Renting a new apartment should be an exciting adventure and a chance to enjoy security, peace of mind, and comfort.
If you encounter mold in your new digs, this experience may turn out to be negative and quite frustrating instead.
If you’ve discovered mold in your Alabama rental residence, you may be looking for answers regarding your rights as a tenant.
“Currently, there are no Alabama laws concerning residential or commercial building mold standards, or testing requirements, nor is there any contractor accreditation/certification for contractors performing mold testing or remediation activities.““Indoor Air Quality,” by Alabama Public Health. (Last updated Aug. 26, 2022)
Below we will discuss your options and go over information that will help you.
|In Alabama, can you…?|
|Move out due to mold?||Sometimes.|
|Withhold rent due to mold?||No.|
|Pay for your own mold remediation and deduct cost from rent?||No.|
|Sue a landlord and others over mold?||Yes.|
|Contact local media outlets about the mold?||Yes.|
|Terminate a lease early.||Sometimes.|
1. In Alabama, You Can’t Legally Withhold Rent Due to Mold
Tenants in Alabama are not legally allowed to withhold rent due to mold growth or other hazardous conditions in an apartment or home under lease.
(Note that mold isn’t specifically mentioned in Alabama tenant law, and that we are merely applying what the law does cover, to the subject of mold.)
What the law says (as discussed below) is that you can move out in certain cases before your lease is up, but as long as you live in the apartment, you need to be paying rent to someone. In most cases, that’s your landlord, in some rare cases, you would pay rent to a court (if you’re suing.)
Unfortunately, that means that even if the mold growth is such that it presents a hazardous environment or a threat to your health, withholding rent as a demand that repairs are made (or that mold remediation get done) is not legal, nor is it the best way to deal with mold in an apartment in Alabama.
That route is more likely to get you evicted than it is to get the mold problem solved.
2. In Alabama, You Can’t Pay for Mold Remediation, and Then Deduct its Cost From Your Rent.
Some states allow tenants to pay for repairs in their leased home or apartment out-of-pocket, and to then deduct those costs from their next rent payment.
Alabama is not one of those states.
You can not pay for a repair in your rental apartment or home and then deduct the costs involved from your rent in Alabama.
State law specifically disallows this.
Not to mention that mold remediation companies won’t even enter a rented home or apartment unless approved to do so by the property’s landlord or owner—not its tenants.
That puts Alabama tenants at a bit of a disadvantage, but there are other avenues of recourse available.
Here is the exact excerpt from the Alabama Tenant’s Handbook:
“When something needs routine repair (not affecting health or safety):
” ► Write a letter about the problem to your landlord. Include the date and keep a copy in a safe place.
” ► If you live in an apartment, you and the landlord can agree in writing that you will make certain repairs at your own expense. The law doesn’t allow you to make repairs and deduct the cost from your rent. [Underline in original.]
2A. Should You Stay or Go?
What the law does allow for in Alabama is for you to move out before your lease is up, under certain conditions.
If the apartment you’re leasing presents a hazard to your health, you may have a case for moving out of it before your lease is up.
If you felt the mold caused an unsafe or hazardous condition for you, you would be within your rights to apply the following:
“First, contact the landlord and ask her to fix the problem. If the landlord doesn’t respond, tell her by letter that you will terminate the lease if she doesn’t make the repairs within 14 days of receiving notice. Take pictures of the damage for your records.”The Alabama Tenants’ Handbook, © Copyright 2006; renewed 2020
“If there’s an unsafe condition (like bad wiring or a sewage leak) that you didn’t cause:
” ► First, contact the landlord and ask her to fix the problem. If the landlord doesn’t respond, tell her by letter that you will terminate the lease if she doesn’t make the repairs within 14 days of receiving notice. Take pictures of the damage for your records.”
Your landlord, however, could argue that the degree of mold doesn’t actually present an unsafe condition or a hazard to your health.
Or your landlord could argue that he actually “fixed” the mold problem within 14 days of your bringing it to his attention—even if he or she did so by painting over it or cleaning it with bleach. (Neither of which should ever be done to treat mold.)
If your landlord is problematic about dealing with a real and valid mold problem in your apartment, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney.
Decide what route to take:
In many instances of mold growth in rental property, there comes a fork in the road. Tenants have to decide what route they are going to take:
- Work with the landlord to come to a mutually workable resolution?
- Or seek legal recourse by filing a lawsuit against the landlord?
Sometimes merely mentioning a lawsuit can prompt your landlord to address the problem, while other times, it does just the opposite.
Most multi-property landlords have also been to small claims court at least, so they’re usually more familiar with the legal system and state laws than their tenants are.
