Mold: Is it the Landlord's Responsibility?
There have been numerous court cases where tenants have taken landlords to court over damages and health problems caused by the presence of “toxic mold” in the unit. Mold is a touchy subject, since there are no laws out there that set limits for minimum exposure. In some cases, tenants who sued landlords over mold damage or allergy have lost, while others have won multimillion dollar cases. It’s good to know that toxic mold growing on your property can get you into legal trouble, but instead of worrying about getting sued, it’s much more worth your time to examine your property for mold and take measures to prevent its growth.
How and where does mold grow?
Mold will grow anywhere where there’s moisture and nutrients. It usually grows as a result of poor ventilation or water coming in from the outside due to a weakness in the building’s structure. There are various types of mold that grow on different materials, such as carpet, water pipes, cardboard boxes or ceiling tiles. In addition to time, humidity and warmth provide ideal growing conditions for the organism. Not all mold is harmful – the mold that’s on your bathroom tile, for example, isn’t a health concern. Discoloration and musty odors are usually a sign to check for mold in your property.
What damage does it cause?
If mold grows undetected, it can cause stains and discoloration on the carpet, walls, fabric or any other surface it’s growing on. If you ignore it, it could ruin these materials as well as cause wood rot and disintegration. The major concern about toxic mold, though, is that it can cause health problems. Mold releases spores and chemicals that can trigger allergic reaction or illness in occupants. While the severity of the reaction depends on the type of mold and degree of exposure, those with weak immune systems, such as the elderly and young children, are usually the most at-risk.
How to get rid of it:
If you do happen to find mold growing on your property, and it’s a small-scale problem, try cleaning it with unscented detergent and water. Wear rubber cleaning gloves, protective goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from spores, and stop if you develop nausea or headaches. Make sure the area is well ventilated post-cleanup, or else the mold will return. A larger mold problem, recurring mold, or a very damp apartment is best left to the examination of a professional. The best strategy is taking measures to prevent mold on your property, since hiring an experienced professional is expensive and not always effective.
Mold is present everywhere in the environment, even where you live, but it doesn’t become a problem until you give it an environment to grow in. Make sure your property is well ventilated, and your tenants understand how to prevent mold. Give them advice on how to regularly clean vulnerable areas such as bathrooms, and have them alert you as soon as they notice moisture buildup or leaks. Get the problem taken care of as soon as you can to prevent mold growth. If your tenant reports the presence of a mold problem and you ignore the notice, it could get you in legal trouble as well as potentially cause serious health problems.
Mold or not, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the property is habitable. Under the law, you’re required to maintain the property for your tenant and make necessary repairs such as fixing broken windows, leaky pipes and roofs. Fortunately, neglecting in these repairs is usually what causes mold, so as long as you stay on top of property maintenance, your property should stay mold-free.