Who is Responsible for Getting Rid of Mold at a Rental Unit?

Landlords owe certain duties to their tenants, including the obligation to provide a habitable premises to the tenant.  Tenants also have legal obligations arising out of the rental arrangement, including the duty to keep the unit in a clean and habitable condition.  This article explores the interplay of these respective obligations when the unit has mold. 

What Is Mold?

Mold is fungus that comes in various colors and shapes. Some molds look and smell disgusting; others are barely seen—hidden between walls, under floors and ceilings, or in less accessible areas. It can be especially prevalent around damp or moist areas of the premises.  Thus, bathrooms, roofs, pipes, carpets, windows, and other visible and non-visible areas in a rental unit may be susceptible to mold.   Mold can pose significant health risks (such as allergic symptoms, asthma, and other respiratory complications) to those who are exposed to it.  It should therefore be resolved as soon as possible upon identification.

Who Is Responsible for Remediating a Mold Problem?

If toxic mold is preexisting before the tenant moves in, California recognizes that its presence violates the implied warranty of habitability. The implied warranty of habitability is a warranty implied by law in all residential leases that the premises should be fit for human habitation, and must remain that way throughout the duration of the lease.  Accordingly, Landlords have the general obligation to remediate any preexisting mold from the rental premises within a reasonable time. 

Conversely, tenants have the obligation to maintain the unit in good condition.  Tenants do have a responsibility to do what they can to keep the rental home free of mold. Additionally, tenants are responsible for maintaining clean and sanitary conditions in the house or apartment they are leasing. Examples of this may include not allowing water sources to overflow; keeping windows closed during rainstorms; or utilizing exhaust fans to prevent mold from forming and growing in humid bathrooms.

The liability picture changes when mold grows after the tenant moves in, as a result of the tenant’s own behavior. When a tenant’s own failure to properly maintain the unit is a cause of any injury flowing from the mold, the tenant should bear at least some responsibility for his injuries under comparative negligence principles recognized by California law. 

How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix a Mold Problem?

Tenants also have a duty to report maintenance issues to their landlord, as soon as the issues become apparent. After a tenant notifies their landlord that there is a mold problem, and that the condition is making the premises uninhabitable, the landlord must respond to the tenant and correct the problem within a reasonable time.  Under California Code, a reasonable time is deemed to be within 30 days from the day that they received notification from the tenant. If the landlord does not respond, then a tenant may take action against the landlord.

What are the Tenant’s Remedies for Exposure to Toxic Mold?

As previously discussed, landlords are charged with maintaining safe and habitable conditions for their tenants, and mold is considered to be a threat to those conditions. There are several remedies available to a tenant when a landlord fails to comply with his obligation to maintain a safe and habitable unit.  

Specifically, the tenant can withhold paying rent until the mold has been properly repaired remediated by your landlord.  The tenant can also vacate the premises and charge the landlord for potential cost to live in a motel or hotel room, or another unit, until they can safely return to the dwelling.  Additionally, the tenant may file a civil lawsuit against the landlord for damages caused by exposure to mold.  As with other personal injury cases, the tenant will need to prove duty, damage, and causation.  Recoverable damages may include costs of medical expenses such as past or future medical bills related to the condition, as well as lost wages and other financial losses caused by the illness.

Please contact Lynx Legal with any questions regarding the above, and for all of your eviction needs.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or  Our experienced professionals are standing by to assist in any way we can. 

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