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California Mold Law: Renters’ Rights

David J. Allen

I spent the better part of 2 ½ years learning about mold and indoor air quality because my child's life depended on it. Now I help others avoid ever having to experience the same thing. The mold industry suffers from conflicting opinions and I do my best to distill loads of data into something practical and useful. I love hearing from and helping readers. • "A house desecrated by mildew, mold, or fungus would be a defiled place to live in, so drastic measures had to be taken." — Leviticus 14:45
Legal aspect of mold in rental home, California.

California Mold Laws at a Glance

In California, can you…?
Move out due to mold?Yes.
Withhold rent due to mold?Yes.
Pay for your own mold remediation and deduct cost from rent?Yes.
Sue a landlord and others over mold?Yes.
Contact local media outlets about the mold?Yes.
Terminate a lease early due to mold?Yes.
Be informed of mold before renting an apartment?Yes, by law.
See next paragraph titled “About Your Options,” below, for important information about these options.

About Your Options:

These avenues of recourse are conditional upon a couple of factors, which are detailed below. In every case, a landlord must first be informed of a tenant’s mold problem in writing, and must be given a chance to correct it within 30 days. Most successful lawsuits for mold come about after serious landlord neglect over a long period of time—or shorter-term neglect that causes significant damage to life, health, or property. (Examples include failing to respond to multiple reports of mold, or failing to follow proper building code, leading to pervasive mold growth.) Tenants must also choose what recourse is best suited to their purposes: Is the goal to get out of a rental unit as fast as possible? Or is it to be awarded damages (money) to make up for lost property, health, and quality of life? Both are valid routes, but a choice is often required by tenants. If you plan to sue, contact a lawyer before you move out of the property.

  • Repair & Deduct Mold Remediation Costs in California: California tenants are allowed to pay for mold remediation and deduct the costs of it from their rent—providing they’ve previously given their landlord a reasonable amount of time to deal with the problem themselves. Landlord should/must be alerted to mold growth by written letter.
  • Stop Paying Rent for Mold in California: California tenants are legally allowed to stop paying rent if they have reported a serious mold concern that has not been addressed within a reasonable amount of time. Tenants may wish to do so in coordination with a toxic tort attorney, a personal injury attorney, or a landlord-tenant attorney for guidance and counsel.
  • Suing for Mold in California: California tenants can sue a landlord and other responsible parties for mold if they can prove that the apartment mold exposure caused them to suffer ill health, or incur any form of significant loss, such as lost revenue or lost quality of life.
  • Being Informed of Mold in California Rental Property: California tenants must, by law, be informed of mold in a rental unit if the landlord knows or has reason to know that mold exceeds allowable maximum exposure limits or poses a threat to health. [Civ. Code §§ 1102-1102.17 (2022)]
  • Move Out Due to Mold in California: California tenants are legally allowed to move out of a rental unit if mold growth is such that it causes a breach to the implied warrant of habitability and renders the property a health or safety risk. It may be wise to consult an attorney in such cases.

California Has Great Tenant Protections for Mold, But It’s Still Messy

California offers its residents and tenants great protection from mold, as well as recourse options for those affected by it at home or in an apartment — better than many if not most other states in the U.S.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that dealing with mold as a tenant or landlord in California is easy or clear-cut, nor that simply threatening or filing a lawsuit will result if a win for a tenant.

Every case and scenario are different, but many play out this way:

  1. Tenant (renter) notices mold, informs landlord quickly, and in writing.
  2. Landlord puts in good faith effort to resolve mold. May ask tenant to relocate briefly while mold is removed. [This is not eviction, but is done for your health/safety, and for ease of remediation.]
  3. If mold goes unresolved, tenant may inform HUD and other Gov’t agencies.
  4. HUD and others may come inspect, suggest landlord corrects problem(s).
  5. If mold goes unresolved for 35 days, with no good faith or effective effort to fix, lawsuit can be filed. (Letter must have been written and landlord legally informed of mold.)

This is the briefest summary outline possible: multiple factors play into each of steps (1-5) above.

Legally Inform Your Landlord of Mold: Send Letter by U.S. Mail (ASAP!)

