If you have mold in your apartment or rental property, the first logical step to take is to notify your landlord. While there is no federal legislation holding landlords responsible for mold, every state has specific laws outlining the legal responsibilities for both parties.
And the truth of the matter is that both the tenant and the landlord have obligations if there is mold in the apartment. The key to maintaining a rental property free from mold issues is good communication. If any unusual musty odors, moisture, or potential mold growth occurs, the tenant should notify the landlord as soon as possible.
There are many reasons why mold in apartment buildings may start to grow. Homes and apartments are designed to house a certain number of occupants. Over time the occupants place an ever-increasing moisture burden on the dwelling. If it is not managed properly, this will cause mold to grow, and the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) may be compromised.
While small amounts of growth can be easily cleaned and removed, hidden mold and excessive moisture need to be dealt with. This can lead to health concerns, allergic reactions, and structural damage.
But the chances are that both tenants and landlords have quite a few questions when it comes to dealing with mold growth, like:
- What should landlords do if mold is growing in the property?
- Who should pay for getting rid of mold?
What can I do as a tenant to diminish mold growth?
These are all very valid and important questions to address. Here are some tips for tenants and landlords that help to explain these issues.
1. Common Moisture Sources Causing Mold in Apartment Buildings
Mold spores can begin to form and reproduce within just a few days, given the right conditions. This involves water or a moisture source, oxygen, and temperature control. Mold typically grows best in dark spaces, such as inside cabinets, behind drywall, or in basements and attics.
There are many common living activity moisture sources often overlooked that can trigger mold growth, such as:
- Improper Air Conditioning – HVAC systems that are not properly maintained can release excessive amounts of moisture into the air. Further, if the AC is not working correctly, the air in the unit will get quite hot and humid, contributing to mold growth.
- Excessive Cooking & Bathing – Steam from the kitchen and bathroom creates the perfect environment for mold to form. If tenants are taking lots of long, hot showers or use the kitchen often, the landlord needs to be sure to provide adequate exhaust to these rooms.
- Washing & Drying Clothes – If there is a washer and dryer in the unit, these appliances may release quite a bit of steam and humid air. Either an exhaust system needs to be installed, or tenants must create airflow by opening windows or running a fan.
- Plants, Pets, and Aquariums – Some household plants require lots of water and put out lots of humidity. Further, having setups like aquariums or temperature-controlled enclosures for reptiles can emit excessive moisture into the air.
- Paint, Wall Paper, Sheetrock – If new coats of paint, wallpaper, or sheetrock are not applied correctly, it can trap moisture between the drywall. If a tenant does this on their own or the landlord cuts corners with shoddy workmanship, it can lead to mold growth.
- Intermittent Leaks and Spills – Even small spills throughout the unit can lead to mold growth if they are not taken care of right away. Intermittent leaks from faucets or pipes may also contribute to mold formation if fixed quickly.
- Humidifiers – Some tenants run humidifiers to add moisture to the air. However, these can contaminate the indoor air and promote mold growth if not used correctly or run too often.
- Occupant Respiration – This may be surprising, but excessive moisture can be caused by the occupants, especially if there are too many people living in the space.
2. What Happens if there is Mold in the Apartment?
Not all mold growth needs to be a cause of major concern. Some studies estimate that nearly 100% of homes in the US have some amount of mold growing inside. So, having mold in an apartment isn’t necessarily bad unless it is toxic or harmful. However, it can cause issues for people with mold sensitivities or allergies.
So What Mold is Dangerous?
The pattern and types of molds encountered in rental dwellings are often a result of a variety of factors and show up as “Spotty Mold Growth” (SMG). There’s no need to panic as mold is a natural part of our environment, but it should be addressed before it gets worse.
It is also highly advisable to test mold growth to ensure it isn’t toxic. Technicians will gather swab samples and air samples to confirm if mold is present and what type.
What Causes Spotty Mold Growth?
When we start to see SMG, it means you’ve hit the “tipping point” for conditions supportive of mold growth. This indicates an imbalance in temperature, pressure, humidity, mechanical ventilation, or airflow. Molds are well adapted to exploit the resulting micro-climates and grow beyond Normal Fungal Ecology (NFE). Fixing the imbalance can stop more mold from growing, but the mold should still be cleaned up.
Excessive mold growth can lead to structural damage to the home’s walls, floors, and drywall. Therefore, landlords should be incentivized to remediate mold as quickly as possible to avoid even worse damage down the road.
3. Mold Management Recommendations for Tenants
Tenants are more than capable of addressing small amounts of mold growth. In fact, the EPA’s Mold Cleanup guidelines state that healthy individuals can handle the job if the area is less than 10 square feet and growth is not associated with excessive water damage.
If small amounts of mold are present in easily accessible areas, such as around bathtubs or on walls, tenants may be able to clean it themselves. Using a solution made of 1-part bleach to 3 parts water will kill mold spores and remove any remaining stains.
But this mold will likely grow back unless the source of the moisture is addressed. Here’s what tenants can do to diminish mold growth:
- Open Windows – Use exhaust fans or keep windows open to vent spaces in the kitchen and bathroom.
- Minimize Contents – Reduce closet and cabinet contents to improve airflow.
- Mold Cleanup – Tenants should clean mold using OTC biocides as part of normal housekeeping.
- Notify Landlord – Let your landlord know if any excessive mold growth occurs or if it keeps returning after you clean it.
4. Mold Management Recommendations for Landlords
According to most state laws, the landlord is required to resolve any mold growth issues if they are notified by the tenant. Typically, the landlord or rental property owner is financially responsible for mold removal services.
Landlords should also be proactive by providing tenants with instructions and recommendations to manage moisture levels. This may involve installing fixtures or taking preventative measures, such as:
- Exhaust Fans – These should be installed in the bathroom and kitchen, preferably with auto switches that vent to the exterior.
- Closets – Install door vents or change solid door to slotted / louvered door.
- Ventilator – Monitors & manages moisture within the dwelling and improves IAQ.
- Annual Inspections – Have a professional conduct annual Moisture, Odor, and Mold (MOM) inspections.
- Mold Growth Cleaners – Use a certified firm to cleanse visible growth if the tenant can’t (and get clearance certification for your files).
- Education – Provide tenants with some of the EPA’s mold information below as part of their renter’s paperwork.
Need Help with Mold in Your Apartment?
The sooner you act, the better when addressing mold problems. Both tenants and landlords have responsibilities to prevent and treat mold issues. However, if excessive mold starts to grow, it may be time to call in professionals for removal and remediation services.
GreenWorks has helped countless rental property owners deal with mold growth issues in apartment buildings, homes, etc. We offer mold testing, removal, remediation services, and annual M.O.M testing to ensure that the property is safely inhabitable for all tenants.
Published on: Jan 24, 2020
Updated: Dec 10, 2021