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What are my rights as a renter if there is mold present in my apartment?

1 Answers. Asked on Oct 01st, 2013 on Environmental Law - Washington
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I live on the ground floor of the complex and the smell of mold is present in the master bedroom and master closet. The owner said to give the dehumidifier a week or two and see if that solves the problem. There is a pungent smell, however, the carpet is not wet. My unit was built on a concrete slab, there is a PVC pipe attached to the side of the wall to the master bedroom, and a connecting joint for a smaller PVC pipe. There is black mold on the outside of the unit at the joint. I have asthma and allergies, which is being exacerbated by the presence of mold spores. I contacted the King County Health Department and they suggested a professional test the air quality. They also suggested the carpet and pad be replaced in that room, however, I understand the owner may not agree to that. What do I do now?
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Answered on Oct 07th, 2013 at 1:46 PM

I am only licensed to practice law in the state of Ohio but have experience representing landlords and tenants regarding mold issues. 

Based on that perspective and the facts as you explain them, I don't think that running a dehumidifier will solve your mold problem. 

For significant mold growth to occur, there must be a source of water (which could be invisible humidity), a source of food, and a substrate capable of sustaining growth. Common building materials, such as plywood, drywall, furring strips, carpets, and carpet padding are food for molds.  See,_assessment,_and_remediation

With that in mind, I suggest that you make a written demand on your landlord to undertake an appropriate investigation and corrective action.  If he/she expresses reluctance based on cost, you may want to encourage the landlord to tender the matter to his/her insurance company.  Tenant claims based on mold should be covered by the landlord's insurance policy.  If the landlord still refuses to take any action, you may have to engage an attorney licensed in the state of Washington to file a legal action against the landlord.

At the very least, the source of water intrusion must be repaired first.  After that is completed, replacement of the damaged wall, flooring and carpet should be completed.

In addition, the local health department's suggestion for having air samples taken is a good one.  You should also consider testing the mold directly to determine which type of molds you are dealing with.  Some are more harmful to human health than others.  The cost for such testing could be in the $300 -$500 range depending on the number of samples taken.  You should be able to find a qualified mold testing and abatement firm in your area through a web search.

Finally, you should also consider staying out of the contaminated room as much as possible until the remediation is completed.

I hope this is helpful.  Good luck.

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