If you discover mold growth in a house or apartment you’re renting, there’s a good chance that it will be your landlord’s or property management’s responsibility to take care of, though tenants do share some basic responsibilities in preventing mold.
The laws regarding mold in rental properties vary from state to state, as do the specifics of the situation that will come into play.
If you want to get mold taken care of quickly in an apartment or home you’re renting, the first step should always be reporting the mold growth to your landlord.
If your landlord or property management is communicative and caring, a text message or email should work just fine.
If your landlord of property management is not communicative, and you’ve had problems getting them to address other maintenance or safety concerns, start with a text or email, but always be sure to follow it up with an email as well as a written notice.
Each of these (texts, emails, letters, phone calls) are typically admissible in a court of law, but you must must also send a notice in writing exactly as outlined in your lease.
What this means specifically is that your lease contains a section or clause telling you how to bring matters to your landlord’s attention. Follow it word for word. This section or clause is usually near the end of a lease, and it will include a physical mailing address where letters can be sent.
If the mold in your rental property is serious—or you think there is even the slightest chance you will have to sue your landlord over the mold and any problems it has caused you or your family—you MUST write and send the letter.
(Place a phone call and send text messages and an email as the fastest way to reach your landlord, but always follow it up with the written letter.
What to Send in a Letter to Your Landlord
A good letter telling your landlord about mold in the apartment or home that you are renting is one that:
- Is sent to the address included in your signed lease.
- Is specific and shares exactly where the mold growth, water stains, or buckling paint is.
- Includes photographs of each area.
- Is sent as soon as you notice the mold, or as soon as possible—some states require a period of time to pass between when you send this specific written notice, and when you can take further action if nothing effective has been done to address the mold.
- Is best sent by certified mail, registered mail, or return receipt requested.
- Is one that you keep a copy of.
Requirements vary from state to state, but in all states the letter above is the most important action you can and must take when you notice mold in your aparment.
Here is how the State of Texas, for example, requires the letter to be sent:
“Send the landlord a dated letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by registered mail, outlining the needed repairs. You may also deliver the letter in person. Keep a copy of the letter. Be sure that your rent is current when the notice is received.”Renter’s Rights, Attorney General, State of Texas
If you do not send the letter properly, you will be possibly delaying future actions you can take — including withholding rent, moving out, or filing a lawsuit.
If you do send it properly, your landlord or property management typically has seven (7) days to address the problem.
The number of days may vary depending on conditions and the state you live in, but legally speaking, it is usually a “reasonable amount of time,” which in most cases is seven days.
Or, if the problem is more involved, seven (7) days to take significant action, or make a “diligent effort.”
In either case, if you believe you will ever have to escalate your concerns to withholding rent, terminating a lease, or filing a lawsuit, start a physical file folder and place a copy of every action you have taken with regard to mold prevention, and getting the mold corrected.
- Pictures of the mold (iPhone or smartphone photos are perfectly acceptable).
- Copies of any doctor’s reports, if you went to visit one. (And if you’re feeling physical affected by the mold, you should do so. Tell your doctor what you’re experiencing, and tell them you have mold in your apartment/home.)
- Copies of emails, texts, and letters sent.
Your attorney and others you seek help from will appreciate this tremendously.
You may also put the file folder together on your phone or computer, but know that the more information you have and the better it is organized, the better off you will be.
This compilation of information—and seeing a doctor while you are still living in the rental—is the bare minimum investment you can make in order to greatly improve your odds of succeeding in a mold lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Back at the Apartment
Before or after sending your text messages, emails, and written notice to your landlord, be sure your “own house is in order.”
That simply means to take a moment to think about whether something you might be doing (or might have done) may have contributed to or caused the mold to grow.
These things, if you were doing them, would be obvious:
- Did a water bed leak?
- Does the tub or toilet overflow daily or weekly?
- Is an exterior window left open overnight, even when it’s raining?
Visually Document the Mold Growth
When you’re reporting a mold problem in your rental home, it’s always prudent to document the extent of the fungus with photos and, if possible, videos.
This way, your landlord (and legal aides) will have an idea of how serious the problem is.
Plus, if there does end up being any sort of dispute about eliminating the mold, you’ll have proof of the infestation and its magnitude.
In the vast majority of cases, there will be no issue settling the matter with the landlord, but it’s always better to have a backup plan and not need it than to need one and not have it.
If you can, it’s also wise to take visual documentation of any specific conditions in the home that you believe led to the mold growth.
For example, if the fungus was able to grow and expand because of a leaking pipe or appliance within the house, you should take some photos or videos of the leak.
Typically, the responsibility of removing a mold infestation will only fall on the landlord if they failed to keep the home in livable condition.
So, if you suspect that your mold problem was a result of your landlord neglecting needed maintenance or repairs, you’ll want to make sure that fact is documented.
That will help remove any ambiguity about whose duty it is to remedy the situation. Plus, there’s a good chance it will speed up the process of your landlord taking care of the household problems they’ve been ignoring.
Provide a Written Notice
Once you’ve got your visual evidence of the mold growth, your next step should be to give your landlord written notice of the issue.
Let them know that you have a problem with toxic mold in your house and request that they promptly evaluate and resolve the situation.
You’ll want to make sure you sign and date the letter, and it would also be prudent to take a photo of the letter or make yourself a copy.
Then, either hand the notice off to your landlord or mail it to them. If you decide to send the letter in the mail, be sure to send it with signature confirmation.
That way, they won’t be able to claim that they never received it. If possible, you should also provide them with the visual documentation you took of the fungus, either by including physical photos or by sending them an email or text message.
What if the Landlord Doesn’t Take Action?
Hopefully, your landlord will do their duty and promptly get your mold problem taken care of once you’ve notified them.
However, that isn’t always how it goes. The specific laws regarding how long your landlord has to take action differ depending on where you live, but if they are unresponsive to your requests, your next course of action is to contact the housing or building inspector.
Before you go that route, though, you should attempt to contact your landlord several times, as calling the inspector should truly be a last resort course of action.
Once you reach out to the inspector, they’ll visit your home and take down an official record of the mold infestation. If they determine that your landlord is responsible for the issues, they will contact the landlord and enforce the applicable building codes.
However, if the inspector determines that it was your actions as a tenant that allowed the mold growth to occur, it will be your responsibility to pay for the mold remediation and any related repairs.
For example, if it turns out that the fungus was able to grow because of a spilled beverage or a pile of wet clothes, it will be on you to get rid of it.