This is a decision point you will have to make based on your dealings and experience with your landlord: Is he or she someone who is willing to act in your best interests? How caring are they? Do they respond promptly to reasonable repair requests?
Conversely, exaggerating the extent or severity of mold in an apartment as an excuse to terminate a lease is never a good idea, as it likely won’t hold up to scrutiny by even your own attorney, who would simply not take on your case.
(No to mention that it’s simply dishonest. But I believe that most people asking about how to end a lease due to mold are truly at their wit’s end.)
Also consider your own situation, specifically the following:
- Do children live in the home?
- Have you had to visit a doctor for health problems after moving in?
- How bad is the mold? Is it visible now?
- Do you want to move out as fast as possible? Or be compensated for what you experienced—i.e., possibly be awarded damages (money from a lawsuit) to compensate you for your pain and suffering?
- What would happen if you just packed your belongings, and told your landlord you were going?
What type of attorney deals with mold lawsuits?
Any reputable personal injury or toxic tort attorney may be an attorney worth considering when it comes to mold, but the best mold attorneys are those who have extensive experience and a list of at least a handful of legal wins already secured for clients.
You would also probably not want to accidentally contact an attorney who spends their days defending against mold claims (fighting on behalf of landlord and property owners, not tenants), or one who doesn’t believe that mold can actually be very harmful or even life-threatening in certain circumstances.)
2B. If Mold Occurs After a Natural Disaster, You Have Options.
This rule works in the favor of tenants in Alabama: It covers the fact that if a natural disaster causes your apartment to be unlivable, you can move out.
Serious flooding or severe weather as a result of a natural disaster could cause mold growth in flooded apartments within as few as 24-48 hours that would make them unlivable by anyone’s standards.
“In case of a fire or natural disaster:
“If a disaster that’s not your fault destroys your place or makes it unlivable, you can move out. Within 14 days, tell the landlord in writing that you are terminating (ending) the lease and want your security deposit refunded. The landlord will have to refund your full security deposit, and you won’t have to pay any more rent on the place.”
If mold has started to grow after a natural disaster or severe weather that caused, by all means, move out as quickly as possible. Just be sure you’re in touch with your landlord and that both of you are in agreement.
The law says “disaster” and “unlivable,” and these are subjective (open to interpretation).
If you and your landlord disagree and you wish to move out after what you consider to be a disaster, call an attorney.
2C. To End a Lease Early, ‘Contact a Lawyer’
“If you want to end your lease because the landlord failed to repair an unsafe condition within 14 days or because a fire or other disaster destroyed your place, talk to a lawyer.”The Alabama Tenants’ Handbook, © Copyright 2006; renewed 2020
The Alabama Tenant’s Handbook advises the following if you want to move out of an apartment before your lease is up:
“If you want to end your lease because the landlord failed to repair an unsafe condition within 14 days or because a fire or other disaster destroyed your place, talk to a lawyer.” (Underline in original.)
2D. Important: Before you Vacate a Moldy Apartment
If you plan to sue or file a lawsuit:
If you think your apartment is moldy and that the mold has caused your own or you family’s health to suffer, you would be very wise to not give up your access to that apartment in a rush.
Temporarily relocate if you must, such as by staying at a friend or family member’s home, but don’t terminate your lease and turn in your keys just yet.
The moment you terminate your lease and turn your keys in, you are closing the door on some of the most important evidence and information you will ever have for a lawsuit.
So please call a lawyer before you terminate your lease and move out.
- A Home Depot, Amazon, or WalMart mold test will not be admissible (allowed as evidence) in court. Non-professional testing is useless in a court case.
- The best time to get a doctor’s report for mold is while you still live in the moldy property. A doctor’s report and/or blood tests done after you’ve moved and left the apartment is weak and can be shot full of holes by defense attorneys.
(Again, move to a friend or family member’s home if you must do so briefly, but don’t terminate your lease and turn in your key before contacting a lawyer—and hearing back from them.)
This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. Contact a qualified attorney.
3. In Alabama, You Can Sue Your Landlord and Others Over Hazardous Mold Growth
Yes, tenants in Alabama can sue their landlords and other responsible parties over mold in an apartment.
Unfortunately most people do not even notice symptoms of mold exposure until they have suffered longer-term health problems related to poor indoor air quality and exposure to dangerous spores.
If you have been exposed to a significant level of mold in your apartment, you may be able to sue your landlord if you can prove that they breached their duty to safeguard your health, violating the rental agreement you signed.
Landlords in Alabama need to uphold their responsibilities according to the Landlord-Tenant Act that states all rental properties should be in fit condition for human occupation.
Damages you could be awarded after filing a lawsuit may include your medical costs, lost wages, lost property, and pain and suffering, among others.
It is important that tenants show they did everything possible to prevent mold in their units.
