Ten Steps to Avoid Mold Problems and Lawsuits
in the Rental of Residential and Commercial Real Estate
Real estate residential and commercial landlords,
tenants, and rental agents in the USA, Canada, and worldwide should take ten
steps to avoid mold problems and mold lawsuits in the rental of real estate
properties, according to Phillip Fry,
Certified Mold Inspector and author of
the books Mold Legal Guide and
Living or working in rental units that contain elevated levels of airborne
mold spores and/or substantial mold growth infestation can cause very severe
(and sometimes permanent) health problems to the tenants.
Landlords have ethical and legal obligations to tenants to provide an
environmentally safe, habitable living space (residential rentals) or
workplace (office and commercial rentals). Those obligations go unmet when a
rental unit is mold-infested.
Landlords may have potential and substantial legal liability to tenants for
such compensatory damages as: expenses for medical mold diagnostic and
treatment procedures, loss of earnings, mold damage to tenants' clothing and
personal property, higher rent differential if the tenants need to move to a
mold-safe place, moving expenses, any tenant-paid expenses (such as mold
inspection, testing, and remediation of the rental unit and tenant
possessions), and punitive damages (jury-awarded).
A Hayward, California, jury in 2004 awarded $4 million dollars in damages
because of mold infestation and other substandard
living conditions on behalf of 124 past and present tenants of an
apartment building whose owner failed to do proper mold remediation and
maintenance of the mold-infested apartments.
Take these ten
steps for the mutual well-being of both the landlord and the tenants---
1. A property owner or manager should not even offer the property for rent
until after a thorough mold inspection and mold testing of the entire rental
building or of individual rental units (prior to rental) determines that the
property is mold-safe for tenants to live or work in.
2. Hire a Certified Mold Inspector (USA and Canada) for an annual property
mold inspection and mold testing, or at least use a do-it-yourself mold
inspection checklist and mold test kits for a thorough mold examination and
evaluation of the rental building.
3. If there has been a plumbing line break or leak, roof or siding leaks,
flooding, storm damage, or other water intrusion problems, the building
should be thoroughly and promptly mold inspected, tested, and remediated as
part of the water damage repairs and restoration.
4. If mold inspection and testing uncovers visible or hidden mold problems,
the property owner or manager should immediately do safe and effective mold
removal and remediation. Hire a
Certified Mold Remediator (USA and Canada),
or follow the recommended steps for safe and effective do-it-yourself mold
remediation. Re-inspect and re-test (“clearance testing”) the building after
5. The building owner or manager should avoid hiding mold problems by deceptions such as painting over mold growth; concealing mold
growth behind stored items, furniture, furnishings, and decorations; and
masking the distinctive smell of mold growth with air fresheners and
deodorizers. The smell of mold is from the digestive gases of the mold
eating the building materials.
6. A prospective tenant should inspect and mold test the proposed rental
unit (prior to the signing of a rental lease) with a
Inspector, or by using a do-it-yourself
mold inspection checklist, his sense
of smell, a good flashlight, and do it yourself mold test kits available
from a large hardware, home improvement, or safety store to determine the mold status
of the rental unit.
7. In doing such inspection and testing, the
mold inspector (or the tenant
himself) should do an all-around physical examination of the building for
both visible and hidden signs of water damage and mold growth. In addition,
the inspector or the tenant should mold test the air and visible mold
growths in all rooms, the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, plus the
outward airflow from each heating/cooling duct register.
8. Mold testing requires mold
laboratory analysis and mold species identification of the collected mold and air samples. In building locations
with previous floods or leaks, the examination should also include fiber
optics inspection to look inside water-penetrated ceilings, walls, and
floors for hidden mold infestations.
9. The landlord or rental manager should disclose in writing to all
prospective tenants any previous or present building water and mold
problems, and what the owner or manager has done, if anything, to correct
such problems. Attach these water damage and mold disclosures to the rental
lease agreement so that the tenant acknowledges receipt thereof.
10. In consideration of, and based upon, the landlord’s accurate and
complete mold disclosure, and the tenant’s full and unrestricted opportunity
to inspect and test the rental unit thoroughly and carefully prior to
signing the lease, the lease agreement may include a clause that releases
the landlord, rental manager, and the rental real estate agent/broker from
all mold liability to the tenant.
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mold testing, and
mold remediation information,
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Courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Serious mold growth inside an air conditioning duct in
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