You’ve probably been grossed out once or twice at the sight of moldy bread. Now imagine such mold on your walls, ceilings, your belongings, and even on you. That’s not a condition you’d appreciate living in.
If you live in Florida or are intending to move there, you should understand the Florida renters’ rights & laws on mold.
This is to protect yourself and ensure that you have a decent life in your rental unit. This article will help you understand the whole thing.
What Is Considered ‘Unlivable Conditions’ in Florida?
According to Florida’s implied warranty of habitability, the rental unit must be safe, habitable, and hazard-free.
Any scenario that negates those three rules can cause unlivable conditions. Of course, these conditions must be related to the rental unit itself, not caused by the tenant.
Here are some examples of such conditions:
1. Unsanitary/Unhealthy Conditions
If the unit doesn’t allow the tenant to access the basic hygiene measures, then it’s inhabitable. The landlord must ensure that the unit supplies clean water and proper drainage.
Any damaged water pipes that were present before the tenant moves in are the landlord’s responsibility to fix.
Mold also lies in the category of health issues. If there’s too much mold for you to have a healthy life in the unit, then it’s inhabitable.
Any sort of insect, parasite or bacterial infestation can seriously affect the health of the tenant. If the unit has constant infestations, then it’s rendered inhabitable.
The tenant should then notify the landlord who should hire an exterminator to eliminate the infestation.
3. Unsafe Buildings
The building where the unit is located should be structurally sound. There should be no cracks or defective walls, and the ceiling should be sound enough not to collapse.
Additionally, the walls and ceiling should prevent any water from leaking inside the unit. Gas leaks also lie under the (unsafe) category.
4. Secure Doors and Windows
The rental unit should have functioning doors with appropriate locks. The same applies to windows as they’re considered the main source of ventilation.
Defective doors and windows that can be opened from the outside render the unit unsafe to live in.
Can You Sue for Mold in Florida?
[Please see our most complete guide on mold lawsuits, currently under “Alabama Mold Laws: Tenants’ Rights“]
You can sue for mold in Florida, but it’s better not to go that route until you’ve tried other options. You should notify your landlord about the issue first, and are legally required to.
If they don’t remedy the situation, then you may start handling the situation yourself or withholding the rent until things clear up. If all fails, you may sue them.
However, the outcome of the case is highly variable since Florida doesn’t have specific laws targeting landlord liabilities for mold prevention and remediation.
If you can prove to the judge that you’ve been seriously harmed by a mold outbreak and that it’s caused by the landlord’s neglect, then you may be eligible for compensation.
Here’s when suing your landlord in Florida may go in your favor:
1. Your Health Was Affected
Mold airborne reproduction spores are easily breathable. You may find yourself experiencing breathing symptoms like a tightened chest or consistent coughing. In some cases, mold could even trigger asthma or worsen it if it already exists.
Mold can also cause itchy skin, red or sore eyes, and a stuffy nose. These conditions may or may not be accompanied by wheezing in the chest.
If these symptoms appeared on you after moving into a new rental unit, then you should get physically checked. A written report from a doctor could be the proof you need to show that your health was negatively affected by mold.
2. The Mold Created a Hazard
If the mold was extensive enough to cause some serious conditions, like exposing power outlets or warping walls, then it’s no longer just allergic spores in the air. You’re now subjected to life-threatening conditions.
You may contact the police and inform them of the mold progress and how it’s making your unit dangerous to live in. Having pictures of mold progression will greatly work in your favor.
3. The Mold Damaged Your Items
You could sue for mold if it has extensively damaged some of your electronics or belongings. However, this usually isn’t strong evidence since temporarily protecting your items until the issue is resolved is easy and doable.
The exception here is when you had some stashed items somewhere and you were unlucky enough for the mold to start there. But once again, you’ll need to provide proof of that.
Keep in mind that all of the previous conditions don’t justify suing your landlord if they were actively trying to seek out and resolve the mold problem.
Can I Withhold Rent for Mold in Florida?
You can withhold rent for mold in Florida, but this is usually the second strategy.
When the landlord fails to fix the mold problem for whatever reason, the law in Florida gives you two options as a tenant.
The first one is the (repair and deduct) option. As the name suggests, the tenant may proceed and fix the mold issue on their own, but they would then deduct the cost from the rent payment.
The deduction should equal an amount that both the landlord and the tenant agree upon.
The second option is withholding the rent, which is legal in Florida if the first option wasn’t doable for some reason.
How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix a Mold Problem in Florida?
According to Florida Statute 83.56, the landlord has up to 1 week (7 days) to fix or at least take large steps into resolving inhabitable conditions like mold.
If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant will have the right to terminate the agreement or use one of the two options mentioned above.
Despite not having a law that specifically targets it in Florida, mold is still a condition that may take a simple rent agreement between a landlord and a tenant to a court dispute.
If left untreated, mold will damage the property and the health of the person(s) living in it. So, the law in Florida does allow the tenant to notify the landlord or fix and deduct if needed.
If the tenant chooses to sue, then they should provide proof of the damage done.