Black mold in condo what are my rights?
Mold remains one of the most controversial health topics with some experts debating whether or not mold is a serious a risk. Many tenants who have suffered exposure to mold, however, claim that they have experienced minor to severe health conditions such as asthma, fatigue, rashes, and nausea.
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have mold in my rental house and I have asked the landlord to repair the damaged wall and floors. So far he has been hesitant to help me. I know this was an issue before I moved in to the unit. What are my rights?”
State laws and mold removal
Although only a handful of states - California, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, and Indiana - have passed laws specifically dealing with toxic mold in residential property, most cities have some type of regulation, building codes or statutes which provide some guidance with respect to what must be done by a landlord if toxic mold is present in a rental property.
For example, New York City has identified guidelines for air quality within a rental unit and San Francisco considers mold a “legal nuisance” which must be dealt with or the landlord could face civil charges.
For more information about the laws and regulations in your state you can visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA website) or review information from your states Department of Public Health.
Landlord’s responsibility to the tenant to maintain property
Even if your state or city does not have specific guidelines for a landlord’s responsibilities as it relates to mold, however, you may still have protections within your lease.
For example, leases generally have an implied warranty that requires the landlord to keep the premises “habitable”. Under this warranty the expectation is that the landlord will fix any issues, such as a mold infestation, leaking pipes, or roof leakage that may create unhealthy or unsafe living conditions.
If you have any issues that are considered unsafe or unhealthy you need to notify the landlord immediately. Under the implied warranty, the landlord is required to make repairs within a reasonable time period.
Landlord fails to make necessary repairs regarding health and safety
If the landlord does not make the necessary repairs which affect your health and safety and you have given them notice, preferably in writing, you may have several options:
- Make the repairs on your own and withhold the repair amount from the rent.
- Move and terminate the lease.
- Remain on the premises and withhold the rent until the issue is resolved.
- File a civil suit and obtain damages.
- Notify the city code inspector about the issues.
- Live with the problem until the lease expires.
There may very specific legal steps you need to take if you decide to withhold rent or terminate your lease. If you fail to take the proper steps a landlord may have the legal right to file for eviction and nonpayment, which will damage your rental history.
For example, in the state of Texas the following must be true to legally terminate your lease. 1) You are experiencing a condition that materially affects your physical health or safety. 2) You have notified the landlord via certified mail. 3) You are up to date on your rent. 4) You have given the landlord a reasonable amount of time to fix the issue. 5) The landlord failed to fix the problem.
Filing a civil claim against your landlord
In addition to the actions listed above, tenants may also have the legal right to sue a landlord who fails to meet their legal responsibility to maintain a habitable property. Tenants will, however, have to prove this breach of duty caused them injury or harm.
If the tenant can prove breach of duty and this breach was the proximate cause of their injuries they may receive compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.
What if the mold issue was caused by the tenant?
If the tenant’s actions caused a problem such as a bursting water pipe and this problem was the sole cause of their own injuries, they will not have an injury claim against their landlord.
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