Can You Sue Your Landlord for Mold?
The dangers of mold plague the homes of renters across the US. Mold can appear as several types of fungus—most of which can cause serious health problems in humans when inhaled or ingested. When landlords fail to remove mold or maintain a mold-averse environment in their properties, they may be held liable for negligence in court.
Where Does Mold Come From?
Mold can appear almost anywhere there is sufficient water, as mold requires very little sunlight to grow. In apartments or rental buildings, this can include areas with leaks, water pipes, windowsills, and more. Mold grows very well on a variety of typical building materials, including ceiling tiles, wood, cardboard, and even wallpaper.
Mold can appear because of infrastructural problems with a building, such as leaky pipes or poor water dispersion on roofs, but can also be caused by conditions outside of human control, such as changes in climate that result in high ambient humidity.
However, even in circumstances where mold is not initially formed due to landlord negligence, failure to actively remove mold from a renter’s space can make them liable for any resulting damages, if a victim files an injury claim (see “Are Landlords Responsible for Mold in Rental Properties?” section below).
“Regular” Mold & Black Mold
Mold comes in a wide range of colors including green, yellow and black. Not all varieties of black mold are toxic, although strains such as Stachybotrys chartarum—a species of black mold commonly found in attics—can be poisonous when ingested or inhaled.
To be on the safe side, try to remove any black mold as soon as possible, with or without a landlord’s help. If the landlord does not help, contact an official mold removal service. Taking on black mold alone can be dangerous if one does not know proper removal methods.
How to Tell if You’re Affected by Mold
A little mold on the ceiling or in a corner is not a very big danger. However, if left unchecked, mold can cause a variety of health problems. Mold spores will gradually filter into the air or onto surfaces, allowing the spores to be ingested or inhaled.
In most cases, mold causes mild symptoms including:
- Red or itchy eyes
- Rashes on the skin
- A stuffy nose
However, mold can cause severe health effects in other cases. This includes memory loss, lethargy, asthma development, and severe respiratory symptoms. People with preexisting allergic reactions or respiratory conditions like asthma are likely to feel the effects of mold first, and suffer more severe symptoms.
Are Landlords Responsible for Mold in Rental Properties?
The short answer is yes, landlords can be held responsible for mold in New York courts, but typically only under a combination of the following circumstances:
- A tenant fell ill or has been injured as a result of mold in their home
- A landlord knew about a mold problem, and refused to do anything about it
- A landlord was intentionally negligent in properly maintaining their property, leading to the growth of dangerous mold
Although landlords are not legally obligated to prevent the growth of mold specifically, intentionally allowing the growth to happen until it injures a tenant is typically seen as an act of negligence, and tenants may be found eligible for significant compensation. In this way, landlords are expected to remove any hazardous conditions on their premises that could lead to injury—whether it be mold, pest entryways or leaky water pipes—before it leads to injury.
Those living in New York City now have additional protections against mold appearing in their rental homes. The Asthma-Free Housing Act, passed in 2017, requires all New York City landlords to check for mold and other indoor allergen hazards annually, as well as whenever they invite a new tenant to live on the property.
If mold is discovered after an annual inspection, landlords are responsible to remove it, and fix any root cause that is causing the mold to spread, including leaky pipes, and persistently high humidity levels. Knowledge of these causes combined with the failure to act can be seen as negligent in court.
When is Your Landlord Responsible for Mold Removal?
Landlords are responsible for mold removal from the time a tenant brings it to their attention. Landlords are also responsible for removing mold that was present prior to a new tenant moving onto their property.
However, it is important to note that landlords only become responsible for the removal of mold after being made aware of the problem, and being given a reasonable amount of time to correct the issue (this time frame can vary depending on the severity of the mold growth, and its impact on a tenant’s health). Additionally, a landlord may not be responsible for mold removal if it is deemed that a tenant’s behavior or actions are causing the mold problem in the first place.
For example, a leaky water pipe is a landlord’s responsibility to fix, both to take care of the root cause of mold and to maintain the property in general. In contrast, if a tenant uses a humidifier in their bedroom and mold grows as a result, the tenant will be required to remove the humidifier and possibly deal with the mold themself.
Can You Sue Your Landlord if There’s Mold or They Fail to Remove Mold?
Yes, but only if the landlord fails to notice or remove mold under reasonable circumstances. A tenant may also only sue their landlord if they have provable, mold-related losses, such as property damage or health-related problems.
For instance, a landlord may be liable for a negligence-based personal injury lawsuit if there was mold growing underneath an apartment’s sink since before a new tenant moved in, and the landlord failed to fix the issue after several weeks or months.
In such lawsuits, tenants must be able to prove that their injury, health issues, or property damage were directly caused by mold, and that their landlord was informed of the problem within a reasonable timeframe.
Landlords typically have more money than their tenants, and are more aware of their legal protections than renters. This is why hiring a skilled attorney with experience representing tenants in court is crucial to any case against a landlord. They can also help collect evidence for your case, provide representation in court, guide tenants through the legal process, and ensure their clients receive maximum compensation for damages.
Contact New York Attorneys Today
Suing your landlord for mold can be a complex process, as you’ll need to provide multiple types of evidence that the mold problem could have been prevented or fixed, and that your damages were directly caused by this negligence. Having an attorney on your side with experience in winning these types of cases can be invaluable to proving a landlord’s negligence, and maximizing your compensation.
Contact Sobo & Sobo today for a free consultation, where you can discuss the value of your case with legal experts in towns across New York City and the Hudson Valley.