Mold In A Rental? Landlord Won’t Fix The Mold Problem? A Guide To Mold And Tenant’s Rights.

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Having a mold problem in your home can be so frustrating. But having mold in a rental can be an absolute nightmare.

If those are both bad, try having mold in a rental when a landlord won’t fix the mold problem.

If you are dealing with mold in a rental, then this article is for you. While tenant right’s laws and mold laws vary from state to state, the bulk of the information in this article applies to anyone in any state.

This article isn’t just for tenants! If you are a landlord, there is information that you simply must know not only to protect your investment but the health of other people living in your home.

The information that is about to be laid out for you is by no means considered legal advice. A lawyer should be consulted if you plan on pursuing any legal action.

A landlord handing a tenant her set of keys. Her new rental is in the background

What You Need To Know About Mold In A Rental As A Tenant

All tenants should educate themselves about the basics of mold. You can check out my Mold Facts page to learn more but let’s cover a couple of basics here.

A mold problem generally occurs because of one of two reasons (sometimes both at the same time):

  • A leak or other water intrusion
  • High indoor humidity

Without either of these your chances of having a mold in a rental are reduced.

Black Toxic Mold

It seems like mold in rental homes and apartments is always referred to as black toxic mold. The thing is, this isn’t the only mold out there. While you don’t want any type of mold present in large amounts, you don’t want any toxic mold present in your home at all.

The black toxic mold you hear about is most often Stachybotrys which is one of the few types of mold that produce mycotoxins which can really cause negative health effects. This is why it is very important not to move into a moldy rental to begin it.

An Overview Of Mold Laws

On a federal level, there are no threshold limits to what determines what an “acceptable” amount of mold present in a home is. Only a few states (including California, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas), and a few cities (including New York and San Francisco), have taken steps toward establishing permissible mold standards or guidelines and regulations for mold in indoor air. This makes for a grey area when determining whether or not a home has a mold problem.

To make matters worse, there are only a handful of states that have mold testing and remediation standards in place. This often times allows a landlord to get away with “hiding” mold in a rental by just painting over the problem and not actually removing the mold.

For information on mold rules and regulations in your state, check with your state department of environmental protection or your state department of public health.

Tenant Laws and Mold In A Rental

Tenant laws enter into new territory from mold laws.

All states will allow a tenant to take legal action if a habitable environment is not provided by the landlord. 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.

If the landlord doesn’t take care of leaks and mold grows as a result, you might be able to hold the landlord responsible if you can convince a judge or jury that the mold has caused a health problem. There’s a but…

While this is on a case by cases bases, most of the time the mold growth has to occur while you are living in the rental. If the landlord failed to fix a previous leak in a timely manner or because proper remediation was not completed you may not have a claim. You may have mold growing behind your walls and not know. Your health might be impacted. But you probably can’t do anything about it legally. Unless….

Visible mold begins to grow OR you take matters into your own hands as a tenant and hire a professional mold inspector to assess the mold in a rental. More on that in a minute.

Can You Sue Your Landlord For Mold?

Yes. However, a tenant will have to prove there is a mold problem. When it comes to mold in a rental the tenant typically needs to prove 4 things:

  1. The mold growth is related to landlord negligence. This means showing documentation of your correspondence with the landlord about any leaks / water intrusions or visible mold growth.
  2. Proof of either visible or hidden mold in a rental. Proof of a mold problem should be provided in the form of a mold inspection by an independent licensed professional. The landlord should pay for the inspection to be done but they could refuse.

    3. Proof that your health has changed for the worse because of the mold problem in the rental.

    4. Verification that you are are under the care of a licensed medical practitioner who specializes in detoxing from mold exposure.

This is where a consultation with an attorney well versed in mold laws comes into play. You don’t want to tackle a mold lawsuit on your own.

Responsibilities As A Tenant If You Have Mold In A Rental

There are many situations where a landlord or property manager can be blamed for mold problems in a rental property.

