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A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems
Written by: Kim Knight Perez, Esq.
Table of Contents
Introduction What is Mold? The Landlord's Responsibilities and the Tenant's Responsibilites How to Protect Yourself and Your Family Document, Document, Document Put the Landlord on Notice Clean Up or Move Out? A Note About Renters Insurance When to Contact a Lawyer Conclusion Appendix A: Call Record Appendix B: Sample Notice Letter to Landlord Appendix C: Sample Repair Letter to Landlord Appendix D: Tenant's Notice Checklist Appendix E: Things to Ask a Lawyer 3 3 6 8 8 9 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
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This is a practical guidebook. this book is not a substitute for legal advice. as each case is different. If your questions are not answered in this guide. What is Mold? Molds are microscopic fungi that exist in nature and are a normal part of the environment. Page | 3 . After reading this book. you should consult with an attorney who has experience with mold cases. However. which can linger for long periods of time. what your rights are and what the landlord’s rights are with respect to mold discovery. They reproduce by releasing tiny spores into the air.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Introduction In this guide we will discuss what mold is. you should be able to take some steps on your own to protect your property and your family. and what you can do to protect yourself and your family.
Used with permission. even indoors. Or when there is a lot of mold in one area. When mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin to grow indoors. The result usually looks like black pepper was sprinkled on the affected area: Photo by T.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems A certain level of mold spores in the environment is normal. then they start to grow. Mark Cordle. it may look like black liquid smeared on a surface: Photo taken by T. Mark Cordle. Page | 4 . Used with permission.
If the moisture problem is not fixed and mold continues to grow indoors. Inhaling or touching the mold or mold spores can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. Runny nose. Skin rash. Page | 5 . Some common areas of water intrusion are leaky windows. if not impossible.epa. surface will not fix the problem. it undoubtedly means that water or thick. skin. Moisture. However. to predict what symptoms any two people could exhibit. burst pipes and roof leaks. potentially dangerous substances. So if you find mold growing inside your home. it can produce allergens. and Your Home at http://www. there are some symptoms of mold exposure that are fairly common. damp air is getting inside somehow. and Irritation of the eyes. and lungs. the condition causing the moisture to get inside your home must be fixed or else the mold will never go away. irritants. they could be mild in some and serious in others. It is difficult. Red eyes. mold will not grow without moisture (See A Brief Guide to Mold. If people display symptoms. a faulty Merely cleaning the mold off the affected HVAC system.html).A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Importantly. and in some instances. Asthma attacks. nose throat.gov/mold/moldbasics. They are: Sneezing.
In many cases. if you suspect that you have been exposed to mold you should contact your doctor or the health department for further evaluation. The Landlord’s Responsibilities and the Tenant’s Responsibilities Under Georgia law.G. We will discuss how to make the landlord aware of the problem in the next chapter. § 44-7-13 and O.A. people will show symptoms only if they are allergic to mold in the first place (See Mold Basics at http://www. or has no reason to become aware of.C.C.A. § 44-7-14).G. This is absolutely necessary to protect your health and your home. In any event.rentlaw. That includes keeping the building free of harmful mold. a defect in the building causing the mold to appear. and the symptoms may not necessarily indicate the existence of mold.htm for more information). as well as to prove your case in court if you end up filing a lawsuit. Therefore. Not all of the symptoms will exist in all affected people. But a landlord will be relieved of this duty if he is not aware of. Symptoms will almost always disappear after affected people leave the mold-infested areas. Page | 6 .A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Symptoms can either appear quickly or stay dormant for some time. the landlord has the responsibility to keep the premises in good repair (the statutes that apply are O.com/mold/ moldbasics. it is the tenant’s responsibility to make the landlord aware of a mold problem.
Finally. In other words. though. That means that if mold is found in the home. You should also check your lease to find out whether any of the problems you are experiencing are covered in the language of the lease. just to be sure that you do not subject yourself to penalties. you should make sure that you follow the lease completely. Keep this information handy because you will need it when you give the landlord notice of the problem. it may be necessary for the landlord to move the tenant to another residence either permanently or while the home is being repaired. mold will continue to grow back if the source of the mold is not identified and repaired. Note that under Georgia law. you will probably be justified in breaking the lease and moving out. once the landlord is made aware of the problem and fails to do anything. simply bleaching the affected area will rid the area of mold for awhile. the landlord should undertake reasonable measures to rid the home of the mold. If so. However. Be sure to check with an attorney before making this decision. the problem can easily be remedied. Importantly. it is extremely important to know that both the tenant and the landlord have the responsibility to behave reasonably. the lease should show the landlord’s name and address. it is probably a breach of the lease for the landlord to know about a mold problem and fail to fix it. but if the source of the moisture intrusion is not repaired the mold will appear again.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Once the tenant has made the landlord aware that mold has been found in the home. In some cases. Therefore. and the mold is not having a detrimental effect on the Page | 7 .
