Fungi (Mold) is one of the newest environmental hazards causing concern among landlords and renters. Lawsuits abound where multi-million-dollar lawsuits have been won against landlords for health issues (rashes, fatigue, nausea, respiratory distress, asthma). Toxic mold exposure often taking the blame. States are starting to set standards regarding molds similar to “nuisances” like rodents, trash, noise, and odors. But there is no air quality standard for molds in dwellings that we can rely upon.
Mold Is Natural
Molds are a natural part of our environment and are present in all buildings and homes (almost everywhere). We all breathe in mold every day where the types and concentrations of molds affect everyone differently. Molds are microscopic organisms that normally can’t be seen with the naked eye. But when they are, it’s usually a sign of a more serious or “hidden” issue.
Homes and buildings vary greatly in everything from their age and materials used in construction to size and location. Every structure is unique! Newer homes may offer better options for moisture/mold control, but often have unique challenges associated with tighter building envelopes. Older homes often are drafty which inadvertently improves ventilation and covers up moisture issues. More often, older homes are “improved” with better windows and insulation which creates ventilation challenges and ideal microbial conditions. At best, older homes can be “managed” and not totally corrected due to hidden molds that are cost-prohibitive to remove.
Rules Regarding Exposure to Mold
Building codes, ordinances, statutes or regulations do not clearly spell out landlord responsibilities regarding mold. And there is no Federal law that has set Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) or tolerance standards for molds in residential buildings. But a few states do have mold laws/guidelines that explain landlord/tenant accountability/responsibility for mold. Here’s a couple we watch as mold rules are constantly changing:
- CA: Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001 and the CA Department of Public Health San Francisco Department of Public Health (Enviro Complaints)
- NY: New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (Web Reference) Guidelines on Assessment & Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments New York State Department of Health (web)
- NJ: NJDOH, “Mold Guidelines for NJ Residents”(doc) & web site
- FL: Florida State Mold Law and Florida Department of Health
- TX: Mold & Renters Rights in TX, Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas Mold Laws
What’s a Landlord / Tenant to Do?
Communicate about visible molds and clean it up! Mold is a known health hazard. As a tenant, be diligent about keeping your home clean. Communicate with your landlord about roof/plumbing leaks and any molds that resulted. Landlords, provide for ventilation in areas of the structure that are prone to mold growth (like bathroom, basements and crawl spaces). And let your tenant know that proper ventilation and climate control is key to keeping molds in check.
Still Have Questions?
Mold health issues are on everyone’s minds these days. A firm that specializes in Building Biology might be just what one needs to get the answers they are looking for. The resources listed above can help or try the mold specialists at GreenWorks Environmental, LLC.