They need to use fans when cooking, taking hot showers, or running hot baths, as steam can cause higher humidity levels in homes, leading to an ideal environment for mold formation.
If for some reason the ventilation system in a home isn’t functioning properly, the tenant will need to prove they asked the landlord for repairs.
If you plan to sue your landlord for mold, you will need all the evidence you can get to support your claim.
3A. Reality Check: Can YOU sue YOUR landlord for mold in Alabama?
Note: Let’s also be as practical and realistic here as possible.
The truth is that anyone can sue anyone for anything.
You can sue me if I looked at you in a way you felt was disrespectful. I can do the same.
The question is whether you would win the case—or if a judge would even accept it.
And the answer to both of those questions, in this instance, is no.
Neither you or I would win such a frivolous lawsuit, and no judge in their right mind would ever allow your or my case to see the inside of a courtroom.
In fact, we might both be held in contempt of court if we file too many of these frivolous lawsuits.
So, when can you really sue for mold in Alabama?
Well, you could not successfully sue a landlord for a ring of pink mold that lines the inside of your toilet.
Nor could you successfully sue your landlord over green mold and mildew inside your shower.
You also couldn’t sue your landlord (successfully) over mold growing on your food in the fridge.
It’s not that these aren’t real molds, or that their location prevents you from suing—it’s that you as a tenant have your own responsibilities in preventing or cleaning them, and that they aren’t severe enough to warrant a lawsuit.
Our court system isn’t designed to hear our daily inconveniences, but instead is designed as a place of recourse for breaches of contract, and damages, such as economic loss. The court system will also often require that the parties involved in a lawsuit first attempt other ways of reaching a resolution, such as by using a mediator, or settling out of court.
So there are all sorts of checks and balances built into filing a lawsuit, and you will probably want to limit your use of the court system to mold concerns that are truly egregious.
But if you feel you have a valid case on your hands, then by all means, consider taking advantage of the court system. That’s what it is there for.
When mold appears in these localized areas of your apartment, just take a photo of it, and clean it. You clean the mold so it’s no longer problematic to you, and you take a photo of it in case it ends up being one of many indications of a larger mold problem in the apartment or home. But again, to be heard in court, you would first need to inform your landlord about the mold, and there is an exact way to send a letter informing them of this.
3B. So When Can You Sue a Landlord for Mold?!
In short, when it is bad.
When true and documentable harm has been caused to you, or your property and personal belongings, or your pets, or your family, and when it can be connected to mold growing in the apartment or home you are leasing.
The mold you can sue for is, usually but not always, found behind walls and inside of air conditioning units, or is so pervasive in the apartment that the ceiling or ‘large’ parts of a wall are covered in green and black speckles.
Or parts of the wall are buckling inward due to being water logged. Or paint is peeling from walls, and the place smells damp and musty.
In other words, the mold has to be severe.
Now, don’t let that hold you back from a) Demanding your landlord fix mold and the things that are causing it, and b) Suing a landlord when it’s warranted.
Just ask yourself if the problem is worth suing over. (And it absolutely might be!)
Here are some suggested questions to ask yourself. If you answer ‘Yes’ to any of them, call a lawyer:
Since Moving Into This Apartment…
- …has my health been affected enough to spend money on seeing a doctor?
- …has there been visible mold growth on walls, the ceiling, or the floor?
- …has there ever been any flooding in the apartment?
- …is there a smell of dampness, or a mustiness or humidity in the air?
- …have I asked my landlord to fix water leaks?
- …have I asked my landlord to clean up or remediate mold?
- …did they spray the mold with a cleaning solution — “Spray and pray”?
- …did they paint over the mold?
- …has property management been slow or neglectful?
- …do other tenants talk about mold, in person or in Google reviews of the property?
3C. Alabama Lawyers Offer Mold Lawsuit Tips
There are two recent and noteworthy discussions by Alabama lawyers that are worth knowing about if you plan to sue a landlord for mold. The first is a win for the plaintiff (that’s the person suing someone else, in this case over mold concerns), and the second is a loss for the plaintiff.
These cases may have absolutely no bearing on your situation at all, but they are noteworthy nonetheless.
Case #1: A Win for the Tenant in a Moldy Apartment.
Can you sue for mold in Alabama? Absolutely. This legal duo did just that and won $600,000 for their client. Read their tips for others suffering from mold right here: Alabama Mold Lawyers’ Tips for Tenants ($600K)
Case #2: A Loss for the Tenant in a Moldy Apartment.
Alabama attorney Nathan L. Burrow announced April 18th that he had prevailed in defending against a mold-related lawsuit, and that his client [a landlord and property management group] would therefore not have to pay a requested $750,000 in damages over mold growth in a leased apartment.
