When Can You Sue For Mold?
Updated: Mar 11, 2021
If you are a tenant and you believe that your home is infested with mold, you may have a right to sue your landlord.
When doing so, you must make sure that there is a justifiable reason for suing, that mold is the culprit and that your landlord is to blame.
Naturally, navigating this process can be murky, especially if you are unsure of your rights as a tenant.
Every tenant in the United States has rights, but these rights vary by state. When asking whether you can sue for mold, you must also understand your overseeing jurisdiction.
There are times when you can sue for mold. Here’s how to identify if you can sue for mold based on your situation:
Mold Danger and Your Home
Living in a home that has toxic or black mold can adversely affect your health.
Certain types of mold can make you sick and can exacerbate other underlying health conditions like allergies or sleep conditions.
Generally, mold exposure might irritate your skin, eyes, nose, lungs, and throat.
While mold spores are commonly found in the air we breathe, certain mold spores, and those found at high levels, can be toxic to our health.
Long-term adverse health effects of mold include allergies and respiratory symptoms.
Individuals with certain conditions are more susceptible to feeling the effects of mold as well, especially those with a respiratory condition like asthma, emphysema, or allergies, or those with a compromised immune system, like an individual with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant patients, and patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Symptoms of mold exposure might include nasal and sinus congestions, eye irritation (itchy, red, or watery eyes), wheezing and difficulty breathing, throat irritation, skin irritation, rash, and cough.
If you think that your home is infested with mold, you will want to immediately remove yourself from the premises and seek a mold mitigation company.
A mold mitigation company will be able to tell you if the mold is toxic, assess other risk factors, and convey the next steps to get rid of it.
They will also be the ones who are able to safely remove mold without causing it to spread or dispersing the irritants that make you sick.
They will also ensure that the mold is removed fully so that it doesn’t come back.
If you do not own the home, then you need to contact the rental company that you are renting from as they are likely responsible for mitigating the mold outbreak.
A mold outbreak in an apartment complex might also suggest that there is mold in other apartments too.
Seeking Proof of Mold
Of course, if you plan to sue for mold then you need to consider the ways that you can prove that mold is in your dwelling.
Mold growth in a home is natural, especially if the home is not kept clean.
Therefore, it is your job as a home-dweller to properly clean your home.
If there is mold growing in moist areas like in the kitchen, bathrooms, and near windows, then it is generally your responsibility to clean that mold and keep that area clean. In most cases, this type of mold won’t be a toxic black mold.
You will be able to identify mold rather easily, as it is a growing organism.
Mold shows up as slightly fuzzy or patches that are slimy.
These patches might increase in size and there might be a musty odor associated with that area.
Mold can easily grow in areas where there is moisture, so it can even grow under your rug or under flooring. Other signs of mold growth include warping, water stains, and discolored patches.
Be sure to regularly check bathrooms, window moldings, areas near an air conditioner or water-based appliance (like a dishwasher), under flooring, and the seal on the refrigerator door as mold is most likely to grow in these areas.
If you find the mold and you have done your best to properly clean it, then you might look into underlying causes for the mold. For example, there could be a pipe burst or a structural leak somewhere.
If this is the case, then the issue rests on the property owner, who, in this case, would be your landlord. Do your due diligence before you reach out to your landlord.
Carefully Cleaning Mold
Since mold can be toxic, you want to be sure that you follow guidelines to properly clean it.
If you think that this task is too dangerous, then it is always safer to call in professional mold mitigation specialists.
Also, before you actually clean the mold, you want to make sure that you handle the moisture problem. Correct the source of the dampness so that the mold does not grow back.
Any materials that have a lot of mold on them should be removed.
Be sure to clean using an N95 mask and rubber gloves so that you do not get sick while the mold is being removed.
If any of the moldy materials are still wet or damp, then they need to be dried or removed.
Hard surfaces are easier to clean, so you can clean them with soap and water.
If the infected area is larger than 10 square feet, then a professional cleaner is recommended. In some areas, bleach may be necessary.
After a mold cleaning, you will need to monitor the area so that the mold does not come back. Any new mold will need, again, mitigation and cleaning.
If the mold continues to come back, then you will have to consider widespread repairs to stop the mold growth once and for all.
If you are currently sitting with mold, then it does not help to consider the ways that you can prevent mold.
However, upon removing the mold and in considering whether or not you can sue, you must consider whether or not the mold could have been preventing by yourself (as the tenant).
In either case, once the mold has been removed, you must do everything that you can to prevent mold from seeping into your home.
If there is a structural opening that is allowing dampness to seep in, then you might need to call your landlord to rectify this. If the issue is structural, then you are likely not on the hook for maintenance or repairs. In this instance, you need to contact your landlord.
However, if the mold issue was preventable, then you may be responsible for mold mitigation, mold cleaning, and any repairs needed. The landlord may be able to choose the repair companies and ask that you pay the bill.
Once the mold is cleaned up, you are then responsible for maintaining an appropriate amount of cleanliness so that mold does not reappear.
If the mold gets worse over time, then you may suffer more financial losses, and you may lose any damage deposits that you paid.
Understanding Your Rights as a Tenant
As a tenant, you have entered into a shared agreement with your landlord.
While tenancy agreements will vary from state-to-state, and each landlord has the right to make changes to the agreement (within reason), for the most part, there are general rules that protect both the tenant and the landlord.
When it comes to mold, if you could have prevented its formation and spread, then you should not sue your landlord.
This falls under tenant action, and the tenant would be financially responsible.
If there are structural issues, like leaking pipes, an incoming draft, or an area where excess moisture is built up and you couldn’t have prevented the mold, then the responsibility falls to the landlord.
This falls under landlord neglect, and they would be financially responsible.
The available options to pursue legal action will depend on the severity of the incident, the amount of money that you have already spent managing the mold growth, and if there are any related health issues.
If you saw the mold growth and you did nothing about it, then this might lessen your chances of success in a legal case.
If you persistently cleaned the mold and/or contacted your landlord about it and nothing was done, then you might be able to build a strong case for compensation.
Your case grows stronger if there are additional complications, like negative health impacts or if you spent a lot of money mitigating the mold.
Be sure to speak openly with your landlord about the mold right away. You should not bear any costs without addressing them with the landlord first.
Additionally, if your landlord promises to pay you back remittance, then be sure to get that agreement in writing. Save all receipts of purchases made toward mold mitigation, as well as any health expenses that you have incurred.
Suing for Mold
If your landlord has failed to support the habitability of your living conditions and did not address the mold issue in your residence, you could pursue legal action against them.
Suing your landlord does not always mean that you will go to a small claims court.
In fact, serving your landlord could encourage them to settle outside of court and you could get the compensation that you deserve.
How you go about suing will depend on the state requirements.
Consult a lawyer to take the proper steps first in suing your landlord.
You may be required to send a demand letter first, as this is written and verified proof that you made steps to resolve the issue before seeking legal action.
If your landlord did not step in to help with mold mitigation or has failed to pay remittance for expenses incurred, you could pursue legal action and file landlord neglect.
If you think you have a case, consider the knowledgeable lawyers of Abaev Law Firm. We know that dealing with tenancy issues can be difficult, but your health and your finances are on the line! We will fight for you and your cause!