More than 50% of houses in the U.S. have mold issues. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that with roughly 116 million renters and only about 24 million landlords, not every rental property issue is likely to be addressed in a timely manner. This should be cause for alarm among tenants experiencing toxic mold growth throughout their rental homes. Exactly how long does a landlord have to fix a mold problem and what steps do you need to take to ensure they take your complaint seriously? One Loxley, Alabama renter is asking the same questions.
According to NBC News 15, a tenant in Loxley, Alabama has reached out to them because property management has not taken appropriate action against a black mold issue that has plagued her rental home for “two to three years,” she claims.
Throughout the black mold video, unmistakable images of water damage and black mold growth are shown, while the tenant explains that she just wants it fixed because she is concerned about her health and the health of her family. When questioned, the rental property management claims no reports of black mold were turned in, but that they will check it over and try to rectify the situation if possible.
This begs the question: What can you do to avoid a similar situation?
How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix a Mold Problem?
While certain nuances can vary by state, most state laws dictate that a report of mold must be addressed by a landlord within 14 days of the initial tenant statement and, if mold is indeed the issue, the landlord has 30 days from the same initial report to resolve the problem.
How to Report Mold in a Rental House
First, take pictures (and video, if you can) of all evidence for mold and water damage.
Second, construct a short, polite letter declaring suspicion of toxic mold and kindly request that the landlord assess and remedy the situation. Be sure to date and sign the letter. Include your contact information to make things easier on them. Take a picture of the letter or print yourself a copy that you date and sign, as well.
Third, deliver the letter by hand to the landlord’s office or, if you must mail it, mail the envelope with signature confirmation to ensure the landlord cannot claim that they never received the letter.
If the landlord does not investigate the claim properly and in a timely manner according to state law (despite your polite persistence), the next step is to call the housing or building inspector. The inspector will visit your home, take official record of the mold issue, inform your landlord of the violation, and enforce the building codes of your unit. If, however, the cause of the water intrusion issues or mold growth can be linked to your action or inaction as a tenant, the inspector will rule against you and the cost of repairs and mold remediation will be your responsibility.
Check with your town clerk or the county health department to see who oversees inspections.
Contacting the housing or building inspector is one of the last actions you want to take. There is no turning back once you make that call. Be certain you have allotted the landlord your state’s permissible amount of time for the assessment, as well as the remedy. Consider contacting your landlord one last time to verify their unwillingness to comply. At all times, remain calm and civil toward them. If your state permits one-person consent to audio recordings, consider recording the conversation to ensure you have proof of their unwillingness before moving forward.
Tenant Relocation Due to Mold
If you suspect you or your family members are experiencing toxic mold symptoms and nothing is being done to remedy the mold infestation, you may have to consider temporary or permanent relocation. Unfortunately, unless mold is verified and a court of law can support your withholding of rental payments, you are financially obligated to pay to the end of your lease, regardless of your urgency to leave. This means you may not have the funds to relocate you and your family to safer place while the mold issue is addressed. However, this is where the evaluation of the housing or building inspector is advantageous to you.
If the inspector officiated your mold claim and submitted his or her report, you have the evidence and witness you need to withhold rental payments while you temporarily seek shelter elsewhere. If the landlord was compliant, however, and there was no need to call for an inspector, you will need to request the landlord’s acknowledgement of the mold issue and plan to rectify the situation in writing before withholding payments and relocating. Yet, if the landlord was truly compliant, be sure to discuss relocation costs and the issue of rental payments. They may be willing to wave payments until you are able to safely return to your rental home.
Always give the landlord the opportunity to do what is right, otherwise they may face prosecution that they would have gladly avoided if you had kept them informed of your plans and needs. Sometimes, a landlord is financially unable—not unwilling—to take care of problems quickly. This does not mean that you and your family must suffer a moment longer, but it does entail that you should keep the landlord informed and avoid treating them as if they are the villain.
Before moving forward with any relocation plans, check your state laws regarding “tenant relocation due to mold” because there may be more required of you before you can lawfully pause rental payments and relocate.
Don’t let your story turn into the 3-year nightmare that tenant in Loxley, Alabama experienced. Know your rights on how to report mold in a rental house by ensuring you are following your state’s particular guidelines, cover all your bases to guarantee you have a solid case, and endeavor to remain polite and patient with the landlord without neglecting to convey the urgency of your needs and concerns.
Remember, this is not a hopeless situation—even if the landlord is non-compliant. You have advocates at your county health department, as well as state laws in your favor.
For more information regarding mold, mold prevention, and mold solutions, please check out the rest of MoldBlogger.com.
Article by Amanda Demsky from the MoldBlogger team.