With such a muggy and stormy summer season throughout the Midwest this year, concerns about water damage and the subsequent mold patches are especially justified if you’re renting from a management company — or even if you’re a landlord with rental property. Despite being such a common occurrence, mold is actually not regulated at a federal level, nor is there a set of uniform state laws that determine any standards for what an “acceptable” amount of mold means. California, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas are among the few that have passed laws aimed at developing guidelines and regulations for mold in indoor air, and only a few cities (like New York City or San Francisco) have passed local ordinances about mold.
There are still ways to navigate dealing with mold issues if you are either renting an apartment or property with mold damage or if you are a landlord who needs to make a rental property habitable for current or prospective tenants.
Mold Health Concerns
The presence of mold in a household can cause a variety of health-related issues, especially for pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) via the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals already susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.
Regardless of health status, symptoms of mold allergies and sensitivities can include:
- Eye irritation
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Skin rash
- Difficulty breathing
Missouri Mold Regulations
According to Missouri Business Alert, “Although more than 30 states have moved forward in regulating indoor mold conditions, there is no statute regarding mold in either Missouri law or federal law. Under Missouri Law, standard rental leases contain an “implied warranty of habitability,” which is a promise landlords make to keep his or her property habitable to tenants. However, whether and in what quantities mold is harmful to people’s safety is not clarified in the warranty.” Contacting a local city manager or mayor’s office or local health department is advised to know more about any mold-related ordinances.
Known for its humidity during the rainy summer and fall months, properties in St. Louis are at risk for mold and water damage. (As a result of multiple strains of mold spores in the area, it is advisable to regularly check the St. Louis County Pollen and Mold Center for specific information about daily mold counts and reports.)
Mold In The Home – As A Tenant
If you have found mold in your apartment or home, your landlord can be held liable for ensuring that the property is in a habitable condition for all tenants.
- Sign up for renters insurance – If the mold is making the space unlivable, be sure to check your renters insurance policy to see what can be covered under your plan.
- Document, document, document – At the first sign of mold, be sure to document all relevant information — water leaks and damage, the growing mold patches, doctor’s appointments and recommendations, and any other areas of burden that is a result of the mold.
- Written notice to your landlord – It is especially important to send a written document notifying your landlord or management company of the mold in the household.
- Check the terms of your lease – In many cases, landlords are held accountable for ensuring that the rental property is in a “livable” condition for their tenants.
However, if the mold damage is, in any way, a result of your own negligence, the landlord cannot be held liable. According to the online legal resource Nolo, “The liability picture changes when mold grows as the result of your own behavior, such as keeping the apartment tightly shut, creating high humidity, or failing to maintain necessary cleanliness. When a tenant’s own negligence is the sole cause of injury, the landlord is not liable.”
Mold In The Home – As A Landlord
Considering the summer storms, it is especially important to note that after flooding or water leaks, mold can form in as little as 24-48 hours. Mold can even have long-term effects by potentially decreasing property value if you eventually make a decision to sell.
Legally, landlords in all states (except Arkansas) are responsible for maintaining “fit and habitable” housing and for repairing any damage to rental property, which extends to fixing leaking pipes, windows, and roofs — the causes of most mold damage. As the landlord of a rental property, if you do not take care of any known water leaks or damage, resulting in mold growth, you may be held responsible if a tenant can prove to a judge or jury that the mold has caused a health problem or made for toxic living conditions. Mold can also be easily prevented by maintaining the structural integrity of the property (the roof, plumbing, and windows) and by addressing any water damage as quickly as possible. If there is a concern about mold affecting your tenants, be sure to enlist professional mold removal services in the St. Louis area to test and inspect the property for any signs of mold.
Mold doesn’t have to cost you time, money, or your sanity if you address the issue quickly and effectively. Whether you are a renter or are renting out a property, your well-being won’t be compromised if you take the proper steps to remediating mold or water damage.