Mold in your apartment, what are your rights?

Mold in your apartment, what are your rights?
Watson claims the moment she discovered moisture and mold she called management. (Source: NBC12)

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - There’s mold in your apartment, what are your rights?

It’s a common question that comes in to 12 On Your Side.

Many renters just don’t know what to do. NBC12 is on the side of tenants, like Larnetta Watson, who says her landlord threatened to hold her responsible for cleaning up mold that started growing in her apartment.

Most of the callers we hear from, have questions, such as, '"Can I break my apartment lease early because of mold? Who’s responsible for cleaning up the mold?"

We spoke to an expert at Central Virginia Legal Aid Society and got answers that help you also.

Watson says she is packed and ready to leave Ashley Terrace apartments with her son. The two are temporarily staying with her mother.

Watson claims the moment she discovered moisture and mold she called management. She says, “I was standing by the closet and I could smell this foul wet clothing smell so I opened the closet and I saw there was water leaking from the light."

The problem was a clogged gutter which maintenance took care of but Watson says time passed and soon she says, mold was growing and spreading. Again she called the property manager and asked for temporary living arrangements until the mold was cleaned up.

She says the response she got was shocking. Watson says she was told, "We’re not taking anything off of your rent and we will not be putting you in temporary housing either. She says she was left speechless and adds, “Who would be okay with that?”

Watson says she then received a notice stating she was responsible for mold remediation and had 21 days to do it or be evicted. She says, according to her letter, “I was out of compliance. I did not notify her in a timely manner for them to rectify the issue with the mold before it got out of hand.”

NBC12 Investigates took Watson’s concerns to Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. Mold is a reason to break a lease says Director of Litigation, Martin Wegbreit.

Wegbreit says, “It’s no different than any other condition that would make a premises unfit or uninhabitable. It’s the landlord’s responsibility. By law, they have to provide fit and habitable premises.”

But, the tenant should notify the landlord in writing and keep a copy for yourself. Calling and showing up in person is not enough to guarantee your legal rights in court.

Wegbreit says, "Your right to collect damages. Your right to get a rent reduction doesn’t really start until the landlord knows and the basic way you prove the landlord knows is in writing.”

In this case, the day before Watson returned to her apartment to meet us, she got a second notice. This one is allowing her to break her lease by October 28th. She also returned to an apartment with no mold and a strong smell of bleach.

Watson was surprised and says, “This entire closet from behind you. This side back here and up here to here was filled with mold.” Wegbreit says, “Minor mold you may be able to take care of it with a good dose of bleach. But, for a major thing like you describe, my mold remediation people that I’ve talked to say, ‘No. Cover it up. Get rid of it for a while. It’s coming back. Just wait.’”

The site manager at Ashley Terrace apartments had no comment and referred me to KRS Holdings and Greater Richmond Rentals, the off-site property managers.

So far, I haven’t received a response to my call or the voice message I left.

To find out more about your rights as a tenant or a landlord, you can contact Central Virginia Legal Aid Society at 804-648-1012.

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