Mold is a common problem in commercial buildings, and renters are often the first to notice its presence. Dealing with mold in a building you rent can be challenging, especially when the landlord fails to act.
Knowing your rights when dealing with mold in a building you rent is crucial. In this blog, we will discuss the legal responsibilities of landlords, mold regulations, and options available to tenants.
Landlord legal responsibilities for tenant exposure to mold in commercial buildings
There are currently no federal laws regarding acceptable exposure levels to mold or building/rental standards. Some states, such as Texas and California, have established laws to regulate mold testing standards.
California is at the forefront of mold regulations, with its Department of Public Health establishing the nation’s first indoor air quality program that includes mold regulations. Additionally, some cities have enacted laws to regulate mold levels. San Francisco’s property owners must keep their properties free of nuisances like vermin and mold.
However, in all states, landlords are legally responsible for providing tenants with a safe and habitable living space in commercial buildings. This includes addressing any mold problems that may arise in the building. Besides, landlords are responsible for maintaining the property to a reasonable standard, including repairing leaks and managing any water damage that may lead to mold growth.
Various regulations govern mold growth in rental properties. Some states require landlords to address mold problems in commercial buildings promptly. These laws vary from state to state, but most need landlords to maintain the rental property in a habitable condition. This means landlords must address any mold problems in the property.
Even if your state or city doesn’t have specific mold laws, your landlord could still be liable for a mold problem in your rental due to the landlord’s responsibility to provide safe and livable housing. Depending on the situation, state law gives you options such as rent withholding if your landlord fails to fix a severe mold problem, or you can file a lawsuit for mold-related health problems.
Who is responsible for mold: Landlord or Renter?
The landlord is responsible for addressing mold problems in the rental property. However, tenants are also responsible for promptly reporting any mold problems to their landlords. Besides, tenants must take reasonable steps to prevent mold growth in the rental property, such as reporting leaks and keeping the property well-ventilated.
As we said, landlords are responsible for maintaining the building habitable and fixing property issues, such as leaking pipes, windows, and roofs. If the landlord doesn’t take care of leaks and mold grows, you can hold the landlord responsible if you can convince a judge or jury that the mold has caused a health problem.
However, the situation changes when mold growth results from the tenant’s actions, such as keeping the apartment tightly sealed, creating high humidity, or failing to maintain cleanliness. Tenants are responsible for maintaining their rental units. When their negligence is the sole cause of mold growth, the landlord cannot be held liable. To prevent mold problems, tenants should practice good housekeeping, including adequate ventilation, to avoid creating an environment that fosters mold growth.
What can I do as a tenant if the commercial building I rent has mold?
As a tenant, you should promptly report any mold problems to your landlord in commercial buildings. You should also take steps to prevent mold growth in the rental property. This includes keeping the property well-ventilated, reporting any leaks promptly, and cleaning up spills or water damage as soon as possible. You may have legal recourse if your landlord fails to address mold problems on time.
The longer you wait to communicate the problem to your landlord, the worse the situation will become. Make sure you keep good records of your contact with the landlord or agent and take photos in case you need them for evidence later.
What are my options if the owner refuses to help?
If the landlord doesn’t fix the mold issues, or you’re unsatisfied with the repairs done, the Attorney General’s publication “Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities” suggests some remedies.
If available, one option is to file a complaint with the local housing, health, or building inspector. Tenants can also contact their city or county to learn about codes and inspection services that may be available.
If local authorities cannot help, legal action may be necessary, including a rent escrow action. In such cases, tenants should document the problem with letters, photographs, evidence of health issues, orders from local inspectors, and any other relevant documentation to support their case.
Tenants can also seek to terminate their lease early. Still, the landlord may not agree to the request, and the issue may need to be resolved in a tenancy tribunal in their state or territory. To prepare for such a case, tenants should gather as much evidence as possible, including correspondence with their landlord or agent, photos of the mold, and, if available, an environmental report from a mold inspection specialist.
Dealing with mold in a building you rent: resolving mold problems
If your landlord addresses the mold problem promptly, they may need a professional mold inspection company to clean up the mold in commercial buildings.
The remediation company will assess the extent of the mold problem and devise a plan to remove it safely. It’s essential to follow any instructions the remediation company gives to prevent the mold from spreading.
Dealing with mold in a building you rent can be challenging, but knowing your rights is crucial. Landlords have a legal responsibility to maintain a habitable living space and address any mold problems that may arise. As a tenant, you should report any mold problems promptly and take steps to prevent mold growth in the rental property. You may have legal options if your landlord fails to address mold problems.
Documenting any mold problems and seeking legal advice if necessary is essential. By taking the required steps, you can protect yourself and your health from the dangers of mold contamination in commercial buildings.
At Environmental Testing Agency, we understand the importance of having a safe and healthy environment on your property. We provide mold inspection services to ensure your property is free from mold and other harmful contaminants. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step toward a safe and healthy commercial rental property.