If you find mold in your apartment, you might be concerned about potential health issues and liability. Find out who is responsible for fixing a mold problem and what you can do about it.
What is mold and where is it found?
Mold is an environmental risk that can exist in apartments and rental buildings. Mold can take on different colors, textures and smells. Some mold is clearly visible, but other types of mold can hide in less accessible places inside your apartment or rental property.
Mold, which needs moisture to grow, can be found in damp or water-soaked materials such as newspapers or cardboard boxes, ceiling tiles, or wall panels. Naturally humid areas like the southern part of the United States or parts of Texas and California may be more susceptible to mold. However, the truth is that mold can exist anywhere that moisture is present.
How can mold impact your health?
Mold can be unsightly, but in some cases it can be harmful to your health. It is important to educate yourself about the potential health risks associated with mold so that you can spot symptoms and know what to do.
Toxic black mold can be a health concern if you find it in your apartment or rental property. Stachybotrys chartarum is a type of poisonous black mold, and it usually has a black or dark green appearance. This mold releases spores as it feeds on common household materials that have been exposed to moisture, such as carpets, insulation, or drywall. If people inhale or ingest these spores, the spores can cause health symptoms that can be dangerous, especially with prolonged exposure to mold.
Keep in mind that toxic black mold in an apartment can have different health effects on different people. Some people may not experience symptoms at all, while those who are susceptible or have a mold allergy may have symptoms of exposure which may include the following:
- Red, itchy eyes
- Wheezing or coughing
- Congested nose
- Sore throat
- Itchy skin
For people with asthma, certain molds can also trigger asthma attacks. Exposure can also cause increased breathing difficulties in people with chronic respiratory diseases.
Keep in mind that some types of mold are not excessively harmful to your health. While you may want to clean up the type of mold that grows on shower tiles, for example, this mold is more unsightly than dangerous to your health. If you have mold in your apartment, you may need an expert to determine if the mold could be harmful to your health.
What is my landlord responsible for in my rental property?
While state and local laws may vary, in general, landlords are responsible for providing rental properties that are livable and safe and to repair potential sources of moisture that can lead to mold growth, such as leaky pipes. A few states, including California, Texas, Maryland, and New Jersey, in addition to cities like San Francisco and New York, have guidelines for allowed mold standards. There is no federal law setting construction standards in residential buildings for mold or allowable exposure limits.
Check with your state Department of Public Health or the local Department of State and Environmental Protection for more information on local mold laws and regulations.
The laws in your state may also provide some relief when mold growth poses a risk to human health and safety. For example, in Virginia and several other states, a landlord can relocate tenants to another living unit or hotel for up to 30 days while the mold is removed.
Generally, as a tenant, you should alert your landlord if you discover mold on the property. If your landlord can fix the mold problem within a reasonable time, you’re good to go. In some states, if your landlord doesn’t fix a mold issue within a reasonable time after raising the issue, you may be able to withhold rent until the issue is resolved or pay for the repairs yourself and deduct. the cost of mold repairs from your rent. However, you should consult your state’s laws and an attorney before taking this type of action and reporting a mold problem to a homeowner.
In addition, certain circumstances exist when you as a tenant may be responsible for the growth of mold, namely when the growth occurs due to your behavior. For example, creating high humidity or not keeping your apartment clean could mean that you, the tenant, are responsible for any mold that grows as a result. Remember to keep your apartment well ventilated and adopt good cleaning habits to help prevent mold growth.
What should I do against mold in my apartment?
If you notice mold growth that you believe your landlord is responsible for removing, you should let your landlord or property manager know. Provide written notification so that you have a record of your complaint. If your landlord doesn’t agree that your apartment is contaminated with potentially toxic mold, you may have to pay for testing and inspection yourself.
If your landlord does not address your concerns, your recourse may depend on whether you live. For example, in rental situations in California, tenants may pursue self-help withholding or repair and deduction strategies. In other words, tenants do a cleaning themselves and subtract the cost from their rent payments.
If you notice mold in your apartment, don’t panic. Some molds can pose health risks, but everyday molds, such as the type of mold that can grow inside your bathroom shower, are not dangerous. You can easily clean these types of mold with daily cleaning products. If you think the mold in your apartment could be toxic or pose a health and safety hazard, notify your landlord immediately. Depending on the circumstances, your landlord could be responsible for mold cleaning.
Coverimage via iStock.com/chuckcollier