The plaintiff (person suing) was a mother who felt she and her children had developed asthma and/or other airway disease(s) due to mold exposure in the apartment she leased, which had been subject to a “series of water leaks.”
In defending the landlord and property management, Attorney Burrow says he pointed to a waiver in the lease which disallowed jury trials, and that he was able to defeat a request from the mother’s lawyer for $750,000 in damages.
(Since a jury of peers would likely have sympathy or solidarity for persons suffering, they’re typically something that works in favor of victims—which is exactly why many leases now exclude or disallow trials by jury.)
The court concluded that the mother’s legal team (“plaintiff”) had failed to prove that her landlord and property owner had violated Alabama’s implied warranty of habitability, and that an expert called to testify on the case lacked credibility.
Testifying on behalf of the defendant, another expert’s opinion was accepted: That mold levels in the apartment were normal.
This case offers an important perspective for tenants: Winning a mold lawsuit is not “automatic.”
Can I Withhold Rent for Mold in Alabama?
“Pay the agreed-upon rent; there are no provisions that allow the tenant to withhold payment of rent to enforce any provisions of the law…”Alabama’s 2006 Landlord-Tenant Law
No, tenants in Alabama can not withhold rent payments due to mold growth in an apartment.
As long as you live in an apartment and are under contract to its landlord (through the lease you signed before you moved in), you have to be paying rent to someone.
In most instances, this means you’re paying rent monthly to your landlord. In some very rare instances, you may be able to pay rent to a court instead, but you’re never off the hook in paying rent, until your lease is legally terminated one way or another.
According to Alabama state law, tenants are not allowed to withhold rent for a landlord’s failure to make repairs.
As a tenant, you would need to prove that you have been exposed to mold, that the mold is dangerous and is causing health problems, and that the landlord knew about it and didn’t fix the problem when asked.
If the landlord is unable to address your mold problem, they should release you from the rental agreement and you can move out without having any future rent obligations.
If you choose to stay in the apartment, you will need to continue paying rent, although you can still sue for damages if you can prove the untreated mold issue caused health problems.
Withholding rent is usually NOT a viable way of dealing with mold in an apartment in Alabama. But, if you have attempted other ways to deal with the mold and your landlord is still causing you problems, it may be part of a solution.
You can consider doing the following if mold growth has reached unsettling levels and isn’t being address by your landlord:
- a. Call a local news outlet to bring attention to the mold. Persist in this, because most local media love to cover mold because mold is such a health hazard.
- b. Establish a secondary account (called an Escrow account) into which you will continue to pay your rent into. Whatever you do, don’t just spend your rent money on something else “because mold.” That is the worst possible idea, and is more likely to land you with an eviction than with awarded damages from a lawsuit. So don’t spend your rent money elsewhere.
- c. Contact a personal injury or toxic tort lawyer to file a mold lawsuit on your behalf.
What is Considered ‘Unlivable Conditions’ in Alabama?
In Alabama, there is no specific law addressing the problem of mold.
However, landlords can still be held responsible under the warranty of habitability that requires they keep their abodes “livable”.
The term “livable” is open to interpretation and there is no set definition of what this means.
Living standards can vary depending on what part of the state you are in.
Going without running water or electricity for long periods could be considered unlivable.
An ongoing mold problem that causes health issues could also make an apartment unlivable.
Legal action can be taken against a landlord who ignores requests to repair the uninhabitable conditions.
How long does a landlord have to fix a mold problem in Alabama?
Mold can spread quickly, so addressing it sooner rather than later is imperative.
In Alabama, a landlord has 14 days to address a mold infestation.
Tenants need to submit their complaint in writing and ask for the repairs to be made.
If no action is taken on the part of the landlord, tenants can move out without having to pay future rent.
This can be documented and used as part of a legal case to recoup the security deposit.
Tenants have the option of staying in the unit and suing the landlord for damages as well.
Lastly, a tenant is allowed to make repairs themselves if the landlord fails to, and they can deduct the costs from their next rental payment.
What is the takeaway?
Living with mold can be a huge burden and cause your quality of life in Alabama to plummet.
Rest assured, it might be worth your time to speak with a qualified attorney specializing in mold-related lawsuits.
Your attorney will ask for documented facts to prove your case, including evidence that you asked the landlord to repair the issues and they failed to do so.
You must show how your residence is “unlivable” due to the mold and that the mold has caused you pain and suffering, property damage, lost wages, and more.
A case like this can be filed against more than one entity.
Your lawyer may be able to sue the landlord, the insurance provider, a repairman, and the property management company.
The takeaway is that you have options and while not easy, there are steps you can take to recover financially and health-wise from living in an Alabama apartment with a mold problem.