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Toxic Mold: Who's Responsible? Landlord or Tenant?

It's the question on every renter's mind: is it my landlord's fault? Sure, there are questions about paying rent and making sure the security deposit is repaid. But really, you are more concerned if you can get the landlord to make the place warmer, or cooler, or freshly painted.

One of those nagging questions comes up when there is the discovery of mold growing in the apartment. This is not to say you've left a slice of University Pizza in the fridge for too long and there is mold on it. That's your fault, you that forget to eat pizza. No, we are talking about toxic mold that grows where there is a lot of moisture in the house or apartment.

This mold can be found on wood or wallpaper, in the attic or in the basement, or under the kitchen sink. But who is responsible for cleaning it up?

Generally, tenants are responsible for general maintenance to the property they are renting. This means keeping the place sanitary and clean. Now, you don't have to make sure your clothes are off the floor, but it’s a good idea to make sure there isn't a layer of grime on the counters or standing water on the floor.

On the other hand, the landlord is responsible for assuring that the property is habitable. This means that the house has heat, running water, and meets building and safety codes. The landlord must repair these things as soon as possible.

Looking at these duties, it seems as though mold cleanup could depend on what caused it. In one instance, if there is a leak in a water pipe or a leak in the roof that caused drywall to get soaked and sprout mold would be a problem that the landlord would need to fix. However, if the tenant left water running or otherwise caused damage that led to mold, it would be the tenant's duty to clean it.

The twist here is that if the mold is there and is causing health problems, it would raise the issue of habitability. So even if the mold was caused by the tenant, there is a chance that the landlord would be responsible for fixing it, although they might be able to use the tenant's security deposit to do so.

So, if you're a landlord, be sure to inspect your property every so often to assure that there are not any water leaks in the plumbing or structure of the rental. If you're a tenant, be sure to look everywhere in the rental when you move in to make sure there isn't some mold growing that could be blamed on you.

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