Mold is fast becoming one of the biggest concerns for tenants across the USA as exposure to it has been linked to serious health conditions including chronic fatigue, asthma, pneumonia, hemorrhaging and skin conditions. It has, in fact, been estimated that as many as 21% of current asthma cases in the USA are attributable to dampness and mold in the house. While residences in the more humid states of the country, such as California and Texas, are known to experience more frequent problems, mold can grow anywhere that moisture is present. Despite it being easy to pinpoint the health implications of household mold, it is not always as straightforward to determine who’s responsible for maintenance against mold. Here is what you as a tenant need to know.
Are their laws governing the exposure to household mold?
Your landlord’s responsibility and liability regarding a mold problem can vary from state to state. Apart from a few exceptions, a landlord’s responsibilities pertaining to mold are not explicitly noted in ordinances, building codes, regulations, and statutes. There is currently no federal law stating the allowed tolerance standards and exposure limits to mold in residential buildings.
Presently, only a few states (Indiana, Maryland, Texas, New Jersey and California) have initiated the process of creating guidelines and regulations with regards to mold in inhabited properties. The National Conference of State Legislature has an extensive database that can provide tenants with relevant information concerning mold-related regulations in their states and cities.
Your landlord’s duty to provide you with safe and habitable housing
Regardless of whether your city of residence enforces specific mold laws or not, your landlord can still be held accountable for a mold problem due to his responsibility to provide safe and habitable housing to his tenants. It is imperative that you familiarize yourself with your state laws as the law may very well provide you with a number of viable options such as withholding rent if your landlord does not address a severe mold problem.
Mold-related lawsuits are becoming increasingly common as more tenants are taking their landlords to task over mold-related health complications arising from their negligence to address a mold problem. A 2016 Anderson County Circuit Court lawsuit seeking $4.3 million in punitive damages from a landlord who not only refused to address a mold problem that left a tenant with severe respiratory problems, but also initially intimidated the tenants out of seeking legal representation.
Read your lease agreement carefully
It is not uncommon for some landlords to add clauses to their rental agreements that will relieve them of any responsibility relating to the occurrence of mold. Prior to leasing out a property, a landlord should conduct a full inspection and cleaning of the property. If you, as the tenant, come across mold when you move in you need to report it immediately. The onus then lies on the landlord to eradicate the problem. As the tenant, you also have a responsibility in maintaining the livability of the premises and should take all necessary precautions to prevent mold from growing.
Many tenants sign lease agreements and move into houses and apartments without being aware of their rights. While there are without a doubt some dubious landlords out there that will try and take full advantage of an uneducated tenant there are also those that conduct their business in a very ethical manner.