Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Edwin

Posted by Gene on February 26, 2010 at 21:49:29:


Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Edwin

Posted by Edwin on February 21, 2010 at 19:20:42:

I have a tenant who had one section of her bedroom wall develop some mold on it, about 3 feet square. Upon notifying me, I immediately had it cleaned with the standard bleach/water solution. However, the tenant moved into a motel and is refusing to move back in until I have it tested to “prove” to her that the mold is gone and not a “danger.”

To those who might have been through this situation, is it the landlord’s responsibility to prove to the tenant’s satisfaction that the mold is destroyed and, furthermore, to have it tested to ensure it’s not a kind of mold that can cause health problems?

I prefer to leave that obligation with the tenant. If she thinks it’s dangerous, let her incur the expense to prove it is. If she proves it,then I think the landlord is obliged to remove the hazard. But I resent a tenant who automatically assumes the worst and expects the landlord to reassure her that there is not a problem. What do you all think about this?

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Beachbum

Posted by Beachbum on February 22, 2010 at 22:31:00:

The actions you take are dependent on ALL of the facts. Several questions are unanswered. What is the actual extent of the mold? What is the most likely cause? Is this below grade, a roof leak, or is there plumbing involved? How long has the tenant been in? What was the condition on your last inspection, if tenant has been in over 1 year? Did you take photos before you cleaned up?

You HAVE mitigated the problem, at least on the face. Depending on the source, there may be more inside the wall or under the flooring. This needs to be addressed appropriately.

As to testing, I had a case where the tenant was claiming all kinds of symptoms from a ceiling plumbing leak issue. We tested, and the result showed the biggest issue was pet dander…from the tenant’s dog (which, naturally, was an unauthorized pet)!

Just remember, once you obtain test results like this, you MUST disclose on sale, and should also if any prospective new tenant mentions anything about allergies.

Mold does not magically appear over a large area in an instant. How long has the tenant noted a problem? WHY weren’t you notified immediately, as is the tenant’s responsibility in most jurisdictions? If it wasn’t important enough to tell you a month ago, why is it now uninhabitable? Maybe the mold was growing under a pile of dirty clothes piled against the wall? NOT my problem! Tenant has responsibility to maintain reasonable cleanliness and dispose of rubbish properly too. If circumstances warrant, hold their feet to the fire…just be sure you can document the facts.

Of course, if it IS a result of leaking pipes, roof, or walls, man up and fix the SOURCE of the problem. Water issues will cost you more than ANY other problems in rental real estate.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Edwin

Posted by Edwin on February 22, 2010 at 18:05:21:

The issue is not that I’m refusing to fix the problem, or that I’m not interested in maintaining the propery, but the fact that the tenant apparently has no basis to claim the mold is causing her problems. From what I understand, most mold is benign and never causes problems. Should a landlord be required to do something simply becuase a tenant chooses to be an alarmist and assume the worst? If the mold is the kind that causes health problems, I agree, the landlord should be responsible–unless the tenant’s poor housekeeping contributed to it. But what if the landlord jumps through all these hoops to satisfy the tenant only to find the mold is not harmful and easily cleaned up? I can tell you, as a landlord I would not be happy about paying that bill. Tenants should not have free rein to made unreasonable demands at the slightest suspicion of a problem that could very well turn out to be not a problem.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Dave T

Posted by Dave T on February 22, 2010 at 12:55:20:

I agree with Charles Parrish. Under your local landlord-tenant law, I bet you are obligated to mitigate any health or safety hazards that may exist in your property.

It appears that your tenant is willing to continue renting from you if you can certify the safety of your property. For the couple hundred $ it wlll cost you to have a mold and air quality inspection done, are you willing to risk losing a good tenant and having your unit vacant for a month or two or three?

If your tenant was looking to really shaft you, she would have called the health inspector and the code enforcement guys right away. I think your tenant is being reasonable and you should work with her.

Lastly, it does not sound like you really remediated the problem if you did not find the source of water infiltration and get it fixed. Until you fix the water infiltration problem, this mold problem will continue to recur.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by DJ-nyc

Posted by DJ-nyc on February 22, 2010 at 10:12:39:

This tenant is an opportunist. Beware. Next the tenant is gonna hit you with the motel bill for you to pay. The question is do you want to keep the tenant? (they sound crafty). All in all its your place so you have to fix it anyways. Also, you may have water coming in somewhere so check it out for sure. Make sure it is documented and certified by a reputable company because they may be setting you up for a lawsuit or a free rent situation. Proceed with wisdom.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Amotoxracer

Posted by Amotoxracer on February 22, 2010 at 08:07:44:

Im sure theres plenty of people that will take issue with this. However I have been presented with this situation and told the tennant they need to move immediatly and then gave them a termination of tennancy notice.
You can test all you want, you can remeadiate all you want you can do whatever you want, but your never going to make things right with this tennant so get her gone before things get worse.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Charles Parrish

