Mold Liability in Rental Properties

The discovery of mold on rental property usually means costly remediation and litigation between the tenant(s) and the landlord.  However, California is one of the few states that have taken steps toward establishing permissible mold standards.  California’s “Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001” authorizes the state’s Department of Health Care Services (“DHCS”) to set permissible levels of indoor mold exposure for sensitive populations, which include children and people with compromised immune systems.  The California law also allows the DHCS to develop identification and remediation standards for contractors, owners, and landlords and requires landlords to disclose to current and prospective tenants the presence of any known or suspected mold. This requirement pertains to both commercial and residential tenants.  The law also requires commercial or industrial tenants who become aware of mold to inform their landlord.  Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 26142.

Residential tenants are further protected from mold and mold liability by the implied warranty of habitability, which requires the landlord to make sure the premises are livable, which typically means that the rental unit is free from hazardous substances and that there is adequate water, heat, and weatherproofing. Generally, the warranty of habitability does not extend to commercial leases.

As for eliminating the mold, that responsibility may depend on who caused the mold. In some cases, this  can be traced to the tenant, in which case they will be responsible for costs associated with eliminating the mold.  However, if the cause can be traced to the landlord, or part of the rental unit that the landlord is responsible for (such as the plumbing), the landlord will have to remove the mold and can be held responsible for any other associated damages, including injuries suffered by the tenant due to exposure to particular forms of toxic mold.

It is always recommended to consult a lawyer before pursuing or defending any legal action concerning  mold liability.  Ezer Williamson Law provides a wide range of both transactional and litigation services to individuals and businesses. We have successfully prosecuted and defended various types of business and property claims. Contact us at (310) 277-7747 to see how we can help you with your business or real estate law concerns.

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