Mold should be taken seriously by all landlords. Mold is a major environmental risk because it grows quickly in warm, moist environments like attics, basements, and other areas of structures with inadequate ventilation and humidity issues. No rental property is immune from a mold outbreak, despite the fact that mold is frequently connected with structures in moist climates. An outbreak might happen as a result of an unattended spill, broken plumbing, or even an improperly placed lawn sprinkler. A mold issue might result in expensive cleanup and repair costs for New York rental property owners and managers, as well as legal action from tenants who allege the mold caused their illnesses. Eastcoastlaws.com will outline all you need to know about New York rules regarding mold in rental properties or landlord responsibility and tenant rights when it comes to mold in New York rental properties.
What is Mold
Mold is a type of fungus that grows in moist environments and can form colonies on organic materials. Mold can appear as discoloration on walls, ceilings, and other surfaces, and can cause health problems if it is not removed. Some common species of mold include Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Stachybotrys.
Tenant Self-Help Strategies in New York
Two typical legal self-help tactics that some tenants decide to use after a mold outbreak in their apartment or rental home have been recognized by New York courts. When renters opt to cease paying rent because they believe the mold has rendered their apartment uninhabitable, this practice is known as “rent withholding.” (Note that regardless of what may appear in a written contract with tenants, landlords in New York are required to provide tenants with apartments in livable condition by the “implied warranty of habitability,” a legal notion.) The second tactic referred to as “fix and deduct,” entails tenants handling mold cleanup on their own and deducting the expense from their rent.
Is Landlord Responsible For Mold?
In New York, landlords are generally responsible for addressing mold issues in rental properties. There is no specific federal law or New York state law that outlines a landlord’s responsibilities regarding mold, but they are required to provide tenants with a safe and habitable living environment. In New York City, Local Law 55 in 2018 obligates landlords to use licensed professionals to remediate any mold patches of 10 square feet or more. If a landlord fails to address mold issues, tenants may have several options:
- Rent withholding: Tenants can stop paying rent, claiming that the mold has made their apartment uninhabitable.
- Repair and deduct: Tenants can hire a professional to fix the mold issue and deduct the cost from their rent.
- Withhold future rent payments: Tenants can withhold future rent payments until the landlord fixes the mold issue.
- File a lawsuit: Tenants can file a lawsuit against their landlord if they believe their health has been negatively affected by the mold and the landlord has not taken adequate steps to address the issue.
It is essential to report mold issues to the landlord and provide them with access to the affected area for repairs. If the landlord does not address the issue, tenants can seek legal advice and explore their options under state law.
Mold In Apartment Tenant Rights
In New York, tenants have certain rights regarding mold in their apartments. Landlords are responsible for properly addressing mold issues and ensuring that living conditions are safe and habitable. Here are some key points related to mold in rental properties:
- Mold Inspection: In New York City, landlords operating buildings with three or more units must inspect for mold and other allergens like roaches.
- Mold Remediation: Landlords are obligated to eliminate all visible mold and address the underlying issues that led to the mold, such as leaks, moisture, and lack of ventilation. In New York City, Local Law 55 requires landlords to use licensed professionals for mold remediation.
- Tenant Rights: Tenants can withhold rent or pursue a “repair and deduct” strategy if the landlord fails to address the mold issue1. However, it is essential to consult an attorney before withholding rent. Tenants can also report their landlords to the appropriate authorities, such as the NYC Department of Health or Housing, Preservation, and Development.
- Legal Action: If the landlord refuses to address the mold issue, tenants can file a lawsuit against their landlord to recover damages2. In some cases, tenants may be entitled to withhold future rent payments until the landlord fixes the issue.
- Mold Remediation Contractors: Tenants can check if their landlord’s contractor is licensed for mold remediation by searching the Department of State Department of Labor Database.
If you are a tenant facing a mold issue in your apartment, it is essential to communicate with your landlord, document the problem, and seek legal advice if necessary. Remember that you have rights and should not have to live in an environment with unaddressed mold issues.
Landlord Liability for Mold in New York
Currently, there is no federal legislation governing a landlord’s obligations in relation to mold. Additionally, there are no regulations in New York that specifically cover a landlord’s obligations or responsibility with regard to mold prevention and remediation. In New York City, steps have been taken to make it simpler for tenants to notify landlords of unresolved mold issues. The city offers an online complaint form that renters can use to report mold in their building as part of its 311 nonemergency services program. Tenants obtain a Service Request number after filing a mold complaint, which they can use to monitor the city’s progress in responding.
Tenants in New York who believe they have suffered harm as a result of their apartment having high levels of mold may also attempt to sue their landlord for damages to make up for their loss. Landlords may be held liable for damages if a court or jury finds that they negligently started a mold problem at a property or allowed one to persist there.
For instance, a local television station reported that a long-time resident of a New York City apartment building complained to her landlord when she found evidence of mold on the walls of her flat, which her doctor stated was the root of her rash. The landlord heard the tenant’s complaint and promised to send a plumber. The landlord requested $750 from the tenant as compensation, despite the tenant’s allegations that the plumber never showed up. The landlord claimed the tenant turned the plumber away.
