How to Prevent (or Manage) Mold Problems in Your Home

Prevention is the best way to decrease the chances that mold will begin to grow in your rental unit. Take the following steps, which are especially important if you live in a humid environment or have spotted mold problems in the past:

Know what you’re looking for. For practical tips on identifying and cleaning up mold in residential settings, check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publication, A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home. You will find other other useful information, at the EPA website section on Molds and Moisture. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website includes many resources about mold from various federal and state agencies.

Look before you sign the lease. Check over the premises and note any mold problems, such as mold growing on water-soaked walls or ceilings. Ask the landlord to fix any moisture problems (such as leaking pipes, windows, or roofs) before you move in. Check with the prior tenant, if possible, and ask if there were problems with moisture and mold.

Practice good housekeeping. Recognize the factors that contribute to the growth of mold and take steps to discourage it. In particular:

  • ventilate the rental unit
  • avoid creating areas of standing water -- for example, by emptying saucers under houseplants, and
  • clean vulnerable areas, such as bathrooms, with cleaning solutions that will discourage the growth of mold. See the Nolo article How to Clean Up Mold in Your Home for details.

Report signs of mold. Immediately alert your landlord to any specific signs of mold, or conditions that may lead to mold, such as plumbing leaks and weatherproofing problems. Always put your concerns in writing and copy a keep for yourself.

Ask your landlord for appropriate repairs or clean-up. Ask your landlord to perform repairs and maintenance needed to clean up or reduce mold -- for example:

  • request exhaust fans in rooms with high humidity (bathrooms, kitchens, and service porches), especially if window ventilation is poor in these areas
  • ask for dehumidifiers in chronically damp climates, and
  • reduce the amount of window condensation by using storm windows, if available.

Be as specific as possible regarding the mold problem—where it is, how it’s affecting you, and what you want done. See the Nolo article How to Get Your Landlord to Make Major Repairs, for advice on preparing a written repair requests.

Pursue your legal options if your landlord has not acted on your repair requests. If your landlord has not responded to your written request, you may have several options, depending on the severity of the problem, such as withholding rent or hiring a professional to do the work, and deducting the cost from your rent. See the Nolo article Tenant Options if Your Landlord Won’t Make Major Repairs for advice on this.

If your landlord has refused to step forward, despite your written requests and evidence of a serious mold problem in your rental, and your possessions were damaged or you were made ill by the persistence of a mold problem, a lawsuit may be appropriate. See the Nolo article Suing Your Landlord for Mold-Related Health Problems for more on this.

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