Your landlord may not be responsible to help you get rid of mold, but if he is, then you have legal remedies at your disposal. The presence of mold in an apartment that is not removed poses a serious health risk, especially for children. You should work with your landlord to resolve the problem, but ultimately you may have little choice but to move out. Here’s what to do when you don’t get the help you need:
Make Sure It’s Your Landlord’s Responsibility
Before you take any action, you have to make sure that it’s your landlord’s responsibility to get rid of mold in the first place. He is not responsible if you caused the problem. For example, if you allowed high humidity to accumulate in the apartment because you failed to ventilate it, then you caused the mold growth and are responsible for its removal.
If the apartment has poor ventilation, such as in the bathroom where it can get very humid, then your landlord is responsible for a building code violation which led to the mold problem. When your landlord fails to make the repairs necessary to keep the premises in habitable condition, such as fix leaks, then your landlord has to get rid of the mold.
If you do something or don’t do something that leads to mold, including notifying the landlords about the need for repairs, then you cannot legally compel the landlord to help you get rid of mold.
Negotiate with Your Landlord
Don’t rush to file a legal case against your landlord without first trying to negotiate with him. Your landlord may be acting out of ignorance of the laws and his responsibility, and a little education from you may be all that’s needed. At the same time, you don’t want to hold out too long to hope that your landlord will change his mind, because mold is a serious health issue. You’ll know when it’s time to stop negotiations and move to the next level based on your landlord’s response.
When negotiating, calmly speak with your landlord about the problem and ask him to resolve it. Follow up with a letter thanking him for his review of the matter, and summarize what he said he would do or wouldn’t do. If he refused to help, explain in the letter why it’s his responsibility to get rid of the mold, the potential health risks you face as a result and your options to pay for it and seek damages from him or to move out until the problem is resolved.
File a Lawsuit
If you’re not getting anywhere with your landlord, then filing a lawsuit in court is probably your best option. Your attorney can continue the negotiations, or if you’re representing yourself, you can try to settle. Some state laws allow you to withhold up to one month’s rent prior to filing a lawsuit, but you should consult with an attorney so that you don’t end up liable for damages. You can ask the court for an injunction, a court order, that forces the landlord to get rid of the mold and money to pay for a temporary place to live until the mold removal is complete.
When you bring a legal action against your landlord and he loses, you can often ask the court to award you money to pay your legal bills. Keep that in mind as you weigh your options for how to deal with your landlord.