TN Renters’ Rights & Laws on Mold: Moving, Rent, Suing

Amy Erwin

Hi. I'm Amy Erwin, the Intern at Moldli. Thank you for reading and please comment if you care to let me know what you thought or how I can better help you.

So, you just moved to Tennessee and rented an apartment in a nice neighborhood. Sadly, after a few days, you start noticing that some parts of the apartment are infested with mold. 

You tell your landlord about it, but their inaction is making you impatient. What do you do then? Well, if you’re wondering about what might be the best way to go about this problem, you’re in the right place. 

In this post, we’re going to take an in-depth look at Tennessee renters’ rights and laws on mold. This will help you determine the best course of action for your apartment’s mold issues. 

Can You Sue for Mold in Tennessee?

While laws in Tennessee that address mold are uncommon, the state’s Department of Health says that through the local building code, you can take the matter to court. 

Building codes are designed to provide health and safety to the public. Mold infestations pose a threat to one’s health if left unattended. Exposure to this fungus causes certain illnesses such as colds, eye, and skin irritations as well as allergic reactions like asthma. 

With all that being said, it’s the responsibility of the landlord to work hand-in-hand with you to improve the situation, meaning they have to act on the problem by considering your request.   

Otherwise, you could remedy this issue by seeking legal advice and filing a lawsuit against the landlord. You can exercise premises liability claims because of the owner’s negligence and inadequate maintenance of the apartment. 

Negligence Causes Molds to Develop

If you’re still wondering what makes the landlord accountable for mold infestations, you have to look at why your apartment has fungi in the first place. 

You see, mold flourishes in damp areas. Leaking pipes, roofs, windows, and so forth can cause certain areas to become wet, making them a suitable environment for mold growth. 

That said, the owner’s negligence and failure to provide proper maintenance to the said fixtures makes them liable for this potential health problem. 

You Can Sue Because of Wrongful Death

In the event that someone died of sickness related to mold infestations, a relative—especially the spouse of the deceased—may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the property owner. 

In the absence of the spouse, the children, next of kin, estate executor, or the parents of the deceased may also pursue a court case against the landlord. 

Can I Withhold Rent for Mold in Tennessee?

As a tenant, it’s your legal right to live in a place free from health risks. It’s true not only in Tennessee but in other states as well. On the other hand, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to have his rented property adhere to safety standards.

If your apartment doesn’t meet these standards because of the landlord’s carelessness, then you can exercise your right to withhold rent. You’re doing this to urge the property owner to fix the damage and repair the cause of mold infestations.

Withholding rent due to mold concerns isn’t recommended in Tennessee.

“Give a written request to your landlord for repairs that are needed and keep a copy for your records. It is not recommended that you stop paying rent…. If all else fails, see how to file a complaint with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs.”

“Healthy Homes – Mold,” TN Department of Health

Apart from this, you also have the right to seek help from a professional repairman and then deduct the expenses from the rent. 

However, you can’t just withhold the rent the moment you see the problem. There are certain parameters that you must first observe before taking that step. The next section will discuss those guidelines. 

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

Before thinking of withholding rent, you must first issue a written notice to the landlord. The notice must describe the problem in as detail as possible. 

Upon receiving your written request, the landlord is usually given up to 14 days to make the necessary repairs. That said, you will have to give permission to the landlord and his repair team to access your apartment. 

Apart from written notice, it’s also sensible to further document the mold problem. You can do it by taking photos and videos of areas that have fungi growth. 

You might also want to collect mold samples. You and the landlord can have the samples tested by a reputable expert. 

This documented evidence might help you bring the case to court if the landlord didn’t fully comply with your request. 

What Is Considered ‘Unlivable Conditions’ in Tennessee?

Known as the “implied warranty of livable habitability,” a tenant has the right to a livable property. If the landlord doesn’t comply with safety standards, then the court might allow you to move out of the premises without any responsibility for the rent. 

The following sections will show you the qualifications of a livable house or apartment. The property could be deemed unlivable if these requirements aren’t met.  

1) Good Structural Integrity

The apartment should have stairs, roofs, walls, and floors with good structural integrity. That means that roofs should have the ability to keep the rain out while floors should be in no danger of collapsing. The walls should also be strong enough to protect the tenant against trespassers. 

In addition, an apartment or house could be interpreted as unlivable if it doesn’t have clean and safe common areas such as hallways and lobbies.

2) Reliable Utility System

The electrical and plumbing system must be in good working condition. The building shouldn’t have exposed electrical wires and leaking pipes.  

Common toilets and baths must also be fully operational and sanitized regularly. Moreover, the building should both have a reliable air conditioning and heating system. 

Lastly, the apartment should likewise have an adequate supply of hot and cold water.

3) No Environmental Hazards and Rodents

Another reason why a rented property might be deemed unlivable is the presence of elements that put the environment in danger, including mold, asbestos, and lead. 

These hazardous elements can harm one’s health. For example, asbestos exposure could cause labored breathing and lung cancer. 

On top of that, the landlord should also make sure that rodents and other disease-carrying animals are monitored and exterminated. 

Closing Time

Tennessee renters’ rights and laws on mold are centered around maintaining the safety of the lessee. And as we’ve established, mold can have adverse effects on our health. 

Now, while you can take the matter to court, there are solutions to the problem that you might want to consider first. First, you need to inform the landlord about the mold infestation. 

To add, you can hire an expert to fix the problem and just deduct the repair expenses from the rent. The bottom line is, court proceedings should be the last resort when it comes to resolving this matter.