You must, must, must inform your landlord by letter if you believe your rental unit has a mold problem.

The letter should include photographs and a description of your reasons to believe that the mold is a problem to your health or quality of life. You needn’t share any medical information with your landlord, but do what you must to ensure your landlord clearly understands that the mold is a serious problem.

You can do so by:

  • Taking photographs of leaks, mold growth, slime, spots, paint peeling, walls that are warped, puddled water, etc. — anything that visually shows mold, leaks, and water damage.
  • Describing what you notice: Sight, Smell, Breathing Conditions, Physical Reactions to the Room’s Air Quality.
  • Describing the duration of these problems: “Two weeks ago I texted you about a slight leak… It has since grown into a….”
  • Telling them what you suspect: “I suspect a broken pipe is causing….”

Send your letter exactly as outlined in your lease: This is usually by U.S. Mail, to an address listed near the end of your lease.

This letter is a legal notice and must be sent well before any legal action can move forward, including moving out, withholding rent, paying for mold remediation and then deducting the costs from your rent, etc., etc.

If you have not sent a notice to your landlord by U.S mail, do so now!

Your landlord must be given the opportunity to fulfill their legal obligations to you, and this letter begins the 30-day cycle that many of your recourse options depend on.

California tenants are given great protection against mold in their apartments by law, but they must also by law let their landlord know about the mold and give them a chance to correct it.

Mold in California Rental Apartments and Homes

Did you know that over 4.6 million asthma cases are caused by mold? The scarier news is that these statistics are in the United States alone.

Living in rental units in the U.S. is the way to go for many people. Unfortunately, mold is one of the conditions that many tenants deal with.

It’s important to understand what mold is, how to identify it, and your rights if your landlord doesn’t take the initiative to fix the problem. This California renters’ rights & laws on mold article will let you know just that.

Mold: A Quick Overview

Mold is a fungal infestation that usually grows on dampened and unclean surfaces. The most common type of mold is the one you can notice on spoiled food. Unfortunately, mold can also grow on other surfaces like furniture, clothes, or even the ceiling.

It can cause some health issues for humans, some of which can be serious. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for those symptoms to appear before you can identify mold presence.

How to Spot Mold

Here are some of the sneaky signs that mold may be present in your home:

1. Rotten Smell

One of the best giveaways for mold is its rotten smell.

If you’re constantly keeping your home clean but still smelling something nasty in the air, chances are you could be having a hidden mold somewhere.

2. Warped Walls

Mold can go into walls and damage them from the inside. While you may not visibly see the mold itself, you may notice that a particular spot in your wall is getting disfigured.

This is usually a sign that you need to inspect for mold.

3. Random Spots

The airborne spores of mold may land on anything and start forming a small colony. That small colony is what you can see and identify as black or brown sports.

If you’re noticing any of these, you should check for mold.

Can I Withhold Rent for Mold in California?

If the mold damage exceeds the ordinary wear and tear, and there are no initiatives from the landlord to fix the problem, then the tenant is legally allowed to withhold the rent until the mold issue is fixed.

On the other hand, if the landlord proves that they were actively trying to fix the problem when the tenant withheld rent, then the tenant may face legal issues. It is best to contact a toxic tort attorney, a personal injury attorney, or a landlord-tenant attorney depending on your case.

Among other things, landlords must have been informed of the mold growth and must be given a reasonable amount of time to deal with it. Notices to landlords about mold in an apartment should always be done by letter, even if the first notice is done by phone call or text message. There is an exact way to write this letter, which you can read about here.

What Is Considered ‘Unlivable Conditions’ in California?

Unlivable or inhabitable conditions in California are those that negatively affect the overall quality of life. These include but aren’t limited to:

1. Improper Ventilation

Air circulation is mandatory for general health. If your rental unit is devoid of air ventilation, then you shouldn’t consider it a livable place.

An example of that is when the windows are damaged, or permanently sealed shut. In general, if there’s anything related to the unit that compromises the air ventilation, then it’s your landlord’s responsibility. 

2. Unsanitary Conditions

Improper sewage drains, bad water supply, and damaged pipes are all unlivable conditions. You should notify your landlord as soon as you spot these so they can remedy the situation. 

