Mold. This one simple word is enough to strike fear in the hearts of homebuyers, homeowners, landlords and tenants.
This is because mold is a known health hazard. Depending on the type of mold and extent of exposure, it can cause health issues ranging from allergies to bronchial and fungal infections, and respiratory illnesses. Exposure to certain types of mold can be especially troublesome for people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems.
In California, landlords and tenants have certain rights and obligations when it comes to the presence of mold in rental units. Keep reading to learn more.
What is mold?
Mold is a general term used for more than 300,000 different types of types of fungus found inside and outside. The reason it is so pervasive is that it produces spores, which spread easily and flourish in warm, humid spaces.
You are most likely to find mold on indoor surfaces in areas prone to leaks or flooding, windows where condensation tends to accumulate, and areas lacking adequate airflow. Because mold is most likely to grow on wet cellulose materials, you are also likely to find it or on:
- Paper products, such as wallpaper
- Ceiling tiles
- Anything made out of wood
- Household fabrics, and upholstery
You can usually see mold as it grows. You may also be able to smell it, since it sometimes gives off a musty odor. In addition to causing health problems, mold can cause property damage.
What does a Los Angeles landlord have to do about mold?
Under California law, all landlords have certain responsibilities. Among other things, they must keep all units “in a habitable condition.”
Because poisonous mold in a rental home or unit can make tenants sick, the state acknowledges its presence there breaches an implied warranty of habitability. This warranty is “implied by law in all residential leases and stipulates that:
- The dwelling should be fit for human habitation; and
- That it must stay that way as long as the lease is in effect.
Mold disclosure requirements
Like their peers throughout the state, Los Angeles landlords are legally required to give tenants written disclosures when they know there is mold in a rental unit. Under California law, both parties must sign these documents.
Keep in mind that this requirement only applies when:
- There is a significant amount of mold in the unit
- The amount of mold in the unit is unsafe
- And it jeopardizes the tenant’s health
You should also be aware that a verbal warning regarding the presence of mold in a rental unit is not adequate; the landlord must put this information in writing. Furthermore, you are entitled to a written disclosure if the landlord has reason to believe mold may be present, whether it is obvious or not.
Requirements for testing, remediation and repairAlthough your landlord has to make you aware that there is significant mold in the rental unit, he or she is not legally obligated to test for certain levels.
However, there is a law mandating that landlords take corrective action to rid the unit of any mold found there. This means he or she must not only remedy the mold issue, but also the underlying cause. If a tenant finds and makes the landlord aware of significant mold in a rental unit, this must be done within 30 days. If he or she does not act accordingly, a tenant has several options.
Actions you may be able to take against your landlordIf your landlord fails to take any action after you tell him or her about mold that makes the rental unit unfit for habitation, you may be able to do the following:
- Refuse to pay rent until the issue is addressed as required by law.
- Have the landlord cover any expenses you incur to live elsewhere, until it is safe to go back home.
- Put one month’s rent towards the retention of a mold removal specialist.
- Report the matter to appropriate officials.
- Sue your landlord.
You may also be able to seek legal recourse if your landlord was aware of but did not do anything about issues that caused the mold. Common examples include leaks, saturated carpets, and ventilation and plumbing issues.
However, you also have certain obligations as a tenant. You are expected to take reasonable steps to prevent mold from forming in the dwelling. You are also expected to take reasonable steps to address the cause of any mold appearing there.
To learn more about your rights and obligations if there is mold in your rental unit, contact the legal team at the Law Office of Parag L. Amin, today.