Posted by Charles Parrish on February 22, 2010 at 07:56:29:

You need to take care of it as soon as possible. Remember tenants have rights, they have a right to live in a safe place. A tenant is also a customer. Tenants help pay your mortgage, take good care of them. Get the unit tested, it probably is nothing at all, but if the tenant gets sick and you have made no motions to fix the problems, you could have liability.
Charles Parrish

The Lease - Posted by Chi Ming

Posted by Chi Ming on February 22, 2010 at 22:32:43:

This should all be spelled out in your lease. Including
responsibility for anything that arrived after they moved
in (such as vermin). I had one tenant complain about a
bunch of scorpions. The lease says they are responsible
so we took care of it and billed them.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by -Steve-

Posted by -Steve- on February 22, 2010 at 20:51:43:

I would have to go with DaveT on this one, and you can write it off on your taxes.

Re: Why Would You Not Want to Fix This? - Posted by Paul S

Posted by Paul S on February 22, 2010 at 14:11:12:

It’s your asset. Maintain it. It’s not for your tenant- it’s for YOU, silly.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Jack-E

Posted by Jack-E on February 24, 2010 at 16:19:27:

You are probably right. Is it worth it?

I agree - Posted by Chi Ming

Posted by Chi Ming on February 22, 2010 at 22:24:41:

Anyone who reacts like this tenant did is not going to
believe the tests until you’re into the really
expensive (ie, not worth it) price range. The only
toxic mold is “black mold” and it is rarely the kind of
mold that shows up. The number one thing in
remediation is to cut off the water source that allows
mold to grow. It can be the sign of a leak that you do
want to know about. But the tenant moved without even
a sign of illness (letter from MD and the like), you
can’t expect them to be rational about your “proof” the
mold is gone either.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by Jack-E

Posted by Jack-E on February 24, 2010 at 16:16:33:

Mold for landlords is one of those nut brained prob lems like led based paint. It is very hard to win. If you can remidiate it easily without a large cost, do it. If not, get another tenant. I know it sound stupid, but you are not likely to win. In this day of idiots who think they have a complaint about anything and no tort reform you are likely to be the looser.

Re: Tenant is upset about mold in her bedroom - Posted by cork horner

Posted by cork horner on February 22, 2010 at 21:15:46:

Hello Charles Parrish…long time since auctioneering humming in Vegas!

I agree here Charles, alhough many are not sensitive o mold, quite a few are.
I would not want to mess with the liability.

c h

Re: The Lease - Posted by jimi

Posted by jimi on February 23, 2010 at 06:07:00:

Ah, the ol’ Scorpion clause, nice!

Re: Why Would You Not Want to Fix This? - Posted by Edwin

Posted by Edwin on February 22, 2010 at 21:22:24:

Paul, you missed the point. I AM willing to fix it. However, I’m not willing to be railroaded by a tenant whose only knowledge of mold is what she’s seen on TV and heard from others, much of which is probably exagerrated and incorrect. Unfortunately, mold has become one of those nightmarish topics where much misinformation abounds and unscrupulous tenants find it rather easy to claim their health has been affected by mold in their residence. Just because something looks unsightly, as mold does, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a hazard. The majority of mold found in residences is not the “toxic” mold everyone hears about, yet tenants invariably assume it is. So they might ask you to have it tested to prove it’s not toxic. Those tests aren’t free. Who should pay? Tenant or landlord? If the tests show the mold is not dangerous, someone is going to feel relieved, but they may also fell a little silly for testing something that, in hindsight, they probably should have known it was nothing to worry about. Taken to the extremes, a landlord could be asked to test every tiny spot of mold that appears in a residence. Do you think that makes sense?? You need to draw the line somewhere in favor of exercising reasonable caution, not unreasonable caution as most tenants would probably prefer you do.

On a related topic, every landlord should have a plan for dealing with tenants who claim they have asthma and that condtions in your property either caused or exacerbated their asthma. Or how about the tenant who has allergies or is ultra-sensitive to certain cleaning chemicals and paint? Are you obligated to install air purifiers so your “asthmatic” tenant can live comfortably, and to refrain from using certain chemicals and using low odor paint (more expensive) so your sensitive tenant isn’t inconvenienced? The list of extra demands could be endless. As you can imagine, it’s not always easy to draw the line between what is acceptable for one tenant vs. what’s acceptable for a tenant with certain medical needs (or alleged needs).

ADA Requirements - Posted by Chi Ming

Posted by Chi Ming on February 22, 2010 at 22:30:20:

You must make reasonable accomidations for a tenant at
their expense. The qualifiers of “reasonable” and “at
their expense” are operative. And it is reasonable to
go over the remediation plan with them and the costs
and then make sure they pay the bill. I’d do it before
they moved in.

You might want to give the tenant a mold pamphlet
(forgot where I saw one, but I think it was on a State
of CA website) that talks about what you have
described. If she insists on tests, let her know that
if it turns out non-toxic, you will expect her to kick
in on the cost.