Renters and Mold
What Can I Do As A Tenant?
Generally, the landlord is responsible for repairing moisture problems and cleaning up mold, unless it is a minor issue related to the tenant's behavior. Tenants should look at their own behaviors to determine whether they may contribute 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 you 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
When moisture problems do occur, it is critical to quickly report the cause of moisture and to dry affected areas. Tenants should promptly notify their landlord when they find a moisture problem or mold growth. Common moisture problems include pipe leaks, roof leaks, sewage back-ups, and over flowing toilets / sinks / bathtubs. A verbal communication should be followed up with a letter to avoid misunderstandings. The tenant should keep a copy of this letter, for possible use in future legal proceedings. A timely response is in the interest of both the tenant and the landlord because delays may result in greater costs to clean and repair.
What Can Be Done About Indoor Mold?
Tenants and landlords should try to work cooperatively to investigate and correct moisture problems and remove mold growth. If mold can be seen, if a musty odor is present, or if there is good reason to believe health problems are being caused by mold, a careful inspection of the home should be conducted. Attention should be paid to hidden areas, such as plumbing access areas, crawl spaces, behind mirrors, attics, behind furnishings, closets and cupboards. Correcting a mold problem properly requires fixing the moisture problem, removing the mold, and keeping the home dry in the future. Mold growth should be cleaned from (non-porous) surfaces such as concrete, metal, glass, tile, and solid wood. Mold growth is difficult to clean on absorbent (porous) surfaces such as dry wall, carpet, fleecy furnishing and insulation. These moldy materials should be discarded. Personal belongings can be kept if there is no mold growth in them. They may need a deep cleaning to remove mold particles that have settled in the fabric. Merely applying a chemical, like bleach without removing the mold growth is not an effective solution; neither is simply painting over the problem. There are numerous private contractors who specialize in inspecting or cleaning mold in homes. Where problems cannot be identified or safely remediated, the landlord may want to hire a residential service provider. In addition, certain moisture problems may be covered under property or renter insurance.
What Are My Options If The Owner Refuses To Help?
There are no legal requirements specific to mold in most residential settings. However, Most State Laws requires that a landlord must provide an apartment that is habitable and in reasonable repair. If an apartment becomes uninhabitable, the landlord has violated or breached the lease. When owners or occupants of mold-damaged buildings are unable or unwilling to correct a problem resulting in indoor mold growth, insurers, private contractors, non-governmental assistance organizations or possibly local units of government may be able to assist. If, and how, government agencies are able to respond to complaints in rental settings depends on the status of local codes or ordinances, and what authority the local program has for dealing with this issue. The following are steps that the tenant may take if the landlord fails to make necessary repairs
Contact the Local Health Department
If a local housing inspection program does not exist or the housing code cannot be applied, than the tenant could try to file a complaint with the local city or county health department. Some local public health agencies may declare a property a public health nuisance and may issue correction orders to the landlord.
Contact the Municipal Building Official
Tenants may also seek assistance from their local building code official, if there is one. The building official may inspect the unit to determine if it is structurally sound. They may also, in some cases, enforce maintenance provisions of the building code.
If a housing, health, or building code inspection is not available or the inspection does not result in a correction order, a tenant may still be able to establish that the unit is uninhabitable. Tenants who feel that their landlord has failed to maintain their rental unit in good repair must notify the landlord in writing and request that repairs are made within 14 days or sooner. The tenant should keep a copy of this letter. If the landlord fails to make the requested repairs 14 days after the tenant's letter was sent or following an inspector's deadline, the tenant can take legal action. 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 the case.
Who Is Responsible For My Belongings?
Tenant's are responsible for their own belongings unless they can prove that the owner's negligence in maintaining the building contributed to the damage. The insurance carried by the building owner does not cover tenant's personal belongings. The tenant could try to sue the landlord for lost belongings. Tenants can purchase renter's insurance. The terms of the policy dictate what coverage is provided. Mold damage may not be covered by the policy, while water damage may be covered. To make a claim to renter's insurance provider, tenants should document the damage with photographs and written descriptions, and then contact their insurer regarding policy coverage and specific filing requirements.
Action Advice for Tenants in Moldy Apartments
On-site inspection is important: Keep in mind that anyone whose opinion you seek by telephone, email, or web "prospecting", even if he or she is very competent, is distant and can't see all of the site conditions. Therefore such advice can only be general, and we must keep in mind that there could be, in fact probably are, important observations that might change the assessment of an individual situation as well as the advice on steps to take, also its important to get it documented by a mold professional and AIHA accredited lab, with a proper chain of custody.