What about Renters?
Most of these articles and mold prevention and treatment tips are directed to home and building owners. It is ultimately the building owner’s responsibility to deal with mold and any problems associated with mold that arise.
The rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords with respect to mold can vary depending on the terms of the lease contract, the cause of mold growth, and whether local government agencies can intervene.
California was the first state in the country to pass a law dealing with toxic mold in residential rental property, according to RentLaw.com. The Toxic Mold Protection Act went into effect in 2001. The law establishes requirements for a landlord when a residential rental property is infested with mold.
What do you do when you are renting and discover mold?
Inform your landlord, realty company, or house owner immediately if you have found a moisture problem or mold growth. You are NOT responsible for it if you didn’t cause it. Common moisture problems include pipe leaks, roof leaks, sewage back-ups, and over flowing toilets/sinks/bathtubs.
Even if you are responsible for the mold, the law dictates that your landlord has a legal obligation to remove the mold. They can hold you financially responsible for mold removal if the mold occurred due to negligence on your part.
Tips to ensure you are not responsible as a tenant for mold according to the health department:
Tenants should look at their own behaviors to determine whether they may have contributed to the moisture problem that is causing mold. Here are some tips:
- Always use bathroom fans during and after bathing/showering.
- Avoid spilling liquids on carpet. If this occurs, quickly dry carpets (if carpets stay wet, notify the landlord).
- Use the kitchen fans when cooking.
- Don’t run the shower to humidify your home.
- Avoid using humidifiers unless there is a medical reason to use one.
- Ensure good air environment in your home to prevent condensation on cold surfaces
-open windows when possible,
-don’t block supply and return registers with furniture
-keep a few inches of space between furniture and walls
-don’t let parts of your home get very cold (such as closets against exterior walls)
-Watch what you put down drains to avoid clogging and over-flows
Responsible or not – get insurance!! One of the best preventative measures against losses.
Landlords and homeowner insurance is different than renters insurance. Your landlord’s homeowner insurance only protects their building against mold and other instances. Renters should always get renters insurance to protect THEIR belongings. It would be bad enough to live in an apartment, etc. with mold, but to have your belonging destroyed or infected with mold could be a huge loss in your own pocket.
The limits are low, usually around $5,000 for mold damage, but if you catch the damage quickly enough and stop it from progressing, that amount is oftentimes enough. Typically, renters insurance will cover the damage only up to the point where it reasonably could have been stopped. Not all insurance companies offer mold damage as part of their initial package, some may have it available as an add on, though. It would benefit you to shop around for renters insurance packages and see which would be best for you. You can’t get mold damage compensation from an insurance company if you purchase a plan after it, only before.
Renters insurance is just a good thing to have regardless of possible mold damage. For example, if your house gets robbed and your computers, TVs, jewelry and more get taken – renters insurance will reimburse you and you can replace your items stress free.
What do you do if you’ve taken the appropriate actions and notified your landlord, realty company, or house owner and no actions are being taken on their part?
If the landlords, realty company or house owner doesn’t take steps to handle the situation within a few days, things can get quickly serious. The longer the mold problem is neglected, the worse it will become and the more your health will be at stake. Plus, it is completely unacceptable from a legal standpoint.
CDC.gov excerpt from the FAQs section addressing this specific situation:
“My landlord or builder will not take any responsibility for cleaning up the mold in my home. Where can I go for help?
If you feel your property owner, landlord, or builder has not been responsive to concerns you’ve expressed regarding mold exposure, you can contact your local board of health or housing authority. Applicable codes, insurance, inspection, legal, and similar issues about mold generally fall under state and local (not federal) jurisdiction. You could also review your lease or building contract and contact local or state government authorities, your insurance company, or an attorney to learn more about local codes and regulations and your legal rights.
The tenant should try to document the problem, where applicable, with letters, photographs, evidence of health problems, orders from local inspectors, and any other documentation that would help a case if legal action is required. These would also help you make a solid claim to turn into your insurance company. Insurance companies always investigate a situation thoroughly and make clients jump through hoops to ensure their company isn’t being taken advantage of.
Remember: Visual evidence is binding as opposed to just your word.
There are steps to take:
- Check the Lease Agreement
- Contact the Local Housing Department
- Contact the Local Health Department
- Contact the Municipal Building Official
- Legal Action
A landlord who fails to provide notice about a mold problem or fails to correct a mold issue faces liability for any damages suffered by a tenant, according to RentLaw.com. A tenant can seek payment for property damage, health problems and any costs incurred because of the presence of mold on the premises.
Know your rights! Bottom line, your landlord, realty company, or property owner HAS a legal obligation to remove the mold.