As a renter, you have some rights which your landlord can never sabotage and one of those rights is to terminate or break the lease due to mold when the rental unit becomes inhabitable.
Although you should always alert the landlord with early reminders about the mold growth but if the landlord takes no action for the remediation towards the mold then you are definitely rightful to break lease due to mold because exposure to mold for a long time can cause serious health and safety issues.
The shortest answer would be:
If your rental unit has mold growth caused by pipe leak or anything, and the it’s growing rapidly and soon enough it will make the apartment or rental unit inhabitable. You may have a claim for constructive eviction, that gives you the right to cancel the lease early at no expense. But, the laws and rules might be different depending upon in which state you are and what rules apply for mold remediation in that state. Before taking any action, you should do your due dilligence with landlord-tenant laws application to your situation.
Note: We are only providing information and this is not any legal advice and to get legal advice, you can consult a professional legal advisor before taking any action.
Can I break my Lease Due to Mold?
Yes, you are rightful to break your lease due to mold when the rental unit is not habitable anymore. Many states have have made this clear that tenants can stay in a rental property when it’s safe, livable and sanitary and are obliged to terminate the rental agreement in case of inhabitability.
Such information is also available on your lease as well.
You should read your lease agreement to see what are the provisions about mold remediation and who should take care of it. If you see that the landlord is responsible for the remediation of the property, then let the landlord know to stick with the rules. If landlord ignores you, then you can look for applicable landlord-tenant laws.
There are handful of states that take the mold issue seriously and on top of that, they have regulated laws of tenant relocation due to mold as well giving both tenant and the landlord same rights so no one can violate the laws in such situations.
Let me give you a sneak peak of the laws of few states so that you can understand the process of terminating the lease.
New York Laws
New York as being one of the hottest and wildest state of the United States of America, has stated laws for mold remediation.
In New York, if the rental unit is not livable, and if the landlord tries to evict the tenant, then the tenant is not longer liable to pay the rent according to the rental agreement ( Source)
If the landlord is willing to remediate, then temporary relocation happens and the landlord selects a livable and equal size living unit which could also be a hotel room at no expense to the tenant. Tenant is liable to pay the due rent according to the rental agreement at no cost of remediation process. This is a 30 days of temporary relocation period in which the landlord does the remediation according to professional standards to make sure the rental unit is haibtable again.
If the landlord and tenant has a understanding, then the tenant can take care of the mold and cut the charges of maintenance from the monthly rent to make it equal but that should be discussed first by both parties.
In California, the exposure of mold makes a dwelling “ substandar “ if it’s a danger to the health of occupants.
The minor mold exposure can also be handled by the tenant but if the mold is spreaking rapidly and on different spots in a house, and the owner or the landlord fails to remediate the issue on timely manner, then the tenant is liable to terminate the lease and relocate to another property.
But, if the landlord is cooperating with you and tries to handle the mold problem on a timely manner, then landlord must cover the relocation expenses at no cost to tenant and during this temporary displacement, the tenant must may the monthly rent as well.
In this case, the termination of the rental agreement depends on the situation but you are liable to break the agreement if the landlord seems unresponsive.
In Virginia, there are similar rules about mold growth and if the landlord fails to remediate the mold timely even after timely prompts by the tenant, then tenant can break the lease agreement.
If mold growth is caused by tenant’s failure to maintain the premises then tenant should be the one paying for the remediation of the mold.
What to do before breaking the lease due to mold
Let me share with you a few steps that you should take before you take action of terminating the lease greement due to mold.
Read Your Lease
The first and foremest option for you is to read your lease/rental agreement carefully to see if mold issues are discussed or not.
Know what your right are
Get information about tenant laws for mold remediation and check laws that are applicable to your situation and must find mold remediation laws.
If something is not understanable, then you should seek professional legal help from a lawyer.
Once you do your due dilligence to gather claims against the landlord for remediation or early lease termination.
Then collect the proof of mold in your residence, it can be pictures of the mold.
Aware the landlord
Present your records to the landlord and see the response of the landlord.
See if the landlord correspondes with you on the mold problem or if they try to ignore you or do no fix the mold in timely manner.
Notice of Lease Termination
You can notify the landlord about the termination in a written notice and if you made any mistake in doing so, you could be the one facing the trouble instead of the landlord and therefore, seek the help of a lawyer before processing.
No laws in your state?
If you live in a state where there are no specific laws for mold remediation then you should do self help.
In case, you dont get relocated due to mold problem, there are number of ways you can try to self-help.
As there are large number of states that do not take this problem seriousely, so the tenants can hardly do anything about the landlord to remediate the mold issue.
So, there are two choices for the tenants, either remove the mold or get professionals to remove the mold.