However, there are many situations where the tenant is actually to blame for a mold problem. So let’s go ahead and look at the responsibility of a tenant as it relates to mold.

Disclosure

Your landlord is not a mind reader. If you do not let them know of any problems, how can it possibly be handled?

It is your responsibility to disclose any kind of leaks, small or large. You should report any water damage both verbally and in writing (preferably by email or certified mail). That way it is on the record and there can be no dispute with “he said, she said”.

Water Clean-up

Time is of an essence when it comes to water damage. That is why it is so important if a leak occurs, you do the best you can to clean up as much of the water as possible.

I am not saying if a pipe bursts that you have to clean and dry everything up by yourself. Do what you can. If you can clean up the standing water with some towels it can greatly help. If you happen to have any heavy duty fans go ahead and set those up. Be careful to ensure none of the electric sockets got wet before plugging in the fan.

You should notify your landlord or property manager right away to have a Property Damage Restoration Company come to dry out the water damaged areas. Allowing these companies access into your home is essential. A tenant is expected to comply to preserve the habitability of a home.

Air Conditioning Unit

Usually, the tenant is responsible for changing the filter but the Landlord is responsible for ensuring proper maintenance be conducted on the unit. However, there is one certain aspect of the air conditioning unit that is rarely talked about:

How to run the air conditioning system…

The air conditioning system has two main purposes:

  • Cooling the air
  • Removing moisture from the air

Everybody knows about the cooling part, but it’s the dehumidifying is very much underestimated.

Your home’s relative humidity should be under 60%. Get yourself a hygrometer or humidity meter which measures humidity within a home.

Many mold problems occur within a home because the HVAC is not dehumidifying but blowing cold air. Cold air blowing into a humid environment leads to condensation, condensation can lead to mold growth.

How can a tenant cause this? Usually, a tenant can cause this by leaving the HVAC unit on the “On” position. This can lead to excess cold air being sent into the living space which leads to not enough moisture being removed from the air.

A list of tenant and landlord mold responsibilities

Responsibilities Of A Landlord If There Is Mold In A Rental They Own

The landlord has one overall responsibility that generalizes all their responsibilities in one:

Provide a habitable environment for the tenant.

Mold prevention will always be the biggest proponent of ensuring a mold problem doesn’t occur in a rental home you own. So as a landlord, be sure you practice good home maintenance and educate your tenants on the 27 things they can do to prevent mold.

Have The Property Inspected For Any Leaks/HVAC Issues

Before the tenant occupies the property, a landlord should come up with some kind of schedule to have the home inspected to prevent mold. Once a quarter should probably be sufficient but that will be up to both the tenant and landlord to decide.

A landlord should look for any visible stains or signs of a leak. Is paint bubbling at all? Are any drywall nails popping out of the wall? These are tell-tale signs that there may be moisture intrusion into the home.

An HVAC company should be hired to perform maintenance on the unit once every 6 months or so.

If any parts of the HVAC unit, the unit itself, or any plumbing fixtures are not properly functioning, the landlord must repair or replace.

Have Leaks Corrected Right Away

The sooner water intrusion is corrected and dried out the more of a chance mold can be nipped at the butt!

If a landlord takes their good old time to dry up a water damaged area, well, you can expect a mold problem if the conditions are right.

While it is the tenant’s responsibility to notify the landlord when an Emergency Dry-out should be done in a home, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to actually call the company and arrange for them to go out to the home. For the most part, these services will be covered by homeowner’s insurance.

How Long Does A Landlord Have To Fix A Mold Problem?

Another grey area. Depending on how bad the mold problem is, mold remediation may need to be performed by a professional mold remediation company.

This can be pretty costly, but if not done properly it can not only be ever more costly monetarily to a home but costly in regards to the health of the occupants within the home. A landlord may be at the mercy of the mold remediation company’s schedule.

If a landlord or handyman tries to remove mold and proper containment is not set up, it can cause airborne mold spores to be released into the air. Mold remediation does have protocols that need to be followed to prevent cross-contamination throughout a home.