3. Infestations

Any type of parasitic or bacterial infestation you find in your rental unit is considered an unlivable condition.

Just ensure that such infestation wasn’t caused by you or any of the people living with you.

4. Mold

Mold, especially if it’s black mold or very pervasive is a serious hazard that can cause many health problems.

Can You Sue for Mold in California?

It is possible to sue your landlord in California for mold. However, you’ll need certain conditions for that to happen. You’ll also need a skilled lawyer as this isn’t something you can handle on your own. 

When Should You Sue for Mold in California

Here are the conditions where suing your landlord is a feasible idea:

1. The Landlord Refuses to Fix the Problem

Before suing your landlord, you must reach out to them via a written notice about the mold problem. While some landlords may be hard to deal with, others might have genuinely not known about the mold problem.

Such landlords will have no issue in dealing with the mold problem. 

However, if you can prove that your landlord was informed about the mold problem for at least 30 days, yet no action was taken, then you should be able to sue your landlord.

2. If the Mold Damages Any of Your Belongings

If the mold damages your furniture, clothes, or any of your precious belongings, then you can use that to sue your landlord.

However, you’ll need to prove that the damage was actually caused by the mold and that you have contacted the landlord with no favorable response.

To ensure your credibility, as soon as you spot the mold, take some clear pictures of whatever you think might get damaged by it. 

If the mold problem persists, and any of your belongings get damaged, take another picture as proof. This will help your case.

3. If the Mold Causes Health Issues

As mentioned earlier, mold is basically fungal growth that reproduces by airborne spores. These spores can cause various issues when you breathe them.

These health issues include but aren’t limited to:

  • Wheezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy skin
  • Red eyes

Some people who are allergic to spores will exhibit even more intense reactions. Asthmatic people will also suffer greatly because of it.

If you can get a valid medical report that you exhibited any mold-related infection after moving to the unit, then you can use that to sue your landlord. Should the tenant win the case, the landlord will be asked to cover the medical expenses of treating the condition. 

How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix a Mold Problem in California?

According to California Code, a landlord has 30 days to address a mold concern in a rental apartment or home.

The counter for those 30 days begins when they’ve received proper written notification from the tenant.

If the landlord doesn’t fix the problem within those 30 days, the tenant may withhold rent, move out, or sue for damages.

As the use-cases for each of these tenant solutions (moving out, withholding rent, repairing-and-deducting, or suing) varies from case to case, tenants would be wise to contact an attorney.

Attorneys that deal with mold concerns may be “Toxic Tort Attorneys,” “Personal Injury Attorneys” or “Landlord-Tenant Attorneys,” with Toxic Tort Attorneys typically being the most well-versed in serious mold cases.

If you do plan to contact an attorney to help you—and in many cases you should—you should also immediately begin compiling and collecting as much information and evidence as you possibly can about the mold situation. This data can include:

  • Photographs of mold, warped walls, peeling paint, water leaks, water damage, speckles and spots on ceilings and walls.
  • Screenshots of text messages you’ve sent your landlord about the mold.
  • Copies of emails you’ve sent your landlord about the mold.
  • Copies of any letters you’ve sent your landlord about the mold.
  • Copies of any doctors’ reports for yourself and anyone else (family, children) living in the rental unit.

The Verdict

Mold is a serious health hazard that you should never take lightly. If you are renting a unit in California and spotting mold in your place, then notify the landlord immediately.

Should things get worse, ensure that the mold wasn’t caused by anything you did before taking legal action against your landlord.

8 Responses

  1. I am sick with repeated requests for 3 yrs and all documented even videos and tgey paint over it. Just has Certified Enviro Report and its bad. All walls and air. They have lied about so much. Even my chihuahua having seizures now. I need a good attorney but where? I feel I need immediate advice as I have 2 flatmates that exhibit symptoms of hair loss and we have extreme edema and fatigue, cramping, brain fog, ice pick pains, poor balance. I have even Area Mental Heath visiting 1x per week. Structure built in 1923 code violations, single family, LA City. Ive been here since Oct 2019 and I noticed my health complaints started in 2019 December. Owner is a nurse at Kaiser too!..