In order to avoid paying the landlord, the tenant hired a mold treatment company, which found mold and determined the most likely cause of a moisture issue. Additionally, the tenant filed a complaint against the landlord with the city (through the aforementioned 311 programs), which prompted inspectors to issue violations and demand repairs. The landlord agreed to pay back the renter’s expenses, which included a $4,000 mold cleanup charge after the tenant made contact with the nearby television station.
Mold Disclosure Requirements in New York
High amounts of mold in rental homes must be disclosed to potential tenants or buyers, but New York has no laws or rules requiring this. Additionally, while federal law mandates lead paint disclosures, landlords are not subject to the same obligations with regard to mold.
However, if you want to advertise a property for sale, you should be prepared with answers to inquiries potential purchasers might make concerning plumbing, humidity, and ventilation problems in your building. This is in addition to any affirmative disclosure requirements.
Withholding Rent Due To Mold
In New York, tenants can withhold rent due to mold issues if the property becomes uninhabitable1. However, it is essential to follow proper procedures and consult with an attorney before withholding rent. Here are the steps you can take:
- Notify the landlord: Inform your landlord about the mold issue and create a paper trail by using certified mail or other documented methods.
- Document the issue: Take photos or videos of the mold and maintain records of your communications with the landlord.
- Consult with an attorney: Seek legal advice to understand your rights and options.
- Withhold future rent payments: Tenants can withhold future rent payments until the landlord addresses the mold issue.
- File a lawsuit: If the landlord refuses to address the mold issue, you can file a lawsuit against them.
Keep in mind that withholding rent can have serious consequences, and it is essential to follow proper procedures and consult with an attorney before taking this step.
Deducting Mold-Related Costs from Security Deposits in New York
You might want to subtract the cost of cleaning from a tenant’s security deposit if you think they left an apartment or rental unit with a mold problem (beyond normal wear and tear). According to New York law, landlords are permitted to do this as long as they give the tenant their deposit back in full within 14 days of the tenant’s lease expiring.
Preventing Mold Problems
Preventing mold problems requires proper maintenance and moisture control. Here are some steps to help prevent mold growth:
- Control humidity levels: Keep indoor humidity levels below 60% to reduce the growth of mold. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner, especially in damp areas such as bathrooms and basements.
- Repair leaks: Promptly fix any leaks in the roof, walls, or plumbing to prevent mold growth.
- Improve ventilation: Increase air circulation in your home by opening windows and using exhaust fans in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.
- Clean regularly: Clean and dry any areas that have been exposed to water within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth. Use a detergent solution to clean moldy surfaces, and make sure the area is completely dry before repairing or replacing materials.
- Use mold-resistant materials: When renovating or building, use mold-resistant materials such as mold-resistant drywall, paint, and carpet.
- Store items properly: Store items in well-ventilated, dry areas to prevent mold growth. Avoid storing items directly on the ground or in damp basements.
- Monitor for mold: Regularly inspect your home for signs of mold, such as a musty odor or discoloration on walls, ceilings, or floors.
By following these steps, you can help prevent mold growth and protect your health and the health of your home. However, if you suspect you have a mold problem, it is recommended to consult a professional mold inspector or remediator to assess the situation and recommend the appropriate action.
Mold Testing NYC Apartment
There are several ways to test for mold in a rental property:
- At-home test kit: Most hardware stores sell at-home mold test kits that can detect the presence of mold on surfaces. These tests are useful if the space in question is musty or stays damp without any visible mold. However, they will only tell you if mold is present on a surface and not what type of mold species you’re dealing with.
- Professional mold inspection: A professional mold inspection will be more expensive, but you’ll get a better idea about where the mold has spread. Most professionals will be able to tell you what type of mold is in your property without waiting for lab results.
- Consider the indoor air odor: Mold has a distinct musty odor, so if you notice a strong smell in your rental property, it could be a sign of mold.
- Look for discoloration around the apartment: Mold can appear as black, green, or white spots on walls, ceilings, and floors.
- Check your overall health: Mold exposure can cause respiratory infections, breathing difficulties, asthma attacks, and allergic reactions.
If you suspect mold in your rental property, it is essential to report it to your landlord and provide them with access to the affected area for repairs. In New York City, landlords are required to use licensed professionals to remediate any mold patches of 10 square feet or more.
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Fix a Mold Problem In New York State
There is no specific timeline for landlords to fix mold problems in New York State. However, landlords are required to provide tenants with a safe and habitable living environment, which includes addressing mold issues. In New York City, Local Law 55 in 2018 obligates landlords to use licensed professionals to remediate any mold patches of 10 square feet or more.
If a landlord fails to address mold issues, tenants may have several options, including rent withholding, repair and deducting, withholding future rent payments, or filing a lawsuit. It is essential to report mold issues to the landlord and provide them with access to the affected area for repairs. If the landlord does not address the issue, tenants can seek legal advice and explore their options under state law.
In summary, while there is no specific timeline for landlords to fix mold problems in New York State, they are required to provide tenants with a safe and habitable living environment, which includes addressing mold issues. If a landlord fails to address mold issues, tenants have several options to pursue under state law.