Finding Mold In A Rental

An environmental hazard, mold is a type of microscopic fungi that thrives in moist conditions, and is very prevalent in humid climates. It grows on any organic material including wood, paper, drywall, tiles, wall paneling, paint, rugs and fibers.

Colonies of mold, like like stachybotrys, penicillium, aspergilus, paecilomyces, and fusarium, can cover a large area and are usually black, white, grey, brown, green, or gray. Some molds are powdery or shiny and can give off a musty or mildewy smell. Unfortunately, not all mold is visible and can be hidden or covered in the areas such as a vent; underneath a refrigerator, radiator, or sink; under the floor or a ceiling; or behind a wall.

Common causes of moisture include the following:

  • leaky pipes or radiators (including leaks that occur between the walls or floors);
  • broken or poorly sealed windows;
  • a damaged roof;
  • a damaged or deteriorated section of brickwork or the building’s facade;
  • water coming from a neighboring apartment (leaks; regular spilling or flooding);
  • air ducts;
  • poor ventilation, especially in a bathroom;
  • standing water (such as in a basement);
  • flooding

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. One of the biggest steps you can take to avoid mold concerns is to properly research your rental before committing to a lease with a landlord.

Consider these factors in your research:

  • Basement apartments tend to be more prone to damp and moisture issues, so if mold is a concern, you may want to avoid renting this type of unit.
  • If you are renting in a multi-story building, find out if there have been any flooding issues in the basement. If so, best to avoid renting because if the building had a wet basement, there could be mold growing and since the HVAC system is located in the basement, mold spores will circulate in all units.
  • Check the unit for bathroom and kitchen fans. If there are none, then do not rent the unit because the building will likely have moisture issues and mold.
  • Ideally, rent a unit without carpet. However, if you are considering renting a unit with carpet, find out how old it is and if possible, get the landlord to change it before you move in.
  • Try to find out as much about the building history, specifically, does the building have a history of roof or plumbing leaks. If so, avoid renting because there will undoubtedly be mold.

Generally speaking, as a tenant and regardless of what state you live in, you have the right to live in a clean and habitable environment. Your landlord is responsible for offering you a safe environment to live in and must repair issues such as leaky pipes, roofs, and windows, which could create moisture issues that lead to mold.

Mold Caused by a Landlord’s Failure to Fix Leaks

Landlords in all states but Arkansas are responsible for maintaining fit and habitable housing and repairing rental property, and this extends to fixing leaking pipes, windows, and roofs — the causes of most mold. If the landlord doesn’t take care of leaks and mold grows as a result, you may be able to hold the landlord responsible if you can convince a judge or jury that the mold has caused a health problem.

Mold Caused by Tenant Behavior

The liability picture changes when mold grows as the result of your own behavior, such as keeping the apartment tightly shut, creating high humidity, or failing to maintain necessary cleanliness. When a tenant’s own negligence is the sole cause of injury, the landlord is not liable.

Mold Clauses in Leases

Some landlords include clauses in the lease that purport to relieve them from any liability resulting from mold growth. At least one court (in Tennessee) has refused to enforce such a clause, ruling that to do so would be against public policy. More cases from other parts of the country are sure to arise as mold litigation makes its way through the courts.

A smart landlord will try to prevent the conditions that lead to the growth of mold — and tenants should be the landlord’s partner in this effort. This approach requires maintaining the structural integrity of the property (the roof, plumbing, and windows), which is the landlord’s job. You can help by preventing mold problems in your home in the first place and promptly reporting problems that need the landlord’s attention.images




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