Mold In Apartment: Tenants Rights

By PropertyClub Team
Aug 20th 2023
Mold in an apartment or rental home is a significant health hazard for adults and especially for young children. This guide will help you recognize problems in a moldy apartment, teach you about your tenant's rights, and help ensure you keep yourself and your family safe.

Having mold in your apartment can lead to severe symptoms like fatigue, nausea, asthma, rashes, and even internal organ damage. The scariest part is that these symptoms commonly overlap with a myriad of conditions, so the only real way to accurately diagnose the cause is to find and see the mold infestation. 

hash-markTable of Contents

What To Do if Your Apartment Has Mold
Is Mold in My Apartment Dangerous?
Mold in Apartment & Tenants' Rights
Mold in Apartment Bottom Line

hash-markWhat To Do if Your Apartment Has Mold

  1. Recognize the Smell
  2. Learn How to Identify Mold
  3. Search Your Apartment for Hidden Mold Growth
  4. Contact Your Landlord
  5. Wait For Your Landlord to Remove the Mold
  6. As a Last Resort, Take Legal Action

1. Recognize the Smell

The first thing you should do if you find mold in your apartment is to recognize the smell and find all areas of mold growth. Mold has a distinctive smell that is long-lasting and musty. If you find mold in one part of your apartment you should check other areas to make sure there's no additional mold growth, and a funky smell can be a sign of mold.  

2. Learn How to Identify Mold

Once you recognize the smell, you should start looking for the places in which mold tends to grow. Mold can be black, white, green, gray, shiny, or dusty. Some of these varieties are easy to smell and see while others hide around baseboards, between walls, and in corners of your attic or basement. It would be best if you can also recognize what it looks like. Apart from physically seeing the mold, noticing bubbling paint, drywall, or discolored paint and wood could be signs of mold growth.

3. Search Your Apartment for Hidden Mold Growth

Wet paint, cardboard, walls, and other damp infrastructure are perfect breeding grounds for mold. An apartment that experiences a flood or other water damage becomes much more likely to be contaminated with mold of many varieties.

This is especially true for apartments in states with naturally humid climates like California and Florida, which can experience mold infestations even without an accident that causes water damage. Landlords in those states should know how to prepare for mold and already have a plan to deal with possible infestations before their tenants’ health is affected.

4. Contact Your Landlord

If you find mold in your apartment, the next thing you should do is contact your landlord. Your landlord has a contractual responsibility to provide safe and livable housing on their rental property. That means they will be responsible to remove the mold in your apartment. If a landlord fails to fix a leak, for instance, and this causes an infestation of mold, a health-related legal case against the landlord can result in payment for medical damages.

5. Wait For Your Landlord to Remove the Mold

Your landlord will take steps to remedy the issue and remove the mold in your apartment. You may be wondering, “How long does a landlord have to fix a mold problem?” This depends on how bad the mold infestation is and on any existing state or city safety codes. In most states, there's no generic, clear-cut timeline for when a landlord has to take care of it. 

6. As a Last Resort, Take Legal Action

If your landlord doesn't get rid of the mold in your apartment, you should consider taking legal action. Most states have warranty of habitability laws in place which guarantee tenants' rights to enjoy their rental property without disturbances, deterioration, or health risks. Since a moldy apartment can cause health problems, your landlord might be liable if they caused it or haven't fixed the issue. 

hash-markMold in Apartment Tenants' Rights

If you find mold in an apartment, you may be wondering who is at fault and what rights you have, especially if someone got sick from it. Mold in an apartment concerns tenants' rights, but there may also be local building codes in place that specifically designate the responsibility. Most tenants are protected by the warranty of habitability, which guarantees them a safe place to live, but specific guidelines on how much mold is permissible are rarely established. 

1. Landlords Must Provide Tenants With a Safe and Mold-Free Apartment

In most cases, state tenants' rights laws will require landlords to fix the mold in your apartment. And if the mold caused you health issues, they will be liable, especially if they caused it or could have prevented it. Many law firms have won multimillion-dollar cases against landlords for their negligence in preventing black mold in apartments and taking care of the mold problems they’re already aware of.

2. If You Caused the Mold Problem, You May Be Liable

However, if the tenant’s living conditions under their control caused the mold, they may not win the case. Some contracts specify that leaving a room on account of black mold in the apartment breaks the tenant’s lease. However, landlords who try to enforce these clauses for compensation are often not supported by courts, who rule in favor of public policy in the case of negligent maintenance in rental properties.

3. How Lond Does Your Landlord Have to Fix Mold?

Your landlord has to between 7 and 30 days to fix mold in your apartment, depending on where you live and the local laws in your state. The clock starts ticking from the moment you notify your landlord of the mold problem, so even if they don't come and inspect it right away, the time they have to fix the issue is limited. If your apartment has mold and the landlord won't fix it, you can stop paying rent after this time frame has elapsed. 

hash-markIs Mold in Your Apartment Dangerous?

Having mold in your apartment can be dangerous. Mold poses different health risks depending on the person who is affected. Children or adults with asthma are particularly vulnerable to mold, as it can cause sneezing, coughing, respiratory problems, itchy eyes, and other physical symptoms.

For those that come in contact with particularly harmful mold, such as black mold in their apartment, they need to be aware of the health risks and notice the signs. For example, itchiness, rashes, or trouble breathing that goes away when you leave your apartment is a clear sign of a mold infestation.

The best defense against mold growth is to find an apartment that is well-kept and protected against mold. However, controlling moisture is a great step towards curbing mold, even if the tenant takes matters into their own hands. This includes standing moisture as well as cleaning up any spills so they don’t seep into carpets and floorboards.

The last thing everyone should understand is that not all molds are dangerous. The mold that forms on bathroom tiles, for instance, is harmless and just needs a good scrubbing. Knowing the difference will help you choose a course of action. In general, if the mold smells, it’s the bad kind.

hash-markMold in Apartment Bottom Line

It’s important to you and your family’s health to recognize a mold problem before it gets out of control. This means recognizing mold colonies by sight and smell and also by their potential symptoms. The causes of mold are related to moisture and can often be prevented by conscientious tenants.

However, sometimes a landlord’s negligence is responsible for black mold in an apartment. A landlord that won’t fix a mold problem may be banking on the lack of legal limits concerning mold in most city and state safety codes. However, a dangerous amount of mold in an apartment can factor into cases involving tenants’ rights. Many legal cases have been won against landlords that have been proven negligent.

As a tenant, it’s vital to recognize negligence, even in yourself. As a landlord, fixing leaks and storm-proofing your rental properties could be an investment in your and your tenants’ health. Should you move out if you have black mold? It may not be necessary. By working with your landlord, you may be able to fix the problem without further financial or medical damage.