Consumer Alert: Is your landlord legally obligated to clean up the mold in your home?  The answer isn’t as simple as it may seem

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My inbox is full. In my report on Wednesday, I shared that a number of renters have written me complaining about mold. I’ve had a number of viewers tell me their homes are making them sick.
One of those viewers is Laquanda Brown.

When I interviewed her last fall, her apartment’s maintenance team had scraped away her damp drywall and patched a hole in her ceiling. But she says it’s only a temporary fix.  For years, she says, water has dripped down her wall every time it rains, causing her apartment to have a thick musty smell she believes is mold.  And at the time of our interview, the vacant apartment below her was covered with a repugnant growth from floor to ceiling.

“The water is coming through my ceiling,” said Brown. “I’ll go show the office and it’s like they’ll look at it.  We’ll send maintenance out, and maintenance will come out and look at it, and if it doesn’t appear to them to be a problem at that time, they won’t do anything.  And they haven’t been doing anything, and that’s why it’s as bad as it is up in here nowl”

So, here’s the question:  Is the landlord required by law to fix a suspected mold problem?  Is living with mold a violation of a landlord’s mandated warranty of habitability?  Warranty of habitability under state law is a landlord’s obligation to maintain a safe livable environment.

For answers, I interviewed Cathy Conser, director of Biotoxin Foundation, a non-profit fighting for consumer protection from mold.

“You have to prove that it’s not habitable,” said Conser. “And since there’s no CDC guidelines, and there’s no code enforcement fines, you have to fight the system.”

That means the onus is on you, the renter, to prove the mold has made your home unlivable. The legal team in Rochester’s housing division confirms that severe mold would violate the habitability clause.  But those attorneys concede that what makes this tough is the fact there are no laws or city codes regulating mold in rental properties.  They say the cause of the mold, like a leak in the roof, is likely a code violation, so renters should call code enforcement about these kinds of complaints.