The EPA requires mold remediation to be performed for areas of mold larger than 10 square feet.

What Should A Tenant Do When The Landlord Won’t Fix The Mold Problem Or Wants To Do It Themselves?

These situations where there is a dispute over mold can always become messy. Regardless of who is right or wrong, both party’s goal should first get a proper diagnosis to determine if there is indeed a problem and then if there is a problem, how to fix it.

If the landlord tries to skirt the law, downplay the severity of the issues, or outright deny a mold problem, the tenant will need to seek legal advice.

Mold Clause In The Rental Agreement / Lease

You can save any future landlord-tenant mold drama by putting EVERYTHING into writing in the lease.

Here is an example of how you can do that:

Sample mold addendum to lease
Sample mold addendum to lease

Having that in the lease will cover just about all scenarios in writing. That way there is no disputing what the tenant’s responsibilities are.

If you are a tenant, if you treat the home as if it was your own, and if you are a landlord that treats the home as if your own family lived there, a dispute should never arise!

A for rent sign in from of a small house in additional to a mock rental agreement

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28 Comments

  1. Gertrude wilcher says:

    I need help it been over five months I been calling the office about the mold problem in no one came out so I use my September rent and October rent and I paid the remaining balance in nov to remove the mold in my basement known it in my bathroom in I have a legal contractor to come out to remove it I gave my landlord over five month to resolve the problem in they haven’t done anything so I took my rent money for September and October and had the mold remove can I get in trouble I got legal contractor papers in I went I had them motorized nov the third

  2. Gertrude wilcher says:

    Eventually The contractor told me I’m have to remove my family because the problem is going to reaccure because the owner of the property next door to me is the problem with the basement keep flooding due to this COVID 19 nobody want to come out in the property owner who suppose to take care of the problem is not doing there job so I been complaining about this matter for 5 month I’m just worry because I had enough in I use my rent money to fix the problem but I was inform the mold is going to come back again if the property owner next door don’t resolve the problem every time it rain my basement will flood again in I don’t have money to pay a lawyer so can somebody give me some advice I’m just afraid that since I use my rent money can they invict me and my family because I couldn’t turn my heat on until it was remove

    1. What state are you in? The laws really vary by state so I can advise you better once I know where you live. Also, is this subsidized housing in any form or do you pay 100% of the rent?

  3. Hi

    My name is Philip and i have a question on my Mold affected rental apartment,
    There was a pipe leak during our vacation time and once we were back there was mold all over , some personals belongings are un affected like TV, Printer exercise machines etc. Apartment people asked us to take hotel accommodation with help of insurance company and we did it .

    Now they are saying we wont be able to get in to that affected apartment anymore and , They are not sure what will happen to our personal unaffected belongings in that apartment currently.

    We are not getting any help from Insurance or from Apartment management on this issue .
    since we were on month on month .. apartment management saying we are having no agreement with them anymore since its month end.

    can you please advise how i can get my un affected personal belongings from the Apartment ??

    Regards
    Philip.

    1. Hi Philip! I am so sorry to hear this and I apologize for the delay. At this point you may no longer need help but this is now a civil matter and I would contact the non-emergency line for your local police precinct. They can assist you in retrieving your personal property.

  4. I have mold in my bathroom, I emailed this issue to my apartment manager, and she refused to address the issue. She was notified a month ago. I also notified the apartment complex owners .No word from them either. What should I do at this point? Problem still exists

    1. At this point you can escalate things by contacting your local Housing Department. If your state as a Landlord – Tenant hotline, you can also call them to see what your options are.

      1. Dieadre LoUis says:

        I just wanted to say that I also have a mold problem and code enforcement said they only regulate moisture so now what to do , it I hope you live in a place that cares for humanity

        1. What do you mean by “only regulate moisture?”

        2. Hello I am in a rental home located in NM
          We recently had a valve start to leak ended up flooding the kitchens with wooden flooring the floor was soaked while walking you heard the water . Now I know there’s mild that’s gonna come about this landlord never showed up they sent plumber to fix the valve but not the flooding problem . Since then I have notice more symptoms health wise what should I do besides move ?

