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Help - tenant wants to sue over mold!? - Landlord Forum thread 137815

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Help - tenant wants to sue over mold!? by Anonymous on March 4, 2007 @14:16

Okay, so I have this problem tenant who claims that her daughter is sick because of mold in the house. I have not been allowed to do an inspection and refuse to pay someone $300 to do one when I'm not there especially when I've read reports that so many people are scamming homeowners nowadays on this. So, she says she's gonna sue me and take the house from me because the mold is making he daughter so sick and I won't do anything about it. I will repair what I can but don't have much money for replacing rafters and large items (if there is infact mold) at this time and if she's convinced it's mold I'll let her out of her lease without penalty. This woman smokes in my property also, which is very upsetting to me - uh, don't you think her child could be sick because of that. Anyone every hear of this, do I call her bluff and evict her for late payment and violation of her lease (she has two dogs which are not allowed) or just wait till the 15th and hope she doesn't tie me up in court over this?! I'm in Ohio.
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Re: Help - tenant wants to sue over mold!? by OHlandlord on March 4, 2007 @16:17 [ Reply ]
I hear this monthly. "I have to move from my current apt, because my kids are sick from the black mold in my unit!" (If I had a dollar for every time I hear this story from an applicant...) Let me guess, she's late on her rent and probably owes you for back rent; you just asked her for the money, am I right?
Not all mold is dangerous, only toxic black mold. (If all mold was dangerous we wouldn't have penicillin or blue cheese.) Call the health dept. and ask them to check. If it is black mold, they will tell the tenant she cannot re-enter the dwelling. They will instruct you to have the premises fixed. If not, the TENANT (not you) should clean it up with a bleach and water solution. There was no mold before she moved in, right? (There's no need to replace rafters! At worst, you may have to cut out a piece of drywall.) I believe you can also get a mold test kit from a big box store like Lowe's (but I don't know how accurate they are, and it doesn't have the authority of a report from the health dept.)
Did she say where the mold was? If it is in a bath it usually means the tenant has poor cleaning habits and is not using the vent fan when bathing. If so, it is her fault. Insist she clean it up. OH law says: " 5321.05. Obligations of tenant.
(A) A tenant who is a party to a rental agreement shall do all of the following:
(1) Keep that part of the premises that he occupies and uses safe and sanitary; ...
(3) Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by him as clean as their condition permits;"

If it is elsewhere, it can be caused by too much humidity in the unit. Did you put in a new gas furnace? Does it or the tenant have a humidifier running? Is the place especialy air tight? Are all the storm windows down tightly? Is there no air circulation around where she says the mold is? (Too many boxes piled up?) Is there (and is she using) a vent fan in the kitchen?
The tenant is bluffing. If she was really concerned about black mold she would allow you in to check and repair. Give her a 24 hour notice to enter form (you can leave it on her front door). Then go back the next day and go in and check out the situation. If she refuses you entry, document it (and let her know that you are documenting her refusal to enter). Then try it again with a time that she agrees to (or another time if she won't give you one). Document again if she won't let you in. That way, if it does turn out to be something dangerous, you can prove that you attempted to detect & correct the situation, but she wouldn't let you. It will be hard to collect anything from a lawsuit against you, if you can prove that she wouldn't let you correct the problem.
If you have no proof of dangerous mold, proceed with the eviction. Since I hear this story every month from applicants, I always call the health dept. and ask if the story is true. Only once in 15 yrs., has the applicant actually had to leave their last place for black mold. Although Ohio can be very damp, black mold is not common.

Re: Help - tenant wants to sue over mold!? by Anonymous on March 5, 2007 @18:51 [ Reply ]
I am a tenant and before moving in my landlord said there is some mold in the home. He told us that he had painted over it and that should be fine. At that time I asked he if he could make sure that is had been taken care of. My son has some health toubles and I was just making sure it would not effect him. So far we have not had any troubles with this until latly. I myself have come down with what they think might be caused being around black mold. I an not after my landlord he is a realy nice person and we have not had any troubles with him. I just dont know what to do about this. Any one avice would be helpfull.

Thank you all, from Alabama.

Re: Help - tenant wants to sue over mold!? by Anonymous on March 6, 2007 @20:42 [ Reply ]
Thank you so much for your comments! I called the health department and he said unfortunately since there are no federal guidelines, the health dept does not test or inspect for mold. He is sending me some information/contractor names. The person I spoke with was in the environmental division and he said that since there are no guidelines, everyone just does their own thing - so I'm gonna think the tenant cannot sue for this. Also, he did mention that not all black mold is toxic and that only a lab test can determine the difference (my tenant claims that the mold is toxic, that she has proof because she has pictures, but without lab testing...). The EPA and CDC both recommend that mold is cleaned and that humidity levels are maintained. I'm calling her bluff and posting a 3-day eviction notice tomorrow.

Thanks again!

Re: Help - tenant wants to sue over mold!? by OHlandlord on March 6, 2007 @21:39 [ Reply ]
I guess it just depends on your local health department. Ours does this type of testing all the time (maybe its just because this area is so damp and they get so many calls about it.) A photo can only show that mold or mildew is present, not what type it is. If this is the "proof" she is relying on, it wouldn't stand up in court. I'd hit her with the bit about being in violation of her tenant duties according to OH law. She hasn't kept the place clean, sanitary, or the plumbing in clean condition. Serve her, and tell her she needs to clean it up before she leaves!
Re: Help - tenant wants to sue over mold!? by Anonymous on March 7, 2007 @01:16 [ Reply ]
This is easy

Make sure your tenants aren't living with mold.

I know this is a landlord site, but I don't support landlords allowing tenants to live with mold.

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