Mold, Pests and Other Issues You Need to Bring Up to Your Landlord
Everyone has the right to live in a safe, comfortable home, whether they're a homeowner or a renter. Tenant rights are a series of legal protections and entitlements designed to ensure fair treatment for those living in homes owned by someone else.
Local, state or national laws typically govern tenant rights, which often differ between states. Therefore, it's the tenant's responsibility to educate themselves about their rights and not assume they apply everywhere equally. This is particularly important when dealing with housing problems affecting their health. No one wants to live in a home infested by pests or mold, so tenants need to know their rights as well as their landlord.
Many tenants experience the same issues in their homes, with mold being a common complaint. Therefore, let’s address some of the most commonly asked questions on this subject.
Generally speaking, the tenant is responsible for maintaining their living space, which includes preventing the appearance and growth of mold. This includes:
- Cleaning the home regularly and ensuring there’s enough ventilation to prevent moisture from building up
- Promptly reporting any leaks or water damage to the landlord
- Ensuring humidity levels in the home are reasonable
Although the tenant must adhere to the responsibilities previously covered, this doesn’t mean the landlord doesn't have a part to play. They’re typically responsible for:
- Ensuring the property is in a habitable condition through regular maintenance
- Addressing any preexisting mold issues before a new tenant moves in
- Repairing leaks and resolving structural problems that can contribute to mold growth
You have several options if you've reported a mold problem to your landlord, but they haven't taken action:
- Send a formal written request for mold removal, outlining your concerns and any previous communications you’ve had with the landlord on this subject.
- You may be able to report the issue to a health or housing authority in your location.
- If the landlord still won’t help, you may need legal assistance to enforce your tenant rights.
- In extreme cases, you may be able to terminate your lease if the mold issue makes the property uninhabitable, but you should seek legal advice before taking this step.
If you discover mold in your rental unit that was present before you moved in, you should document the issue and inform your landlord as soon as possible. Landlords are typically responsible for addressing preexisting mold problems, so you shouldn’t have to deal with those that existed before you signed an agreement.
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Pest Control and Tenant Rights
Pest infestations are another complaint made by tenants. Let's address some of the most common questions about pests in the home.
As with mold, it’s usually the tenant’s responsibility to take all necessary steps to prevent pest infestations. Some things you can do include:
- Keep living spaces clean and free of food debris that might attract pests.
- Promptly report any signs of a pest problem to the landlord.
- Cooperate with any pest control measures recommended by the property management company.
Although they’re not responsible for day-to-day maintenance in the same way as the tenant, landlords still have responsibilities regarding pest control. They include:
- Maintaining the property to prevent pest infestations, including sealing cracks and gaps that allow pests to enter
- Responding promptly when the tenant reports pest issues
- Providing preventive pest control measures, such as seasonal pest control services
As of 2019, 25 states have enacted laws that address responsibilities regarding bedbugs in rental properties. The landlord is usually responsible for dealing with a bedbug infestation unless they can prove the tenant was responsible. This is particularly difficult in a multi-unit building, so it’s common to find the landlord covering the extermination company’s fee. However, if you live in a single-family home, the landlord may hold you responsible. The extermination company may be able to identify the source of the bedbugs, which might support your case if you’re not to blame.
If you've reported a pest issue to your landlord, but they haven't taken action, consider these steps:
- Send a formal written request for pest removal detailing your concerns.
- Research your local laws to understand your rights and responsibilities regarding pest infestations.
- If your landlord continues to neglect the issue, you may need to consult with an attorney to enforce your tenant rights.
- Keep records of all communication with your landlord and evidence of the pest problem, such as photographs and video recordings.
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