Alabama Mold & Mildew: How Bad? Who’s at Risk?

Mold can become a problem in any of the United States, including Alabama, but Alabama is not one of the worst states for mold.

Tenants in Alabama can usually avoid bad mold problems by taking a few precautions such as cleaning up spilt liquids quickly, preventing leaky pipes and roofs, and keeping their air conditioners units in working order.

Indoor humidity must be kept below 50% to avoid mold, and leaks must be handled rapidly.

Most mold that becomes a significant problem is usually hidden, such as inside wall cavities, under floor boards, or in attics.

If you see green and black spots on walls and the ceiling, mold growth has very likely gotten out of control and mold remediation—not painting over mold or merely cleaning it—will be necessary.

Even worse, if you see signs of black mold, such as slime running down from air vents, or accumulating on the floor, you may need to act immediately to treat mold—and should probably move out of the apartment immediately.

[See: “Mold May Be Factor in 5-Month-Old’s Death, Parents Discover,” for more on this. (Occurred in Oklahoma)].

No matter what state or country you live in, indoor mold growth should be treated with priority and taken care of properly. In some moderate to extreme cases, parts of a room may need to be demolished to ensure all moldy material is removed, in a process called mold remediation.

Mold remediation should be done by a licensed and knowledgeable professional, not a cleaning crew or handyman.

Not all states require mold remediators to be specially licensed, but any person of any trade that simply paints over mold, or cleans it with bleach, is doing you a criminal disservice.

Is Mold a Problem in Alabama?

Mold is no more of a problem in Alabama than it is in other parts of the country.

Anyone, anywhere can be affected by indoor mold growth problems.

And anyone, anywhere, can prevent or fix indoor mold problems.

Lists of the “Top 10 Worst States for Mold” have been published by a number of organizations, including insurance providers, mold remediators, and air filter manufacturers.

Alabama does not appear on any of the lists of the Top 10 worst states for mold.

According to all published lists, Alabama is not one of the worst states affected by mold, but mold can still be problematic here.

The University of Alabama says that “Mold is a unique issue in Alabama.”

It goes on to say that mold “is indigenous, pervasive and ubiquitous,” and that “There is mold in every University facility, every building in the area and every home in the south.”

What does this mean?

This means that, just like the rest of the United States, and indeed the world at large, mold and mildew can and do grow everywhere.

But Alabama is not some special state that mold loves over all other states.

It simply means that if given the right conditions for its growth, mold will grow in Alabama.

That growth can happen in a home, an apartment, an office, a warehouse, a school, or a university, or any other indoor property where conditions are ripe for the growth of mold.

“Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods, and furnishings may be damaged.”Mold Facts, Alabama Public Health (Last updated May 13, 2021)

Alabama Isn’t One of the Worst States for Mold

Although mold can and does grow in Alabama, it is not one of the worst states for its growth.

Many years ago, a large insurance company calculated the worst states for mold. Alabama did not make that list. The list was based mostly on how much had been paid out from insurance for mold-related problems and insurance claims.

More recently, an indoor air products manufacturer also rated the worst states for mold. Alabama doesn’t appear on that list either.

According to Home Advisor, Alabama had the lowest (best) relative hazard rating for mold growth, as of 2017.

Alabama Law Tends to Favor Landlords Over Tenants: That Could Be Problematic

Most leases for homes and apartments automatically include/convey an “implied warranty of habitability.”

“This warranty requires landlords to keep their property ‘habitable,’ even if the lease does specifically require them to make repairs,” according to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.

Habitable means “suitable or good enough to live in.”

When faced with conditions that make a rented home or apartment uninhabitable, tenants in various states have varying degrees of rights.

The most important of these tenant rights is whether a tenant has the right to do any or all of the following:

  1. Withhold rent.
  2. Repair on one’s own and then deduct repair costs from rent.
  3. File a lawsuit.
  4. Report to public officials.

Alabama tenants can not legally do (A) and (B) above, but they can do (C) and (D).

That means if you live in Alabama and are renting a home or apartment, you can not legally withhold rent over mold concerns no matter how bad, nor can you pay for mold remediation out-of-pocket and then deduct those costs from your next rent payment.

Compared to other states where rights differ, this is a major disadvantage to people living in Alabama.

But there are still ways around that, namely, by working with an attorney, filing a lawsuit, or terminating a lease under mutual agreement from your landlord, or after they fail to address health concerns and/or other dangers within 14 days of being notified of them.

For more on what you need to know about moving out, withholding rent, and suing a landlord over mold in an Alabama apartment or rented home, see “Alabama Mold Laws: Tenants’ and Renters’ Rights.

Noteworthy Mold Cases in Alabama

December 2019 — Fire Station No. 27 Mold Issues, Birmingham, Alabama

In late 2019, Alabama firefighter Gary Michael Horsley Jr. filed a federal lawsuit over concerns that mold, asbestos, and toxic fumes inside the city’s Fire Station 27 were placing firefighters and visitors at risk. Mr. Horsley shared that he suffered a decline in his health after beginning work at the station, and that many other firefighters at the station had suffered with health problems ranging from lung and breathing issues to cancer diagnoses.

April 2022 — Tenant Loses Lawsuit Over Mold Growth Concerns

Alabama attorney Nathan L. Burrow announced April 18th that he had prevailed in defending a mold-related  lawsuit, and that his client [the landlord / property management group] would 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.

May 2022 — Lawyers Win $600,000 for Tenant in Mold Lawsuit

In May 2022, an Alabama legal duo won $600,000 for a client of theirs who experienced severe mold growth in their apartment, which property management failed to handle. You can read their full rundown of the case here: Mold Lawyers’ Tips for Tenants ($600K).

How to Prevent Mold in Alabama

Just because Alabama is not a Top 10 mold state doesn’t mean that mold can’t or won’t grow here.

Like all other US states, mold can and will grow in any Alabama apartment or office with the right conditions.

To avoid mold growth, tenants must ensure that their home stays dry, and that its relative humidity level (RH) remains below 50%, and ideally at around 30%.

Mold needs moisture to grow, but that doesn’t mean it needs puddled water. Moisture can appear in the air in enough quantity to itself fuel the growth of mold, and you may never see actual liquid water.

Moisture in the air is a form of water, and a hygrometer will help you detect when that moisture is high enough to cause mold growth.

Other actions that all homeowners and tenants would need to take, in Alabama and elsewhere, include these:

  1. Dry up spills rapidly to avoid mold. Mold can grow in 24-48 hours.
  2. Ensure wet clothes aren’t stored in hampers or elsewhere, but are dried and cleaned.
  3. Check that pipes aren’t leaking.
  4. Maintain a relative humidity of below 50% at all times. Your air conditioner should do this automatically for the most part if it’s working properly, but a dehumidifier may be needed in parts of the house, such as in any basement.

Who is at Greatest Risk of Mold in Alabama

There are certain groups of people who should never personally try to clean, remediate or treat mold.

These people are, by definition, at the “greatest risk from mold.”

If you live with one of the following people, or are a caretaker for anyone in this group, please help them avoid dealing with mold by tackling it yourself or hiring a reputable mold remediator to address it.

  1. People with asthma, allergies, or breathing trouble.
  2. People with suppressed immune systems: HIV, Cancer, chemo patients, organ donors.
  3. Children and infants!
  4. The elderly.
  5. Pregnant women.

For more information on persons at a heightened risk from mold, please see “How Much Mold Can Make You Sick?

Alabama State Resource on Mold

Alabama Public Health provides citizens an information sheet on the basics of mold.
It can be found here: https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/iaq/mold.html

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