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Who’s Responsible for Mold in a Rental Property?

Jun 15, 2022

Let’s face it, mold is scary. It can easily turn into a renter’s worst nightmare due to its adverse effects on your health and home. The steps that need to be taken after finding mold in your rental property can be very confusing due to an array of variables that will play into the legalities and liabilities surrounding the issue. This article will help you understand how to identify mold and what steps need to be taken to solve the issue in a timely and efficient manner.

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Is the Tenant or Landlord Responsible for Mold?

Mold can be the result of negligence from the tenant or the landlord. At the end of the day, the responsibility and liability of mold in a property falls on the person whose actions, or lack thereof, led to the growth of the mold.

As a tenant, you are responsible to maintain your rental unit and uphold a certain standard of cleanliness. If mold is the result of your own behavior, the responsibility is yours.

Likewise, landlords are responsible, in most states, for maintaining housing for tenants and repairing rental properties through actions such as fixing leaks whether they be in pipes, windows, or roofs. Landlords are expected to ensure a standard of habitability for their tenants. If the mold is the result of a landlord’s negligence, the responsibility is theirs.

Is My Landlord Responsible for Mold Testing?

Whether or not your landlord is responsible for mold testing in your rental property will rely on three main factors:

  • Whether or not the tenant or the landlord was responsible for the mold growth.
  • Whether or not the tenant promptly and properly notified the landlord of the mold.
  • Whether or not the landlord provided an appropriate and timely response to the problem once notified.

Aside from these three main factors, overall responsibilities and necessary courses of action will depend on your specific state’s tenant-landlord regulations and requirements. To correctly allocate the responsibility of mold testing, be sure to educate yourself on your state’s specific rental-related regulations.

Who Pays for Mold Remediation?

Similar to how the allocation of mold testing responsibility relies on circumstances, the financial responsibility also follows the one whose negligence caused the mold — whether it be the messy tenant who didn’t uphold a standard of cleanliness or the landlord who failed to tend to leaks.

Some landlords may be curious whether or not their landlord insurance will cover mold removal, repair, or remediation. Likewise, some renters may wonder whether or not mold is covered by their renters insurance.

In both instances, the circumstances will completely influence whether your insurance coverage will help with any damage that may have occurred. The cause of the mold, the policy that the renter or landlord holds, and the severity of the situation will all play a part in whether or not insurance will cover some, all, or none of the expenses.

Renters and landlords alike should always be aware of the specifics of their policies to know what type of compensation, if any, may be available.

How to Detect Mold in an Apartment

Promptly responding to the existence of mold in your property can alleviate stress, expenses, and health-related issues. Ensure your own safety by being able to recognize mold growth in your home before the situation gets out of hand.

When checking for mold, look out for these four common signs:

Discoloration

Mold can appear on all surfaces (walls, ceilings, behind wallpaper, etc.) and can be recognized as white or gray to green, red, brown, or black discoloration.

If you come across black discoloration, be sure to act immediately and with caution. Black mold can be extremely toxic.

Texture

Slimy, fuzzy, or powdery textures on surfaces can be a sign of mold growth.

Water

Leaks, floods, and heavy moisture are the most common causes of mold growth. If a leak or flooding occurs, you can take the precautionary measure of thoroughly drying and cleaning within 24 to 48 hours of the event.

Smell

Mold commonly leaves a musty-like smell. Because mold can grow on surfaces that are hidden, such as beneath carpets and behind wallpapers, it’s important to consider detecting mold by its scent rather than physical appearance.

Though it can be detected on your own, mold is not always safe to tamper with, and mold growth on porous materials such as wood and drywall is extremely difficult to clean. That being said, it’s better to leave the removal and cleaning of mold to professionals.

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Mold in Apartments: Tenants' Rights

When there is mold in an apartment or rental property, tenants have rights. Mold can leave a property permanently damaged and may even leave the tenant with an array of health problems.

Mold rules and regulations vary from state to state, so the line of responsibility can oftentimes be blurred by differing mold-related legislation.

Regardless of your state’s specific legislation concerning mold, landlords have a responsibility to provide a livable environment, and tenants have the right to a livable home. Overall, liability will most likely depend on the circumstances of the mold situation.

Can I Refuse To Pay Rent if There Is Mold in My Home?

Similar to tenant rights, the legality of withholding rent from your landlord depends on the tenant remedy laws in your state. With that said, strategies of withholding rent from landlords, such as conducting removal and repairs on your own and deducting the costs from your rent to outright withholding rent, are generally seen as legally justified in many states.

However, if the landlord has punctual responses to mold complaints from tenants and promptly follows up with evaluation and remediation methods, they can avoid rent withholding.

Can I Break My Lease Due to Mold?

The state you hold your lease in will play a key variable in determining whether or not you can break a lease.

For example, in Florida, there is a Landlord and Tenant Act requiring landlords to upkeep properties to meet housing standards.

Tenants in Florida must notify their landlords of mold in writing. Once the notice has been sent, the landlord has seven days to begin repairs and remediation of the mold. If proper action is not taken within those seven days, the tenant can legally terminate the lease.

However, this exact scenario doesn’t play out in every state, so it’s important to educate yourself regarding mold regulations in the state where you hold your lease.

How to Report Mold in a Rental House

If you suspect mold in a property you are renting, make sure to immediately contact and inform your landlord. The landlord, in most cases and in most states, will follow up with further steps on removal and repairs.

In the case that your landlord is unresponsive or unreliable in addressing the mold issue, you can alternatively report the situation to the local housing and code enforcement department, which can inspect the property, log violations, and push the landlord to make proper repairs.

Otherwise, there are local housing and tenant rights groups that can offer guidance. Always be sure to keep records of the exchanges between you and the landlord regarding the mold, its removal, and its necessary repairs in case a dispute arises.

How Long Does My Landlord Have To Fix Mold?

The grace period that a landlord has to respond to a mold notice will vary depending on the state in which you hold your lease. However, the tenant must address their mold concerns to their landlord via written notice.

Once the notice has been submitted and the grace period has passed, tenants have the right to participate in their own self-remediation plans whether that be through withholding rent or filing claims.

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Prevent Mold Growth With Professional Cleaning Services

Mold is hazardous and can quickly make your living space inhabitable. Tenants and landlords each have their own set of responsibilities that must be followed to ensure the habitability of the living space once the mold is detected. Likewise, they each have precautionary actions they can and should make so that the issue doesn’t arise to begin with.

Good upkeep of a property requires teamwork between both a tenant and their landlord, and through Moveout.com, you can find professional cleaners to make sure that a property is clean before you move in.

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Article written by Megan Phung

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