    1. Hi Stephanie, If I was in your situation, here’s what I would consider doing personally.

      1. I’d collect copies of all forms of contact/communication I’d made with my landlord since the mold problem began: Texts, emails, notes, letters via post office.

      1a. If I hadn’t yet sent an actual letter via the U.S. post office to my landlord and property management at the address listed on the lease, I would do so right away. That’s going to determine a lot going forward, so you’ve hopefully already informed them of the mold in writing by letter sent via the post office; and they’ve hopefully had more than enough time to address the problem.

      2. I’d collect up every photo and video I’d ever taken of the problem, as well as anything I felt showed negligence and breach of contract: Mold, mold being painted over, water damage, bubbling paint, buckling walls, lost hair, pet’s health symptoms/seizures, etc, etc.

      3. I’d collect copies of every doctor’s report for myself and pets (vet’s report). If I hadn’t seen a doctor, I would do so pretty quickly, and I’d tell them I lived in a moldy home/apartment.

      4. If the only mold tests I’d had done so far were from Home Depot, Amazon, etc., I’d hire a professional for air sampling and swab tests.

      5. I’d Google “mold lawyer near me” and pick 3-5 that I liked the look of (credentials, past legal wins, etc., not looks lol).

      6. I’d type up a form email with an easily understandable list of bullet points that I thought showed negligence, gross negligence, and breach of contract on the part of the landlord and/or property management. Graphic facts like pet seizures, and professional testing are good highlights.

      7. I’d email this to my 3-5 lawyer’s offices. Then I’d call the one I felt best about.

      Basically, your first “sale” is to a lawyer: You have to show them 2 to 3 things: That there’s a case there, that it’s profitably winnable, and that you’re committed to winning it.

      1) “That there’s a case there…” — Does what you’re presenting show Negligence, Gross Negligence, and Breach of Contract? Did you or other tenants do something to cause that mold problem, or is a problem of property management? How bad is the problem? How has that affected your life and livelihood? Did you alert property management in writing as per California Codes? If so, when? Have they had a reasonable length of time to correct it? Did they?
      2) “That it’s profitably winnable….” Lawsuits cost a law firm plenty of money. They’ll invest that money if they can get a return on it, in the form of a judgement or settlement, of which they typically take 30%. But on the plus side, you may not have to pay a law firm if they don’t win anything on your behalf.
      3) “That you’re committed to winning it….” Being organized, documenting fault, getting doctor’s reports (and vet’s reports), etc., shows a good level of commitment.

      Also: I wouldn’t move out of the place before hearing back from my lawyer. (Well, more specifically, move out if you feel you should or if your health depends on it, but I would never terminate my lease or turn in my keys before hearing from my lawyer. Ever. That’s your “crime scene,” and you need access.

  2. What can I do if the mold I found is inside this buildings service CAVIETY ,I’ve giving copies of the photos to management code enforcement and fair housing what happens was a instant inspection a six page violation REQUIREING the HYGENTIST to be involved and when this management company contacted code enforcement this six page repair order has not been enforced I have now been three months no compliance and told fortudays after complaince date passed that she is working with their report well there report didn’t pan out because this is a hidden toxic contamanation and in order to get this mold removed it has to be involved a HYGENTIST trained and a one the particles the analytical pratricedcof AICA . The code officer knows this but has let this become a nother three months of me not having this enforcement that was exactly what is required and wait for this management to attempt to neglect this by using a company that came in to measure my drywall when this isn’t on my drywall it in a three story apt complex service CAVIETY ,now I RECIEVED a email from code enforcement stating they have giving her a HYGENTIST report and no one has entered my home no one has attempted to conduct the air sample that needs to go to the labs to get the information of what is involved in the contamanted state as well as it being TOLIET water it has to go to the lab but the one to enforce this has lied to me about the HYGENTIST and it contradicts her repair requirement that states the same thing but has now been three months not enforeced and I’ve recently just had a upper respiratory sinus infection I am low-income and I have no means to move but it is my right to have this this repair and if it is such a bad mold issue it INVOVLED the HYGENTIST to rectify this how do I make it seem that code enforcement has failed and is violating my conditional rights to be giving enforcement in a health and safety violation

    1. Hi Dieadre, Please see my response to Stephanie F, as I read and thought with both of your comments prior to that answer. Additionally, if I was in your situation specifically, I would reach out to local media outlets and send them pictures of what you’re experiencing. I’d tell them I have video, and I’d just smartly “spam” any news stations that’s covered moldy apartments before. Specifically, large stations like NBC and others listed here.

