rain, or have had any plumbing leaks, you should perform routine mold inspections. Even if these conditions do not apply to your living situation, inspecting your apartment for mold should still be performed periodically. Here are some suggested areas to inspect where the danger may be lurking:
- Wall paneling
- Ceiling tiles
- Cardboard boxes
- Your roommate’s leftover Chinese food
If your landlord requires you to carry renters insurance, you should tell your insurer about your mold problem as soon as possible, and let your landlord know you’ve done so. Renters insurance sometimes covers mold, so there’s a chance your insurer will help pay for the mold removal.
5. Landlord Liability & Responsibility
Before leasing out to the tenant, the landlord should have conducted appropriate inspections and cleaning of the property. If a tenant reports mold to a landlord, the landlord is obligated to eradicate the problem.
However, prevention is preferred to a costly mold clean-up. Maintenance and repair requests made by tenants should be promptly responded to. Such requests also include cleaning air conditioning and clothes dryer ducts.
If such requests are grossly delayed in resolving or are ignored altogether, liability for resulting mold growth falls on the landlord.
As a landlord, make sure you delineate in the lease agreement if it is your tenant’s responsibility for mold maintenance, before considering issuing an eviction notice to them for a moldy buildup on the property.
It is not uncommon for courts to see mold cases held between landlords and tenants. In fact, renters throughout the United States have successfully argued their cases and been awarded millions of dollars in compensation.
Arguments for these types of cases can include tenants arguing that landlords have failed to perform repairs, landlords arguing that tenants wrongly withheld rent, or that negligence and lack of cleanliness resulted in the growth of mold.
7. Joint Responsibilities
When it comes to mold in rental properties, tenants and landlords share joint responsibility in preventing mold from growing and in creating the conditions that lessen the likelihood of mold. An equal share in responsibility means sharing equally in liability. Tenants and landlords alike should carefully document the events that take place once mold is suspected within a rental unit.
- A thoroughly recorded timeline
- Copies of maintenance requests
- Completed work orders, emails, and phone calls
These are what will be necessary should it come down to disputing a case in court. However, the best solution for both the tenant and landlord is to prevent mold from occurring in the first place. It’s important to realize that both tenants and landlords hold an equal part when it comes to maintenance of the rental property.
It’s not about who is to carry the blame for the mold, but how to take action in having a healthy tenant-landlord relationship and healthy living environment.