Document! First. How to Protect Yourself and Your Family If you have identified excessive or harmful mold in your home. pictures are usually sufficient. On the other hand. but also destroying the tenant’s credibility if a significant problem develops. you should act quickly to protect yourself. personal belongings. it would likely have the opposite effect of not only ruining the relationship between tenant and landlord. I. Take pictures of mold on any walls. Take as many pictures as you can. do so then write down what you find. then the landlord could be subject to penalties under law. In fact. Know that in most cases it will not be necessary to immediately hire an inspector to come to your home and conduct environmental tests.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems residents. If you can search to find the source of the moisture intrusion without destroying any part of the home. your family and your home. flooring. Document. Below is an outline of steps you can take on your own and without the aid of an attorney. At this stage. Document. or anything else that you see. Page | 8 . if the landlord is made aware of a mold infestation and he or she does nothing to remedy it. document the existence of mold as much as possible. then constant complaints by the tenant to the landlord will not be useful.
The doctor may want to see pictures detailing the amount of mold you found in the home. Send a copy Page | 9 .” After you call the property manager or landlord. You may be entitled to reimbursement for medical expenses from your landlord. Send the letter via certified mail. the date and time of the call. Make sure that you document the call. A telephone call to the landlord or property manager is a good first step. do not try to remove any large areas of mold on your own. but check with an attorney to see if this applies to you. you need to put the landlord on notice of the problem. II. exactly what is said. Plus. if you or any other resident in the home is having health problems and you suspect it is due to the mold.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Additionally. Clean up should be done by a professional. A sample call record for your use is attached to this book at Appendix “A. Next. as well as a notation of any follow-up action needed by either party. Also – ask the doctor for a copy of the report and diagnosis so that you can show it to your landlord as proof of the problem. return receipt requested (you can do this at any post office). you must be able to demonstrate the existence of the mold in order for the landlord to do something about it. including the name of the person you talk to. You should also attach copies of the pictures you took. so take your pictures with you along with a description of the exact symptoms you are experiencing. Put the Landlord on Notice Next. you should see a doctor right away. write a letter to him or her describing the conversation.
ten (10) days is reasonable. even better. If he or she offers to clean up the mold and fix the underlying problem right away. If it can be done with you living in the home. Clean Up or Move Out? What you do next depends on the landlord’s response. This is something that is perfectly If the landlord does not offer to inspect or remedy the problem. summarize the conversation and describe the areas in the home where mold was found. In the author’s opinion. In your letter. End the letter by telling the landlord that you expect a response from him or her with a plan to remedy the problem within a reasonable time period. If not. reasonable and justified by the situation. you should negotiate for the landlord to provide you with a place to stay while the clean up takes place. you need to decide what you want to do: do you want to stay in the home and wait to have it treated. called “Sample Notice Letter to Landlord” is attached here at Appendix “B” for you to tailor to your situation. or do you want to get out of the home and find another place to live? Part of the decision will rest on any health problems that you or your family is experiencing. as well as any symptoms experienced by you or anyone living there.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems of the letter via first class mail or facsimile. A letter. You should make sure that both the property manager and the landlord get a copy of the letter. Know that if the home is Page | 10 . III. great. even if you spoke to just one of them.
gov for more information). Page | 11 . A sample letter is provided in this book at Appendix “C.just to make sure that you go about it the way Georgia law prescribes.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems not cleaned thoroughly and properly. you could start experiencing health problems again once you move back in. attach the estimate and receipt of payment to your rent check(s) so you can prove that you paid for the work. This is called the “repair and deduct” rule. put this in writing and send it to the landlord via certified mail.georgia. Again. If a representative from either office comes to your residence. If you decide to stay in the home and pay for the clean-up yourself. If you want to stay in your home but cannot afford to have it repaired. Again. they may issue a citation to the landlord and require that he or she fix the problem right away. If you go this route.” Once the work is complete. then you may choose to get either the government authorities or an attorney involved. you could call your county’s code enforcement office or the Georgia Department of Community Health (See http://dch. be sure to let the landlord know that you have decided to repair the condition yourself and that you plan to hire a remediation company. In Georgia. you should check with an attorney before deducting your rent . It is important to know that you will only be allowed to deduct expenses that are reasonable – so it is best to get several estimates before choosing a remediation company. then you can probably deduct the expenses from your rent.
In the letter you should say that since they have failed to keep the place in a safe.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems On the other hand. mold can grow on personal property. The best way to find out is to read the policy or call your insurance agent.atlantabar. You can call and for a small fee speak to an attorney for a thirty minute consultation about your particular circumstance. Go to http://www. you should send the landlord a letter via certified mail. IV. such as furniture. you need to find a safer place to live.org or call (404) 5210777. jewelry. Renters insurance usually covers damage to a tenant’s personal property in the home. First. In some extreme cases. and clothing. let’s say that your landlord has not agreed to repair the condition and you decide that you want to move out. confirming that they have failed to fix the problem after you have given them notice. and in that situation you should check the policy to see if the insurance company will pay to have your items either cleaned or replaced. livable condition. A Note About Renters Insurance Many tenants have renters insurance and want to know how it applies to a situation when mold is found in their homes. it is advisable to check with an attorney to confirm that you have followed the law properly and have not subjected yourself to any unnecessary penalties. Next. A great resource is the Atlanta Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service. Page | 12 .
