One of the most significant benefits of renting instead of owning is being able to call a landlord when something goes wrong. What happens if your health becomes at risk from prolonged maintenance or negligent repairs? Here’s what you can do as a renter to protect yourself.
If you live in the “Sunshine State,” you must know that Florida weather is a magnet for mold issues. So what can you expect from a health risk situation? If you’re renting, we did some research, but please keep in mind that this blog post intends to share information and educate everyone dealing with this matter. We highly recommend contacting the local Health Department to learn more about the laws where you live. If you suspect you have a case of mold at home, please contact us as soon as possible.
There is no federal law covering a landlord’s responsibilities regarding mold in Florida. Also, any laws address a landlord’s duties or liability regarding prevention and remediation. Governor Crist signed Mold / Inspection legislation (SB2234) into law. The new law regulates the Mold Inspection and Remediation Industry. A detailed document from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows what states consider mold-related legislation that might affect residential rentals.
Mold is often associated with buildings in humid environments, and no rental property is immune from an outbreak of this matter. An unattended spill, faulty plumbing, or even a misdirected lawn sprinkler can make it appear. Read on to learn about five tenant rights or rules in Florida regarding mold in rental properties.
Mold Issues And What It Means
Mold is an environmental hazard that can cause concern among renters. It comes in different colors and shapes. For example, some are black, white, green, or gray. Others are powdery or shiny. The point is that it can look and smell very unappealing and hide between walls, floors, and ceilings or in more minor traffic spots, like basements and attics.
However, remember that even though most molds aren’t harmful to your health, it takes an expert to know whether a particular is dangerous or just annoying.
Protection Rights For Renters Living In Spaces With Mold
1. Renter Self-Help Strategies Against Mold
Courts recognize two common legal self-help strategies that some renters pursue when a mold outbreak occurs in their apartment or rental home.
The first, known as “rent withholding,” is when tenants decide to stop paying rent, claiming it has made their renting space not safe for living. (Regardless of what may appear in a written lease with tenants, Florida landlords need to provide tenants comfortable and secure apartments by the “implied warranty of habitability,” a legal doctrine.)
The second strategy is “repair and deduct.” In this case, tenants take care of the cleanup, and the landlord will subtract the cost from their rent.
2. Landlord Liability for Mold
Currently, there is no federal law covering landlords’ responsibilities for mold. And the State of Florida doesn’t have any laws that address duties or liability when it comes to prevention and remediation.
Nevertheless, tenants who believe they have been or are under the threat of high concentrations of mold in their rental space can try to compensate for their loss. How? by suing their landlord in court and recovering some of the damages.
If a judge or jury agrees that the landlord negligently created a problem or allowed one to continue at a property, he could be charged for any harm.
3. Mold Disclosure Requirements
While federal law requires disclosures about lead paint, it doesn’t impose a similar duty on landlords when it comes to mold. Far from any affirmative disclosure requirement, if a landlord decides to list a property for sale or rent, it should be ready to respond to potential questions that tenants might ask about plumbing, humidity, and ventilation issues in the renting space.
4. Deducting Mold-Related Costs from Security Deposits
Florida’s law allows landlords to deduct the cost of cleaning from a tenant’s security deposit if they believe they have caused a problem in the rental property.
They need to give the renter a required notice with a written explanation of the damage costs (along with any other claimed damages) within 30 days of the tenant’s lease termination.
If the tenant doesn’t object (within 15 days), the landlord must return the remainder of the deposit to the tenant within 30 days of the written explanation (Fla. Stat. Ann. § § 83.49).
5. Repairs Not Made By The Landlord Or Property Management Company
Suppose the landlord does not complete the repair or maintenance within the time limit. In that case, the parties may extend the time by written agreement. The tenant may abandon the premises, retain the amounts of rent withheld, terminate the lease, and avoid any liability for future rent or charges under the lease.
This section is cumulative to other existing remedies, and this section does not prevent any tenant from exercising their other remedies.
To conclude, as we said before, the content of this text is for informational and educational purposes. Contact a legal expert and a professional testing company specializing in these matters if you need to learn more about your rights and obligations as a tenant for mold cases in your rental unit.