With growing awareness about the health problems associated with mold in homes and buildings, more and more people are starting to sue… and win.
Over 100,000 species of mold exist; most people aren’t affected by them. But when mold spores get wet, they can reproduce quickly, causing major infestation and worsening of air quality.
One particularly nasty mold–black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum –is often found growing on water-damaged materials and is linked to health effects like headaches, sore throat, nose bleeds, flu symptoms, fatigue, skin irritation, diarrhea and hair loss, some of which may be permanent.
Black mold problems occur when moisture accumulates inside of a building due to a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, sewer backup or other water intrusion. Drywall, carpets, wallpaper and wooden floors and furniture all make great food sources for mold. They’re rich in cellulose, and when wet, they provide the ideal location for mold growth.
The trouble with mold arises in rental properties, when it’s not always clear who is responsible (the landlord or the tenant) for fixing the household issues that lead to mold growth. There are a lot of differing opinions as to who is actually responsible for covering the costs of the mold damage, and the result is an explosion in the number of mold-related lawsuits, especially in the United States.
In Canada, toxic mold lawsuits are a relatively new occurrence, but they’re slowing becoming more and more common. For example, a $2-billion lawsuit was recently filed against a school board outside of Toronto after the plaintiff claimed school children were getting sick from mold exposure in portable classrooms.
Mold lawsuits also aren’t cheap. In order to prove in court that mold is actually present in a building, you need official documentation such as the results of an air quality test or microbiological analysis. Also proof of any reported health effects must also be provided in the form of bills of medical procedures, doctors’ statements and other expenses incurred.
Who is liable if mold is making you sick?
While landlords have a duty to maintain their property at a reasonable standard, tenants also have the duty to keep the space clean and to report any problems to the landlord in a timely manner, giving him or her sufficient time to address the issue.
Sellers and their real estate agents may also be held responsible if they sell a property without disclosing a previous mold or water problem. Similarly, contractors and designers may be held responsible for negligence or poor construction that lead to defects within the property.
With all of this in mind, the first thing you should if you find yourself face-to-face with a mold problem is to get it removed… because nothing is as important or valuable as your health.
Mold lawsuits come about when there is a disagreement over who is responsible for taking care of issues leading to mold or when a seller and his/her real estate agent do not disclose information suggesting mold or a potential mold problem in the home they’re selling.