Having a mold problem in a home can be so frustrating…
But having mold in a home you are renting can be an absolute nightmare.
If those are both bad…
Try having mold in a home you are renting while having a deadbeat Landlord…now that is the apocalypse!
Ok, well maybe it's not quite that bad, but you catch my drift.
If this is something you are dealing with, I have some great news for you…
Below is information you simply MUST know when dealing with mold in a home you are renting.
And if you are a landlord, there is information that you simply must know as well to not only protect your investment but the health of other people living in your home.
** Full discloser – The awesome information that is about to be laid out for you is by no means considered legal advice. A lawyer should be consulted if you plan on pursuing any legal action.
What You Need To Know About Mold In A Home You Are Renting
There is some mold present in just about any home. This is especially true if you are in a humid environment. If you are a tenant that wants your home to completely mold free, you are not being realistic.
What should be a concern is if there is a lot of mold in the home you are renting.
A mold problem generally occurs because of one of two reasons (sometimes both at the same time):
- A significant leak
- A problem with the air conditioning unit
Without either of these, chances are, it is unlikely you have a mold problem in the home.
Moisture = Potential Mold Growth
That's not to say a landlord can't hide a mold problem by just painting over it because that can absolutely be the case. However, the root of the problem will still be one of the two main causes above.
Black Toxic Mold
While you don't want any type of mold present in large amounts, you don't want any toxic mold present in your home at all. The black toxic mold you hear about (the species' is named Stachybotrys) is one of the few types of mold spores that produce mycotoxins which can really cause negative health effects.
Black toxic mold does not just grow randomly overnight. You need a significant leak and it has to have been going on for a very long time in order for the black toxic mold to grow and survive.
If you have black toxic mold in a home you are renting, it needs to be removed by a licensed professional regardless of who is liable, no exceptions!
On a federal level, there are no threshold limits to what determines what an “acceptable” amount of mold present in a home is. This makes for a grey area when determining whether or not a home has a mold problem without the opinion of a licensed professional.
To make matters worse, there are only a handful of states that have mold testing and remediation standards in place.
But here's the thing about mold in a home you are renting:
All states will allow a tenant to take legal action if a habitable environment is not provided by the landlord. Inhaling black toxic mold or other mold related to water damage can fall into that category.
A tenant will have to prove there is a mold problem.
But a tenant won't have a very good case if they make a claim like…
“I had a black spot on the top of my closet which I think was mold and it gave me cancer.”
Proof of a mold problem should be provided in the form of a mold inspection by an independent licensed professional. The landlord should pay for the inspection to be done.
Check your state laws in reference to mold and mold damage within the home. Law Atlas has a great database which shows mold laws of each state.
Responsibilities As A Tenant If You Have Mold In A Home You Are Renting
There are many situations where a slumlord can be blamed for mold problems in a rental property.
There are many situations where the tenant is actually to blame for a mold problem. So let's go ahead and look at the responsibility of a tenant as it relates to mold.
Your landlord is not a mind reader. If you do not let them know of any problems, how can they possibly be handled?
It is your responsibility to disclose any kind of leaks, small or large. You should report any water damage both verbally and in writing (preferably by email or certified mail). That way it is on the record and there can be no dispute with “he said, she said”.
Time is of an essence when it comes to water damage. That is why it is so important if a leak occurs, you do the best you can to clean up as much of the water as possible.
I am not saying if a pipe bursts that you have clean and dry everything up by yourself. Do what you can. If you can clean up the standing water with some towels it can greatly help. If you happen to have any heavy duty fans go ahead and set those up. Be careful to ensure none of the electric sockets got wet before plugging in the fan.
You should notify your landlord or property manager right away to have a Property Damage Restoration Company come to dry out the water damaged areas. Allowing these companies access into your home is essential. A tenant is expected to comply to preserve the habitability of a home.
Air Conditioning Unit
Usually, the tenant is responsible for changing the filter but the Landlord is responsible for ensuring proper maintenance be conducted on the unit. However, there is one certain aspect of the air conditioning unit that is rarely talked about:
How to run the air conditioning system…
The air conditioning system has two main purposes:
- Cooling the air
- Removing moisture from the air
Everybody knows about the cooling part, but it's the dehumidifying is very much underestimated.
Your home's relative humidity should be under 60%. Get yourself a thermometer that is also a hygrometer which measures humidity within a home.
Many mold problems occur within a home because the HVAC is not dehumidifying but blowing cold air. Often, if you start seeing mold present on some of your clothes, it is caused by this very reason. Cold air blowing into a humid environment leads to condensation, condensation can lead to mold growth.
How can a tenant cause this?
Usually, a tenant can cause this by leaving the HVAC unit on the “On” position. This can lead to excess cold air being sent into the living space which leads to not enough moisture being removed from the air.
Responsibilities Of A Landlord If There Is Mold In A Home You Are Renting
The landlord has one overall responsibility that generalizes all their responsibilities in one:
Provide a habitable environment for the tenant.
Prevention will always be the biggest proponent of ensuring a mold problem doesn't occur in a home.
Have The Property Inspected For Any Leaks/HVAC Issues
Before the tenant occupies the property, a landlord should come up with some kind of schedule to have the home inspected to prevent mold. Once a quarter should probably be sufficient but that will be up to both the tenant and landlord to decide.
A landlord should look for any visible stains or signs of a leak. Is paint bubbling at all? Are any drywall nails popping out of the wall? These are tell-tale signs that there may be moisture intrusion into the home.
An HVAC company should be hired to perform maintenance on the unit once every 6 months or so.
If any parts of the HVAC unit, the unit itself, or any plumbing fixtures are not properly functioning, the landlord must repair or replace.
Have Leaks Corrected Right Away
The sooner water intrusion is corrected and dried out the more of a chance mold can be nipped at the butt!
If a landlord takes their good old time to dry up a water damaged area, well, you can expect a mold problem if the conditions are right.
While it is the tenant's responsibility to notify the landlord when an Emergency Dry-out should be done in a home, it's the landlord's responsibility to actually call the company and arrange for them to go out to the home.
For the most part, these services will be covered by homeowner's insurance.
Have Professional Mold Remediation Performed
As you know:
Nobody is perfect.
Mold problems can happen even for those who are proactive in trying to prevent them.
Depending on how bad the mold problem is, mold remediation may need to be performed by a professional company.
This can be pretty costly, but if not done properly it can not only be ever more costly monetarily to a home but costly in regards to the health of the occupants within the home.
If a landlord or handyman tries to remove mold and proper containment is not set up, it can cause airborne mold spores to be released into the air. Mold remediation does have protocols that need to be followed to prevent cross-contamination throughout a home.
The EPA requires mold remediation to be performed for areas of mold larger than 10 square feet.
How To Prevent A Dispute Between Landlord and Tenant
These situations where there is a dispute over mold can always become messy.
Regardless of who is right or wrong, both party's goal should first get a proper diagnosis to determine if there is indeed a problem and then if there is a problem, how to fix it.
You can save the drama for another day 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 tenant's 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!