          1. You have to go after your landlord. They have an obligation to dry out and remediate after a water event. You could pull up a piece of floor yourself to check for mold and then show that to your landlord as proof.

  5. mold removal dallas says:

    Thanks for all the information concerning about mold. You should promptly notify your landlord when you find a moisture problem or indoor mold growth. It’s very important to get your home tested for mold before they destroy your health.

  6. Hi Jennifer,
    I really appreciate all of the information on your website. I’ve been in an apartment in Illinois for 13 years and there has been mold above one of the air conditioning units for as long as I’ve been in the apartment. I’m regretting moving in because I saw the mold before signing the lease, but wasn’t really too concerned about it at the time. I have 7 months left on the lease before I can move. I’ve reported the mold several times over the course of my tenancy, however the landlord’s solution has always been to paint over the moldy part of the wall above the a/c unit. Eventually, the mold starts to show through the paint. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept a record of my correspondence which has only been verbal. The management does not seem to be concerned about fixing the problem long term. The last time I called last month, the property manager told me that it is “common” to have that problem. It appears that this problem may be spreading to other parts of the wall and ceiling. Do you have any advice for me besides moving?

    1. I am so sorry to hear that you are going through this! First, you need to email management with a summary (to the best of your memory) of all the correspondence you have had with them. Then let them know that the problem is spreading. This will establish a paper trail in the event you need it later on down the line and also provides a confirmation of the history of the situation. Clearly the management needs to find the water intrusion which is causing the problem in the first place. Then they need to fix it and properly remediate. Legally they are required to do this. Check to see if you have a Landlord Tenant hotline in your state or something similar. They can give you free legal advice on the laws there.

      Right now the best you can do if you are continuing to live there is to mitigate the amount of air born mold spores. If you are not already using one, get a high quality air purifier. https://moldhelpforyou.com/best-air-purifier-for-mold/. In addition, I would consider fogging your apartment monthly. It is VERY easy and quick to do and will really help a ton! https://moldhelpforyou.com/best-mold-control-fogger/

      Please reach out if you have additional questions!

  7. Mold Removal Tulsa says:

    Mold can be a serious problem and can cause health issues. That’s why it’s important to spot mold issues and remediate them immediately. If there is mold in your rental unit, take steps to prevent mold before it becomes a problem.

  8. Is this legal-
    There has been a water leak for months asked the landlord to remediate and they finally sent different handy men that just put a(bandaid) in the problem then it turned into mold I asked for a inspection for 5 months no response so I told them I would use the rent to get the inspection done then received an email telling us we have 60 days to get out. We did get the mold inspection done and there was a high count of mold

    1. No that is called a retaliatory eviction. What state are you in? Most states have a tenant’s rights hotline you can call for legal advice.

  9. Hi Jennifer,

    There was a mildewy smell in the apartment when I moved in six months ago. On June 29th, I came back to part of the ceiling collapsed and rotted through with black mold. The apartment canceled a work order for that Saturday, leaving me in the situation for a week.

    After I reported to the HAA, the apartment started scrambling to replace the sheetrock, but is refusing to call mold remediation, saying the repairman “will handle it.” The building manager gave me an angry call for giving her more work. The mold is deeper than just that. It’s probably in the HVAC since it’s spread all around the apartment.

    311 is coming to inspect, and I called the local news, but they said they can only test for humidity and not mold. I’m worried the visible patchup with the mold still present will keep them from doing anything, and the news from seeing the real extent of the damage. I’ve gotten ill from the mold.

    They are now breaking the lock and replacing it while I’m still here since the contractor apparently couldn’t get in on Saturday, but I left the door half-unlocked so they could use a master key.

    I live in Texas. What should I do?

