Can Tenants Legally Stop Paying Their Rent Because of Mold in Their Apartments?

Tenant rights to deduct or withhold rent because of a mold problem.

A mold problem at a rental property doesn't automatically trigger free rent for all tenants. In fact, landlords who respond promptly and act efficiently in pursuing mold remediation at affected buildings aren't likely to experience interruption to their rental income stream.
That said, some tenants who are unhappy with their landlord's handling of a mold problem may choose to pursue self-help strategies that result in a partial or complete nonpayment of rent. One strategy, known as "repair and deduct," is when tenants take steps to remove mold on their own and then deduct the costs from their rent. The other common strategy is "rent withholding," which means tenants simply stop paying rent altogether, claiming that their apartment is no longer inhabitable.
Be aware that tenants won't succeed with either strategy if they (or their guests) created the conditions that led to the mold problem. Also, although both repair-and-deduct and rent-withholding laws vary by state, a tenant generally is required to first tell you about a mold problem and give you a reasonable amount of time to address it. Finally, because withholding rent is reserved for situations in which an apartment is uninhabitable, a minor mold issue won't provide tenants with ample legal justification to stop paying rent.

For more advice on dealing with mold at a rental unit or building, see the Nolo book Mold and Your Rental Property: A Landlord’s Prevention and Liability Guide, by Ron Leshnower.

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