Holding Your Landlord Responsible For Mold

Landlords must ensure the homes they rent are habitable, and that includes taking care of environmental issues that can have a harmful impact on the occupants' health. One issue that has gained prominence over the years is mold, with some tenants winning millions of dollars in personal injury awards due to landlords failing to take care of mold when notified about the problem. If mold has developed in your rental, here's what you need to know about holding your landlord liable for the injuries you sustain as a result.

Did the Landlord Know About the Mold?

To successfully sue your landlord for injuries and losses sustained from a mold infestation in your rental unit, you have to show his or her negligence caused or contributed to the problem. A negligence lawsuit has four elements that must be proven before a court will take your side and award damages in the case:

  • Your landlord had a duty to you
  • The landlord failed in his or her duty
  • The landlord's actions (or failure to act) caused the injury
  • You sustained compensable damages as a result

Essentially, you have to show the landlord was obligated to take care of the mold problem (or the issue that lead to the infestation) and failed to do so. For example, leaky pipes are a common cause of mold growth. If the landlord knew the pipes needed to be repaired, did nothing, and mold grew as a result, then the landlord could be held liable for any health consequences you suffer as a result.

It's important to note the operative phrase here is "If the landlord knew." If you didn't tell your landlord about the issue and there was no way he or she could have known via other means (e.g. house inspection), the person can't be held liable for damages.

Another issue you may run into is whether you gave the landlord enough time to fix the problem. While the law requires landlords to keep their rentals in habitable condition, tenants must give landlords reasonable amounts of time to fix problems before taking legal action. Oftentimes there will be a clause in the lease stating how long the landlord has to make repairs. If your lease doesn't have a provision, you need to at least give the person the amount of time it would reasonably take if you were to fix the issue yourself.

Are There State Mold Laws?

A second thing you have to consider is whether your city or state has mold guidelines. This is important because even if there is mold in the unit, it may be harder to hold your landlord responsible for damages if the mold level is within the acceptable parameters set by local or state laws. At the same time, the laws may make it easier to sue your landlord depending on how they are worded.

California, for instance, passed the 2001 Toxic Mold Protection Act that lets the California Department of Health Services set permissible limits on the amount of mold allowed in homes as well as develop rules on what people have to do to fix the problem. It's a good idea to research the laws in your local area or state to see what, if any, effect they may have on your case.

Is There a Mold Clause in Your Lease?

Lastly, some landlords try to get ahead of this issue and place clauses in their leases absolving them of responsibility for mold growth and remediation. If your lease contains this clause, it may be challenging holding the person responsible for mold in your rental. However, as noted previously, local or state laws may overrule that clause. Additionally, some courts may find the clause against public policy and, thus, unenforceable.

For more information about suing your landlord for mold or help with a case, contact a personal injury attorney with a firm like Spesia & Ayers Attorneys At Law.