The last thing any landlord wants to hear is, “Hey, I think there’s black mold in my apartment...”
However, the reality is it happens — especially in a state as humid and muggy as Florida.
Landlords have the obligation to provide tenants with a safe, habitable environment — no matter which state you live in. But this doesn’t mean they won’t try to cut corners during mold remediation if they can get away with it.
Florida tenants should know their rights and legal obligations before speaking with landlords, as this can save time and unnecessary aggravation on both sides.
The basics of toxic black mold
Mold has a bad reputation. While this is warranted in certain situations, many times some mold is okay or even desired. Penicillin, for instance, is derived from mold. Furthermore, many types of mold found in a house or apartment are harmless.
Toxic black mold, however, is harmful and dangerous. Officially known as Stachybotrys chartarum, this type of fungi can lead to serious health issues after prolonged periods of exposure. Health problems might include:
- Mental impairment
- Skin inflammation
- Respiratory issues (coughing, wheezing, sneezing, etc.)
- Internal organ damage
This doesn’t even include the serious property damage that can occur. Black mold, like any other type, thrives in dark and damp spaces. It likes wallpaper, baseboards, insulation and other places where it can grow until you happen to notice it. By then, it may have done irreparable damage, since mold eats whatever it lives on until the structural integrity of the property is at risk.
That’s the bad news. The good news is if your rental unit has been damaged by black mold, you do have legal recourse. Suing your landlord is one of these methods.
Another tried-and-true method is renter’s insurance. If your belongings have been damaged because of black mold, contact your insurance company immediately. This route may be easier than starting a lawsuit, so pursue these options first before taking legal action.
Landlords and black mold
Your landlord won’t be happy to hear about black mold in your unit. He might even try to blame it on you, saying it never would have happened if you didn’t leave wet towels on the bathroom floor or if you used the fan when showering.
These arguments don’t change the fact that landlords in Florida must provide safe and habitable living conditions (this legal concept is the “implied warranty of habitability”). By paying rent, you are fulfilling your duties to your landlord, who is then expected to keep your rental unit in habitable shape. This applies even if your lease doesn’t specifically state that a landlord is responsible for repairs. This legal concept also protects tenants from retaliation if they should complain of housing code violations.
Toxic black mold is a problem that threatens your rental’s habitability. If a defective bathroom fan leads to mold build-up, your landlord is responsible for fixing that fan. Most leases say that landlords are responsible for fixing structural defects; as such, a failure by the landlord to repair a fan could mean a breach of contract lawsuit. By breaching lease provisions, your landlord becomes liable.
What should I do if I find black mold in my rental unit?
First step: don’t panic. It might not even be black mold.
The second step is to figure out what type of mold it is. If you’ve been suffering from unexplained health issues, this becomes even more imperative. Contact your landlord as soon as you discover mold, and do so via letter so there’s a written record. You might need to refer to that later, should the situation progress to litigation.
Even if you haven’t fallen ill, toxic black mold is a violation of the implied warranty of habitability. As such, your landlord is responsible for rectifying the problem.
Of course, your landlord may choose to fight you. They might say it’s up to you to test the air and pay for an inspection. Many landlords take it upon themselves to pay for inspection, but sometimes you have to do it yourself and show them a professional report that clearly says, “TOXIC BLACK MOLD FOUND HERE.”
If a landlord refuses to pay for a mold inspection, it opens them up to additional liability down the road.
How (and when) to sue your landlord for black mold
Filing a personal injury lawsuit against your landlord should never be your first course of action. Test the air and determine the problem first. Perhaps it’s a harmless genus of mold and causing no health concerns.
Let’s say that your landlord resists you every step of the way. They don’t pay for testing or mold remediation, leading you to pay for it yourself. They don’t rip out walls or replace damaged insulation. You haven’t had health problems yet, but you might down the road. What should you do?
This is when you should consider suing.
There’s no reason, legally or ethically, why a tenant should foot the bill for mold remediation. Depending on how much you have in damages and property loss, there’s the possibility of resolution in small claims court. Many states have a limit of $10,000 for the amount in question, though each state has different thresholds. You would most likely represent yourself in this scenario. If your damages are due to be more than $10,000, you should work with an attorney.
Going to small claims court is essentially a mini-trial. After writing a demand payment letter to your landlord, you should prepare evidence related to losses and damages, present your case and (hopefully) collect damages.
Damages can include items like:
- Property loss (damage to personal property, walls, insulation, baseboards, etc.)
