Explanation of Tenant Rights with Mold in Apartment

In some states where mold is a problem because of the environment, there are some specific rights that a tenant may have because of it. Mold comes in many different types, can be different colors, and can cause a number of health problems when it builds up to a toxic level. Mutli-million dollar verdicts have been handed down to landlords who haven't kept up their properties enough to prevent mold from occurring.

What rights do tenants have when it comes to mold? What would your liability be as a landlord?

A Landlord Must Maintain a Habitable Property

Although all specific circumstances are unique, in general, any mold that develops because of a landlord's inability to properly maintain a habitable living space would put them in a potentially liable position to the tenant should problems begin. This can occur for a wide variety of reasons:

• A leak up in the roof that stays in the attic and begins to grow mold.
• Exterior leaks in a crawlspace that are caused by a foundation crack.
• Insufficient waterproofing around a window that causes insulation in the wall to mold.

Some landlords will attempt to get out of these circumstances by saying in their lease that they won't be liable for mold growth, but there is a standard in court rulings that these “mold clauses” go against public health and are not enforceable. Unless you have rental property in Arkansas, there is a good chance that a landlord could be held liable for mold that grows because of their failure to fix a leak.

Landlords Are Not Responsible For Tenant Behavior

There is also a lot of mold that grows because of the negligence of a tenant. Even something as simple as leaving a loaf of bread on the kitchen counter for 72 hours is enough for mold to form! In circumstances where the tenant has caused the mold to form, the landlord is not responsible for this behavior. The tenant, in fact, would be responsible for the cleaning costs of the mold to restore the rental unit to its prior condition.

In some high moisture conditions, such as in western Washington State, there are also stipulations in place where tenants must work to reduce the condensation that occurs within a home. Mold can quickly grow along a window sill because of internal condensation and this would be a tenant issue to clean, not a landlord issue. It would become a landlord issue if the mold is growing outside of the window frame because of an exterior leak, not because of interior condensation.

Even though tenant's have a responsibility to control mold, not every tenant will realize this. It is a good practice to include mold control literature to a tenant in high risk areas to limit any liability one may have. The rights of a tenant regarding mold are about maintaining a healthy living structure. If you do that as a landlord, you'll be working to reduce your chances of litigation.
Posted on Jul 11, 2014


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