  10. John Doubledee says:

    Hi, I live in Texas, have had a mold issue for about a year or so. Every time I report it, the maintenance folks come by and spray white paint on it, stating it is a mold killer. The signs of mold usually returns in a couple of months. About a month ago, the odor from mold was so bad that visitors were complaining about the smell. We reported it, again, and the maintenance man declared we did have a problem when he entered the apartment. The apartment manager stated that we would need to leave the apartment for a few days to a week so that they could do remediation. They were going to do it themselves instead of a professional company. After they completed work in the kitchen, both bathrooms, and replacing the carpet throughout the apartment, we still noticed the odor of mold, and even still saw some evidence of mold. When I mentioned it, the maintenance man told us to get an air purifier to remove the odor. Should we hire a professional company to test?

    1. Oh yes at this point do bring in a professional mold inspector!

  11. Hi, my roommates and I have noticed mold in two locations in our apartment. We have emailed our landlord about the issue. We have also had professionals come in to look at the mold to make sure it is not an issue. We have also talked to the office in person and each time a call or in person conversation has occurred, they have told us that they don’t do mold testing because they don’t believe it is necessary. I have been sick ever since moving in and have had to purchase an inhaler from the constant coughing including many other symptoms. All I would like is to take a test to make sure it is not from the mold but my concerns have been consistently disregarded. Is it right for the leasing office to take out the molding with out testing first?

    1. I am sorry to hear that this is happening. While this is not the correct procedure, it is typically what happens in an apartment setting. They do not want to spend the extra money. There are some affordable options you can do yourself. I am happy to send that information to you.

  12. We have had a reoccurring problem with mold inside our home because of insufficient insulation. It has been 8 yers of the same problem. We live in California. The owner says just to keep everything a couple inches away from the walls- which we do 3-4 inches and mold still grows every winter on the walls that don’t get any exterior sunlight.

  13. Hi. I’m in California. so got a mold inspection. tons of mold found under kitchen and bathroom sink. after pulling landlords teeth they finally called a mold company that specializes in dry fogging mold. the inspection report called for completely removing the mold in order to 100 percent get rid of it, but to save money they chose a less expensive route. after dry fogging the mold company took lab samples and sure enough still shows Mold and you can in fact still see it! but because the company gave landlord the green light that everything is good and clear since whatever mold left is probably dead mold, landlord is washing their hands of the matter. Do I still have the right to withhold rent and maybe take them to court?

    1. In court, the mold testing is what determines the outcome. If it did not test clear by California guidelines, then the remediation is considered incomplete in the eyes of the law. So yes, you can and should take them to court.

  14. Candice Hendrix says:

    I live in Seattle and in 7 years we have had 7 water damage incidents and not one was our fault. soon after the 1st one I gained 60lbs. and now after 7 years my health is failing me at 41years of age. we contact our landlord every time it occurs, which it’s always new on how it happens from pipes bursting to the unit overfilling their tub above us and so on. I have documented every incident and now I am suicidal from severe anguish and the oxidative stress from having inflammation throughout my whole body. I have called code inspectors but even with my pics and evidence and no visible mold they can only issue violations for pests and minor violations. there are disabled, elderly and immigrants who are not informed of laws that are dying from this landlord knowingly killing tenants. I have tried every resource only to be told that they can’t help. I will die do to this. I was very very healthy before moving in this place and now I don’t recognize myself in the mirror. I need help finding help. I have testing sent to a lab and it has come back black mold and other molds all of which are very bad and health hazards. I try and communicate and have transparent communication with the owner but she refuses to do what is right when I keep informing her that tenants are ill from the water damages that have occured and she will not take responsibility. help what do I do besides even if I move she should still be barred from ever renting any property as an owner. she is killing us. help.

    1. Hi Candice! I am so sorry to hear that you are going through this. I am not a legal expert and this sounds very complex! Typically these situations get handled by a personal injury attorney although sometimes a tenant rights attorney will take the case. Unfortunately you will have to look locally for an attorney who might pick up the case. Have you reached out to the local federal housing authority? Every state has different laws related to mold but they may be able to help too. I wish I could be of more assistance!