Living or working in environments that contain high levels of airborne mold spores and/or substantial mold problems can cause very severe (and sometimes even permanent) health problems to the building’s occupants.
With that said, landlords have an ethical and legal obligation to their tenants to provide an environmentally safe, habitable living space or workplace.
When mold problems are ignored and permitted to grow out of control, these obligations are clearly disregarded.
In terms of their legal liability to tenants, landlords may be required to cover compensatory damages related to:
- expenses for medical procedures;
- loss of earnings;
- mold damage to tenants’ personal property;
- living and boarding expenses if the tenants need to relocate while the remediation work is taking place;
- any mold inspection, testing and remediation costs; and
- punitive damages (jury-awarded).
Top 7 ways to prevent mold-related legal problems
To avoid mold lawsuits in both residential and commercial rental units, landlords, tenants and real estate agents across the U.S., Canada and the world should follow these seven steps.
- A property owner or manager should not even offer a property for rent before having a thorough mold inspection of the entire building or of the individual units, which will determine whether or not the property is free of mold and safe for occupancy.
- Landlords should invest in annual or semi-annual mold inspections for their properties to ensure that no new mold problems have appeared.
- If there has been a flood, storm damage, a leak in the plumbing, roof or siding, or any other water intrusion problem, the property should undergo a thorough mold inspection as soon as possible and water damage should be repaired promptly.
- If a mold inspection reveals mold problems, the property owner or manager should immediately hire a professional to perform a mold remediation.
- The landlord should not hide, cover up or camouflage mold problems. This includes not painting over mold growth; not concealing mold growth behind furniture, furnishings and decorations; and not masking the distinctive musty smell of mold with air fresheners and deodorizers.
- A prospective tenant should have the rental unit inspected by a certified mold inspector prior to signing a rental agreement).
- The landlord should disclose, in writing, to all prospective tenants any previous or present water and mold problems on the property, and what he/she has done to correct such problems. These disclosures should be attached to the rental agreement so that the tenant can acknowledge receipt thereof.
The steps listed above are nothing more than fair and honest gestures that will help build trust between landlords and tenants and, at the same time, reduce the chances of long and unpleasant lawsuits.