The relationship with landlord and tenant has many challenges. Each side has a large amount of responsibilities which results in a huge amount of liability.
- What happens when there is mold found in a tenant occupied building, home, or apartment?
- Who is responsible for the damages?
- What legal responsibilities does the landlord have to remove the mold in a timely manner?
- How do landlords protect themselves and their rental property?
- How is the mold removed correctly to protect the health of the tenants and the liability of the landlord?
- On the other hand, how does a tenant ensure that the mold is being removed safely?
- And what laws are the landlord required to meet to fix any issues causing mold damage?
Reports from the insurance industry show that mold claims reach in the billions of dollars yearly. There are thousands of lawsuits filed for both residential and commercial buildings due from mold injuries from mold damage in rental properties. Therefore, it is important for landlords and tenant to know their rights and the correct procedures for removing mold and protecting the health of the occupants. Not enough landlords and tenants know these steps. Below, we try to cover the standard procedures that we typically see followed.*
What State of California standards and Federal standards are used for identifying and properly remediate toxic mold?
The US Federal Government does not have a standard for mold removal. The responsibility has been given to the individual US States, local governments, and health departments to come up with their own standards. In California, the Toxic Mold Prevention Act (SB 732 (2002)) tasks the Department of Health to enforce and implement a standard for mold assessment and remediation in residential and commercial buildings. However, the funds to execute the act do not currently exist. See our webpage for more specifics on standards used for mold remediation. This makes understanding the regulations and proper steps difficult but, in general, the current remediation industry standard is to use the following:
- New York City Guidelines: Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments (1993, 2000, 2008)
- EPA: Mold Remediation in schools and Commercial Buildings (2001)
- ANSI/IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Restoration (1993, 2001, 2006)
- ANSI/IICRC S520 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation (2001, 2008)
These are “standards of care,” not codes. They are guidelines. And in general they specify that areas of large amount of mold are suggested to be remediated in a different manner than a small area. They all also stress the importance of rapid response and note the special care that should be taken with individuals who are more susceptible to mold related health issues like the young, elderly, and individuals with suppressed immune systems.
What are the tenant and landlord responsibilities for mold?
The California Department of Consumer Affairs (CADCA) notes the following for CA tenant-landlord mold removal and repair requirements:
- Landlord mold removal & repair requirements: landlords are legally required to keep a rental property habitable and make repairs as needed to keep it habitable. And relative to mold it outlines that The CADCA state: “the presence of mold conditions in the rental unit that affect the livability of the unit or the health and safety of tenants [implies that would be considered uninhabitable].”
- Tenant repair requirements: tenant tenants are required to make certain repairs as well. The CADCA states that as a tenant you must keep your rental unit and common areas that are used by you under reasonable care. It also states that for these areas you must make repairs caused by you and anyone that you are responsible for, like guest, family, and pets.
Essentially, if there is a mold issue in the property, the landlord is responsible to make the repairs to bring the property back to liveable conditions. The tenants are required to take reasonable care of their rental units and common areas.
Steps we normally see when a property is found to have mold damage:
In a tenant occupied rental property:
- Notification: if the landlord is notified by the tenant that there is a potential mold hazard, the landlord acts in an expedited manner to investigate. Immediate notification should be done but we generally see this done in three days or less.
- Assessment & mold removal: if there are any visible signs of mold damage, the landlord should have a professional remediation company assess, test, and conduct mold removal and remediation
- Water source repairs: the landlord should have any leaking pipes, roof, or water source corrected in an expedited manner
- Relocation: if deemed necessary, the tenant should be relocated during the mold remediation work. We always recommend moving tenants out when the work is being done. The liability is severe if they are exposed to mold when areas or opened for mold remediation. This is especially important for the young, elderly, and individuals with suppressed immune systems. See local laws for who is responsible for the relocation costs but we have typically seen this being the landlord’s responsibility as a part of keeping the property habitable and protecting the health and safety of the tenant. If there are questions on who is responsible for the cause of the mold damage and the tenant refuses to pay for an alternative place to live while the work is being done, we normally still see the landlord pay for these costs up front. And then try to collect on any money due to them after. In this manner the landlord is ensuring the health and safely of the tenant and fulfilling their responsibility to keep the property habitable. The landlord should seek legal counsel for the particulars of reimbursement (i.e. deduction from the deposit, assessing additional fees, etc) but always move forward with mold removal quickly so that the tenant is not intentionally put in harm’s way.
Some common questions and typical plans of action:
As a landlord, what sort of mold damage are you required to pay for?
If a landlord has been given notice from a tenant that there is mold damage to a rental property, the landlord can be liable for all damage that flows down from that mold damage. This can mean damage to the property of the tenant, damage to the structure, personal injuries to the tenant and other residence in the property, and any other damages or expenses that are a result of the mold damage like cost for mold remediation, relocation costs, moving costs, and any other direct expenses.
When is a landlord responsible for injuries from mold damage?
At the moment the landlord has been given notice by the tenant or other representative that there is mold damage in the rental property, the landlord should take immediate action. The notice is the main action and operative word. Notice can come from the tenant in the form of a complaint, being seen by the landlord or agent of the landlord or employee of the landlord, or by constructive notice. Constructive notice means that a reasonable person should have known about an issue even if no knowledge about the issue exists, as in due diligence to maintain the property and correct any issues such as water damage and water leaks.
What steps should be taken by the landlord to remove the mold from the property?
A mold restoration specialist should always be used for removing mold from a rental property. Removing the mold from the property should not be done by the landlord. There are certain mold removal techniques that are needed to detect and eliminate mold contamination. Using a bleach to wipe down a wall or painting over mold is not sufficient and will leave the landlord legally liable for any health issues caused to the tenant.
We can assess and remove mold damage from rental properties. Call us 24/7 for emergency service. Our project managers will walk you through the options you have and the procedures to take for proper care of your tenants and property. 619.597.2003
*We are not a law firm nor any sort of legal counsel. Therefore, you should consult all your local, state, and federal laws; legal counsel, and health professional before making any decisions on legal or health related mold concerns.