When black mold is discovered in a rented apartment, the first thing that the tenant must do is provide professional proof that the mold exists. Importantly, the landlord is not responsible for the expense of getting this proof - the tenant is. The proof can be provided via a report from a home inspector or mold remediation company. The air quality should also be tested in order to measure the levels of harmful mold spores in the air of the dwelling.
Once it has been determined that harmful levels of black mold spores do exist, the tenant must notify the landlord in writing. Providing proof in writing preserves the tenant's rights and starts the clock ticking in terms of the amount of time the landlord has to legally remedy the problem. Generally speaking, the landlord has five days to clean up the problem. If a landlord is proven to have neglected these responsibilities, the tenant can also recover the cost of providing the proof. The tenant must also prove that he did not cause the mold problem in the first place.
Once this is done, the landlord should arrange for someone to permanently clean the dwelling. A determination should be made by the cleaners of how bad the problem is and what caused it. The landlord should handle the situation in a manner that allows for the continued occupancy of the premises after the mold has been remediated. The mold can cause serious health problems, which can make the landlord susceptible to a law suit.
The landlord's cleaning crew should also determine if the mold has penetrated the carpet, drywall, or woodwork. If it has penetrated these surfaces, these items must be replaced at the landlord's expense, not just cleaned. An agreement should be made to have some or all of the rent credited while the cleaning is being done, depending on the extent, nature and duration of the tenant's inconvenience.
If the mold existed prior to the tenant's occupancy, it is the landlord's responsibility to notify the new occupant of the presence of the hazardous condition. Under this protection, a tenant can choose to make the needed repairs and take the costs for them out of the rent. Property owners can eventually be held monetarily responsible for health conditions that are proven to be the result of black mold on their property, such as rashes, nausea, cognitive losses, asthma, and chronic fatigue.
There are no federal laws governing the responsibility for the existence of black mold on a property, but each state has its own laws regarding what the landlord must do in these circumstances. For example, some states such as Texas, Indiana, Maryland, California, and New Jersey have laws governing who is responsible for what in these situations. The bottom line is that if the black mold is caused by the landlord's failure to repair apparent leaks around pipes, windows, and the roof, then the landlord can be held responsible for any damages resulting from the contamination.
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