Mold in Rentals: Landlord Liability, Responsibility, and Prevention
Learn about your landlord’s liability for mold problems, how to get rid of mold, and how to prevent it in the first place.
Mold is one of the newest environmental hazards causing concern among renters. Across the country, tenants have won multimillion-dollar cases against landlords for significant health problems — such as rashes, chronic fatigue, nausea, cognitive losses, hemorrhaging, and asthma — allegedly caused by exposure to “toxic molds” in their building.
And, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, this is particularly relevant in our area. As landlords looked to get their property back to normal as soon as possible, proper steps may have been missed when it comes to the important and detailed steps involved in restoration and the prevention of mold growth.
If you suspect there is mold in your rental unit, learn what to look for and when your landlord might be liable.
Types of Mold
A landlord’s responsibilities associated with mold in a rental house are twofold. First, a landlord with knowledge of mold in a residence must disclose that information to a tenant or prospective tenant. Second, a landlord with knowledge of mold in the premises must make a reasonable effort to both remove existing mold and to resolve the cause of the mold. For example, she needs to repair a leaky pipe if that appears to be the cause of the mold problem.
A landlord must make a reasonable effort to know whether mold is on the premises. A landlord is not relieved from liability for providing notice and resolving a mold condition if he did not know of the problem, but reasonably should have been aware of the existence of the mold.
California was the first state in the country to pass a law dealing with toxic mold in residential rental property, according to RentLaw.com. The Toxic Mold Protection Act went into effect in 2001. The law establishes requirements for a landlord when residential rental property is infested with mold.
The Toxic Mold Protection Act states a reasonable time frame standard in regard to taking care of a mold condition. What this means is that the landlord must eliminate the mold on the premises as soon as is reasonably possibly. Because mold conditions vary from one situation to the next, the amount of time necessary to eliminate the problem necessarily varies. Nonetheless, the landlord cannot unduly delay commencing the process of eliminating the mold. Typically, the time period to begin removal is within a few days, according to “The Landlord’s Troubleshooter: A Survival Guide for New Landlords,” by Robert Irwin.
A recurring misconception is that the tenant becomes responsible for dealing with a mold problem once a lease is entered into with the property owner. Although the landlord may hold a tenant financially responsible for mold removal if the mold occurred because of the negligence of the tenant, the landlord maintains a legal obligation to remove the mold, according to “The Landlord’s Troubleshooter.”
Caution to Landlords
A landlord who fails to provide notice about a mold problem or fails to correct a mold issue faces liability for any damages suffered by a tenant, according to RentLaw.com. A tenant can seek payment for property damage, health problems and any costs incurred because of the presence of mold on the premises.
Sources: NOLO, LAW for ALL; SFGate.com