Most mold cases can be resolved by the methods outlined in this book. or A landlord who does not seem to understand the seriousness of the situation. you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible: A landlord who refuses to respond to you at all. if you encounter any of the following issues. A landlord you cannot locate. Page | 13 . Serious health problems with thousands of dollars in medical bills. you will still need to ensure that the underlying problem is fixed so that it does not continue. However. The landlord’s absolute refusal to take any action even after you have properly put him/her on notice. So even if your insurance company will pay for your personal items to be cleaned or replaced. When to Contact a Lawyer Not all cases of mold discovery will be justified by hiring a lawyer because the fees may very well exceed the cost to fix the problem.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Renters insurance will probably not pay for the repair of the home because that is generally a landlord’s responsibility.
It is a small price to pay for peace of mind. you may want to pay for a brief consolation with an attorney just to make sure that you are following the law properly. Conclusion In this guide we have discussed what the responsibilities are of the tenant and the landlord when mold is found in the tenant’s home. This area of the law is specialized – encompassing parts of landlord/tenant law.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Despite the above scenarios. We also discussed what steps tenants can take on their own to negotiate with the landlord and rid the home of mold. please consult a lawyer who is qualified in this area of the law. but if you need additional help that is not covered in this book. If you reach the point where you need to hire a lawyer. Page | 14 . be sure to check the lawyer’s experience and credentials to make sure he or she has handled mold cases before. Hopefully this guide has helped you. contracts law and personal injury law – and you need someone who knows what they are doing.
A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Appendix “A” CALL RECORD To: Number: Date: Time: Length of Call: Circle One: Spoke Left Voice Mail Left Message No Answer -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------What I Said What He/She Said Follow Up Needed: Page | 15 .
RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED Landlord Company Name Company Address Re: Mold in My Apartment Dear Mr. I would appreciate a response within ten (10) days of this letter along with your plan of action. add it…] Several family members are having health problems that could be related to the mold. We are going to a doctor in the next week and will let you know what we find out. I request that you act quickly to investigate the problem then contact me with your plan to fix it. In the meantime. I have attached copies of various photographs I took over the last week showing all the areas where mold was found. Landlord: This letter is to confirm our telephone conversation today when I told you about the mold I found in the _____ areas of my apartment.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Appendix “B” [Sample Notice Letter to Landlord] Date VIA FACSIMILE AT (123) 456-7890 & CERTIFIED MAIL. Sincerely. Thank you for your prompt attention. [Your Signature] Your Name cc: Property Manager (Via First Class Mail) Page | 16 . [If this applies. Let me know if you have any questions.
I am in the process of obtaining estimates at this time and will let you know when the work has been completed. Landlord: As you know. Thank you for your prompt attention. Therefore. Since I gave you notice of the problem twelve (12) days ago. there is a great deal of mold in my apartment. I am aware that this is a remedy to be that is available to me under Georgia law. Once it is. RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED Landlord Company Name Company Address Re: Mold in My Apartment Dear Mr. Sincerely. I plan to deduct the repair costs from my rent and will promptly provide you with receipts as proof of the repair. Let me know if you have any questions. I am writing to put you on notice that I intend to stay in my apartment and pay for the mold repair and clean up myself.A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Appendix “C” [Sample Repair Letter to Landlord] Date VIA FACSIMILE AT (123) 456-7890 & CERTIFIED MAIL. [Your Signature] Your Name cc: Property Manager (Via First Class Mail) Page | 17 . you have made no effort to contact me and offer to repair my unit.
A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Appendix “D” TENANT’S NOTICE CHECKLIST (Use this checklist to put the landlord on notice of the mold problem) √ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ACTION ITEM Take pictures of any and all mold you find Make a doctor’s appointment if you are experiencing health problems Check your lease for any provisions regarding mold or harmful substances Check your renters insurance policy to see if mold clean-up is covered Call the landlord or property manager and take notes of the conversation Confirm the phone conversation in a written letter Send the letter via certified mail and copy the property manager (if there is one) Page | 18 .
A Georgia Renter’s Guide to Mold Problems Appendix “E” THINGS TO ASK A LAWYER (Questions that you should ask a lawyer) √ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ QUESTION Is it OK for me to move out without an agreement with my landlord? Am I entitled to receive reimbursement for medical expenses? How do I go about getting my landlord to pay my medical bills? Can I use the “repair and deduct” procedure to fix my home and deduct the cost from my rent? Can I deduct from my rent for mold problems? Page | 19 .
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