Depending on the size of the location, the remediation procedure is decided; like the 10 squre feet size of mold is probably not that big of a size to hire a professional mold remediation company so you can do it yourself.
These are the steps to remove mold yourself
- Fix leaks or things causing moisture to let the area dry completely.
- Scrub the mold off from tiles, wall, ceiling, using Tilex ( Mold Remover ) and dry that place. The product that you are going to use must have fungicide and a mildewstat that controls the growth of mold and spores.
- Remove the affected tiles or ceiling parts or even the carpet which has absorbed the mold.
- After removing mold, throw away the clothes
- Do not paint that place, it can cause mold again and pain will peel sooner or later.
- For larger areas, hire a company and use the repair and decut method to deduce the costs of the maintenance from the next rent payment.
Check if the early Termination of the lease is an option
As a tenant, you can try to terminate the lease agreement if the mold situation arises.
Be cautios becuse if the mold is not making the place inhabitable, the termination can be reversed as well. Therefore, go through the laws before taking any action.
Finally, you can leave the unit without paying the rental payments under the lease and the landlord should be able to find a new tenant to mitigate the damages and then you will no longer be on the hook for your lease.
In other scenarios, a landloard can report any non-payment of rent to credit reporting agencies as well that can leave a negative impact on your credit card score and that’s ultimtely going to haunt you for your upcoming days when you will use the credit card for any payments.
So, keep in mind this is kind of a gamble, and it should be your last and final option and should be only used when the home is inhabitable or dangerousely unsafe.
There are many states having no specific mold laws but still a landlord is liable for mold problems when until the home is safe and livable again. When the landlord fails to fix a serious mold problem, the rent withholding occurs and both the tenants and landlord can trap themselves in a never-ending lawsuit for mold-releated health problems.
In a statae like Arkansad, the landlords are responsible for maintaining the house and it’s their obligation to maintain the rental property and to fix issues like leaking pipes, windows, roofs, and other mold related problems. If the landlords doesn’t seems to be responsive, you can surely convince a judge or jury for the actions of the landlord.
Sometimes, mold is caused by tenant behaviours like when the tenants keep apartment shut all the time and there is little to no ventilation that increases humidity in home. Similarly, the lack of necessary cleanliness can also cause such problems. Therefore, the tenants are required to don’t be negligible and practice good housekeeping to make sure they are not responsible for the damage of the property.
A tenant must go through the clauses of the lease about the mold growth to see if the landlord is going to be responsible for the maintenance of the property or not. Usually a smart landlord prevents to have such clases in the agreement but still the landlord itself is responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the property, roof, plumbing and windows.
What is Mold?
Mold is a type of microscopic fungi that grows on organic materials in a semi-nonlinear pattern and science says that there are over 100,000 species of mold and it always grow in colonies.
Mold can grow anywhere, indoor or outdoor and it just need humid climate and an organic material to grow and therefore, if you have a pipe leak in your home, humidity inside your home, then chances are the mold can spread rapidly on tiles, ceiling, walls, floors, paper, wood, fibers.
The problem with mold is that it not only damages the surfaces but it causes serious health issues to those who are sensitive to mold and the type of health problems it can create are allergies, asthma, coughing, runny nose, itchy skin and eyes, difficulty breathing, flu-like symptoms, respiratory dysfunction, nose bleeds, diarrhea, headaches, inhalation of mold spores, ailments from mold, mycotoxins, and other severe effects which are caused due to exposure of mold.
Furthermore, there are different shapes and colors of mold like you may see the mold in black, white, green, gray, powdery, and shiny color. Similarly, it is called with names like stachybotrys, penicillium, aspergilus, paecilomyces, fusarium.
As a tenant, you should always stay alert if you living in a humid climate in any US state because drier states do not face such problems.
So, you should not keep your home shut all the time, and keep an eye on pipe leaks, windows, doors, or ceilings or other organic or water-soaked materials like paneling, paint, fabric, ceiling tiles, newspapers, cardboard boxes, and so on to make sure mold never spreads in the first place.
Most common places for mold growth are near bathrooms, refrigerator, AC outflow, under carpets, or even basements because of flood.
If by chance, you end up having mold in any part of you home, you can alert the landlord immediately and in case, you started having health reactions due to mold like rashes, fatigue, nausea, cognitive losses, hemorhogging, asthma, then do not wait for the landlord for the remediation, and simply vacate the premises as you can sue the landlord later according to laws, but try to keep yourself safe first from the mold exposure.
In a nutshell, you can break the lease agreement due to mold if the environment around your home is not habitable or livable. Do your due dilligence before terminating the lease agreement and read the laws carefully and must seek legal help to get this done perfectly.