      In a best-case scenario, I would also want to be in full control of things like mold testing in my apartment (i.e., I’d pay for the tests myself), since I know my landlord would absolutely not show me test results, especially if they reveal elevated / unsafe levels of mold), but I know this can be costly.

      That’s why mainstream media coverage is a great option in these cases: You might get pro bono offers from various companies, including mold assessors and “mold law firms” [toxic tort and personal injury law firms]. Wishing you the best.

      Also, as I believe I mention either here or in the Alabama Mold Laws article, there comes a time typically where you have to decide what “route” to take in solving your mold problem in a leased apartment or home:

      Route #1 is working with a helpful landlord or property management team, such as to properly remove the mold from your unit, or to allow you to move to a better maintained unit that is farther from the mold source (you mention a central service shaft that seems to be the main source of the mold?). Even moving out farther from that service shaft might be helpful to you physically, but I don’t know how large or spread out the property is so it may not be helpful.)

      Route #2 is what you take after you’ve decided Route #1 isn’t getting you anywhere or getting you there fast enough: Contacting lawyers, calling media outlets, reporting to DCA, HUD, DFEH, etc.

  3. Can they evict you from an apartment for mold? Shouldn’t the landlord repair it?

    1. Hi Charles, Great question. No, they can’t. Unless they’re suggesting you breached a lease so badly that the home/apartment is suddenly uninhabitable as a result of mold growth? That would be insane but not unheard of. A landlord might offer you a new unit to stay in temporarily while they remediate a moldy unit you were in previously, in which case that would be helpful (and would not be eviction). Yes, the landlord should repair it, and if they don’t (within a reasonable amount of time after being given proper legal notice), you can: withhold rent, repair and deduct, leave before your lease is up, sue, and/or contact local media. It sounds like you should call a lawyer. looks helpful. Please do your own due diligence, we aren’t associated with this firm or any other. Merely suggesting legal help as it sounds you’re being threatened with eviction?

      [P.S. There are also big, big differences between EVICTION and RELOCATION. Relocation is sometimes done during mold remediation, handled by the landlord, but under loose legal guidelines. If a property has enough open units, most CA landlords set tenants up there temporarily. If not, a motel is usually the best bet. Relocation is done so you don’t suffer further potential harm/health issues while mold is being stirred up and parts of the place are being ripped out and replaced—depending on how bad the mold growth is.]

    2. Las Vegas, Landlord threatens eviction after mold is found. 🎥:

      – Some landlords are clowns / crims.
      – But you can be threatened eviction or even evicted if u stop paying rent “due to mold” without going thru earlier steps like notifying LL in writing of mold and allowing time to fix.
      – Lawyer up. 💥🪪💰🤑✨✨

  4. I need to know my rights on this.
    Landlord never had a mold inspection or real protective gear professional mold remediation come in and see the damage neglect down below much less check our walls. Lied took any short cut possible knowing I too was out there to be away from all the mold spores flying around in here as bathroom was ripped out tub only and replaced. Landlord didn’t pay for my stays as it went.
    I checked out 7/19 (friends snd family helped me)
    Last two days especially to get my work paperwork done that had been extended twice. Autism mom son is special needs and this paperwork HAD to get in for my son.
    The owner HARASSED me almost daily and has since I came home. It’s scary to live here now she lets things rot away and there are fire hazards and lots of issues and mold was never properly handled no professional company. I been getting sick since 2016 then my autistic son did. So long to try put in comment it’s very toxic and she doesn’t know boundaries is dishonest truly a slumlord. Putting me and my sons health at risk is not her concern her $ is and even after seeing how cutting corners all these years resulted in this, that’s still her way of handling it. I need legal help and support single special needs mom and we are also protected by Americans with disabilities act ADA. Owner hasn’t left me alone long enough to handle much and now school will be starting up again.