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.|
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.
Legally Inform Your Landlord of Mold: Send a Letter by U.S. Mail — Now!
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
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.