We represent tenants in lawsuits on behalf of tenants who have been forced out of their rent controlled homes due to mold. Mold infestations can have serious consequences for tenants. Prolonged mold exposure can lead to a variety of health problems for tenants. These include throat/eye irritation, headaches, congestion, coughing, asthma, and skin irritation.
What do I do if I have Mold?
Inform your landlord (in writing)
It is hard to hold your landlord responsible for something they don’t know about. If you are dealing with water leaks, or visible mold in your unit, notify your landlord or property manager immediately. Make sure to inform them in writing, and keep copies of everything.
Take Photos and Start a File
Take photos and keep copies of your complaints / communications with your landlord. If you communicate with your landlord by text, download copies of your text messages periodically. If you lose your phone you lose the texts. You’ll want to have evidence of when the problem started in case you need to take legal action. If your landlord refuses to make repairs make sure you properly documented your requests.
Consult your Doctor
If your health is being effected by mold, see a doctor. It can be hard to track causation for any of these symptoms, as a host of irritants can trigger them. Nevertheless, if you end up in court claiming that your apartment’s mold made you suffer, you’ll want to have medical records to back you up.
Get a Mold Test
There are ways to test whether high levels of mold are present. Ask your landlord to test your home for mold. Air and surface samples are best. Consider getting testing done yourself if your landlord refuses to do testing or share results. This should be done by a certified mold specialist.
Don’t Clean the Mold Yourself
Most of the time mold requires professional treatment. Neither you nor your landlord should be wiping down walls with cleaning supplies. This can spread the mold to the air, and is at best a temporary fix. It also can have the negative result of wiping away evidence of a problem. Most of the time mold will grow back if wiped away because mold can live inside walls. To be safe document the problems before attempting any cleaning.
If test results come back positive for high levels of mold, be prepared that there may not be a quick fix. Proper abatement can involve tearing out floors, walls and ceilings. This should not be done while you are in the unit. This means you may have to move out temporarily.
Be sure to get the names and contact info for the contractors or mold abatement crews who do the work. And insist on getting it in writing from your landlord that you can move back after the work is done.
If you don’t trust your landlord or continue to experience health issues after you move back in, hire a third party to do a follow-up mold test afterwards to make sure the problem has been resolved.
Report Your Landlord to the City
If your landlord doesn’t take proper action, contact the SF Department of Public Health. They’ll send an inspector out and, if your problem warrants it, serve your landlord a notice of violation. This can be helpful in compelling your landlord to act (if they refused to do so), and can be useful evidence for purposes of a potential lawsuit.
Consider Moving Out
Moving should be a last resort. But if mold is impacting your health you may have to decide what’s more important – your health or your rent control. If you’ve followed the steps above and your landlord still refuses to fix the issues, you may have grounds to sue for constructive eviction.