Mold in Rental Homes: Landlord Responsibilities

Mold in Rental Homes: Landlord Responsibilities

Every landlord needs to take mold growth seriously. Mold exposure can cause serious health effects in addition to unpleasant smells and being an eyesore. Mold thrives in multiple regions, making it a top environmental and health hazard. It grows on any surface with past or present water leaks or damage.

In rental homes, mold grows in damp areas like bathrooms, basements, or attics, and it loves warm, poorly lit, minimal air flow areas. Mold is also known to develop in new homes due to moisture in building materials.

Although mold growth is often associated with wet climates, it can develop due to faulty plumbing, an unattended spill, or even misguided lawn sprinklers. If you own or manage a rental property in Maryland, mold could present costly cleanup bills or even prompt a lawsuit from affected residents.

Understanding your responsibilities as a Maryland landlord will make you better prepared for the likely chance your rental property develops mold.

According to Maryland law, landlords in all regions must provide their tenants with a safe and hospitable environment. Maryland is detailed on what is hospitable and what is not. Requirements include, but are not limited to, ensuring properties have heating, electricity, and running water, are rodent-free, and don't possess any structural damage.

But currently, Maryland doesn't have laws that address a landlord's duties or liability concerning mold prevention and remediation. That leaves landlords wondering what could happen if mold appears in one of their rental properties and causes a tenant to fall ill. Removing mold as soon as it is detected is the best action to avoid unnecessary legal proceedings and concerns.

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In 2019, approximately 33% of all Maryland residents were renters. With over a third of Marylanders renting, this presents many opportunities for residents to cause a serious mold problem.

Renters have a few options for addressing mold issues if they feel their landlords are not maintaining a safe environment. A landlord may have to compensate a tenant if a judge or jury agrees the landlord neglected their rental property and created a mold problem or let one remain unaltered.

Aside from lawsuits, a tenant may withhold rent claiming that mold made their home uninhabitable. Maryland landlords are bound by the "implied warranty of habitability" that requires them to provide habitable living arrangements, regardless of any rental agreement.

Residents may also employ the "repair and deduct" strategy. That allows tenants to fix the mold presence by themselves, or hire a professional mold remediation company, suggests Superior Damage Restoration, and deduct those costs from their future rent payments. Both strategies can be averted if rental units remain mold-free by routine maintenance.

Mold growth needs to be addressed within 30 days of a written notice or maintenance request. In Maryland, a tenant can move out without bearing responsibility for future rent if the landlord ignores maintenance requests.

Every landlord wishes to keep their rental unit in immaculate shape, but mold can ruin rental property and may be expensive to remove. That's why tenants and landlords need to work together to prevent mold in your rental.

Understanding the difference between mold caused by a tenant and mold caused by outside circumstances is essential, especially if you wish to charge tenants for mold damage.

There are certain instances where a landlord can charge renters for mold remediation costs. If a tenant doesn't ventilate a bathroom during and after showering, mold can develop quickly on walls and ceilings.

Residents can eliminate this by opening windows, doors, and running fans. Also, failure to clean walls, fans, carpets, and floors can cause mold to grow and spread over days.

Sometimes tenants don't report leaks or other water-related issues to their landlords. If tenants don't inform their landlords of excess moisture and subsequent mold develops, they can be held responsible for cleanup and damages.

person signing contract

A landlord can charge the tenant or deduct the funds from their security deposit if a mold issue is caused by a lack of upkeep or failure to maintain a certain level of cleanliness.

Maryland law allows this as long as property owners provide tenants with a written explanation of mold remediation costs and any other charges related to tenant-caused mold development. However, the landlord should deliver it to tenants within 45 days of their lease agreement termination.

Although not explicitly stated in Maryland law, landlords are required to lead and provide mold-free environments for their residents. Routinely checking your buildings or property's plumbing and drainage systems can prevent undiscovered moisture from accumulating in ceilings and walls.

If you ignore a mold problem, the following events will provide a headache and more time and effort than the original problem of excess moisture. Tenants and landlords each have a responsibility to keep their environment mold-free. Early elimination of excess fluid will prevent landlords and tenants from seeking legal or financial action.