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What landlords should know about mold remediation

Having to deal with mold is a nightmare for any landlord or property owner. Aside from the fact that exposure to mold can potentially cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues, it is hard to get rid of since it can quickly spread around a whole area in a short amount of time. Its ability to spread is attributed to moisture and/or water problems, so even a minor issue such as a leaky pipe can lead to a serious infestation. Furthermore; it needs an organic food source in order for it to thrive, which is what most building materials consist of.

As a landlord, mold issues should not be blamed entirely on you. After a water intrusion, mold can breed in just 24 to 48 hours so tenants have the responsibility of alerting the landlord in the event of a mold situation. A tenant should also control humidity, use exhaust fans if necessary and look out for water stains that could be the result of a leak. Mold can thrive in various hidden places and landlords should not be held liable unless he or she was made aware that the problem existed in the first place.

What the law says

Unfortunately, many state ordinances and building codes do not clearly define a landlord’s responsibility with regards to mold remediation. There is also no federal law that states allowable exposure limits or building maintenance standards that cover mold in rental units. States such as California, Indiana, Texas, New Jersey and Maryland do have specific guidelines and regulations in place for contained mold with indoor air.

If you would like to know more about mold regulations in your state, get in touch with your state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or your local Center for Disease Control.  

Mold situations which landlords could be held liable for

In some situations, landlords can be held liable for problems that result from mold, especially if they are already aware of the issue.

  • Leaky pipes – This can be difficult to detect, since pipes are built between floors and behind walls.
  • Damaged roof – Dripping is not the only sign to watch out for; look for spots and/or stains in the ceiling and in the attic.
  • Musty odor – A musty smell is considered an indication of severe mold levels.
  • Damaged siding – Damage to a property’s siding can lead to water infiltration behind walls.
  • Faulty humidifier – Mold can breed and thrive in an environment with excessive humidity.
  • Broken windows – Poorly sealed or damaged windows can lead to heightened condensation.

Failing to make repairs or fix water leaks that cause mold can prompt a tenant to claim that the mold in a property is causing health issues, so it is recommended to deal with any existing issues before they turn into a problem

What if the mold was caused by a tenant?

Mold can be the result of a tenant’s negligence. In such situations, the landlord cannot be held liable. Some examples include stains caused by pets, leaving doors and windows open during the rainy season or general unsanitary living conditions.