- Money spent on fixing property and remediation of mold
- Lost wages as a result of illness
- Medical expenses caused by mold exposure (including future medical expenses)
- Loss of earning capacity (if caused by mold injuries)
- Pain and suffering
Proving a toxic tort case can be difficult. Like any other personal injury claim, you must prove causation and illustrate that:
- Your landlord owed you a duty of care;
- That this duty was breached when your landlord failed to keep your unit in habitable condition; and
- That the breach caused you harm and resulted in quantifiable damages. The breach must be a direct or proximate cause of whatever harm you suffered. (This is “causation,” typically the hardest part to prove in a toxic tort claim.)
Causation is critical here. You must show that but for this toxic black mold, you would not have damages. This is called the “but for” test.
Talk to a lawyer
If you think there’s black mold in your rental, take the preliminary steps listed above to see how serious the problem is. Once bills start racking up and a professional as confirmed that it’s toxic black mold, consider meeting with a lawyer. Someone versed in landlord-tenant issues and toxic tort cases would be great to have on your side in the weeks and months ahead.
Haven’t met with an attorney yet? Try looking through the Enjuris law firm directory for someone local.
I have been living in a property managed condo rental unit for 6 months now. I have told them that I think this unit has mold problems…..They dismiss that idea because they sent 2 repair men to take my blower out of my HVAC unit that was filled with mold and dirt….so they think it’s all fixed. Their last response to me was….they have had no issues with the unit and that they would contact the owner. I haven’t heard back either way.
I continue to smell this odor because I believe it has gone up into my duct work! I have now had air tests done and they come back with 3 different toxic molds that are blowing out through my air vents. I have had asthma attacks and don’t sleep because I cannot lay down because my lungs don’t get enough air. What are my next steps? I want all my money back since moving in….Why are people making money at the expense of my health and well being??????
Nancy Rapp says
Hi Sandy. I’m sorry to hear about your unpleasant living situation. Anytime a person has proof of mold, I encourage them to speak with a personal injury attorney. Use our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you and schedule a consultation as soon as possible.
JoAnne Kaiman says
I have been trying since 2017 get a attorney in Florida to take my case. My husband and I left Florida due to the fact I was exposed to Black and Green mold awhile living in Florida. I have suffed from many health problems because of it. Please please please please someone help me.
Ian Pisarcik says
You’re in luck. We have a number of attorneys in our free directory that can help. The contact information for the attorneys is available here: https://www.enjuris.com/directory/lawyers/florida/
Rose Lee says
This Place is Infested With Mold Roach . Rent Two Bedroom and Two Bathroom Can’t use But One The Other Bathroom Mushrooms in That One The Other Bedroom Mold Can’t Sleep In Its I Sleep On Sofa My Whole Body Hurts. Plus The Floors All Dangerous Can’t Walk Certain Area Will Fall in. I Tried To Get Attorney Paid Down Payment They Tell Me Florida Law You Can’t Sue A Landlord. Please Help Me And My Daughter.
What if you moved in to a place that there’s mold all through the whole apt block and your landlords knew even before you moved in and they did not tell you that theres is mold can you sue them for not saying or informing
anything to you
Ian Pisarcik says
If the mold is considered a dangerous condition you can generally sue the landlord for failing to inform you of the dangerous condition. I would recommend contacting a landlord-tenant attorney in your area.
Maurice Dugan says
Hi I am from Philadelphia PA.i have been renting this home for about 2 years.i started noticing black spots.on the wall showes.. now in some parts of my home has mold the size of BRICKS..I need help
Ian Pisarcik says
The first step you need to take is to inform your landlord in writing that your apartment is full of mold. Keep records of the notice you provide in case you need to pursue a lawsuit at a later date.
I’m living in an apartment. My ac unit is in a closet room outside next door to my apartment front door, this door says TECH ONLY and it’s lovked. There was a leak upstairs with the upstairs AC. The maintenance men came out and did repairs and forgot to lock the door. I opened the “TECH ONLY” door when I saw condensation dripping again from the ceiling next to my front door. The room is completely damaged. There are black mold spores all over the wall next to the AC unit. The roof is completely damaged. The roof is falling and has holes in the walls and roof. You can see the floor board for the upstairs AC closet. I went into my apartment and opened up the AC return air vent. It’s completely black. These are things I’ve never had access too. Due to the door being locked. I always thought my apartment smelt weird and they came out and changed the filter and had someone flush the AC system but the smell came back a few days later. What legal actions do I have? This is full negligence because the apartment Maitenance men are the ones who change the filter “monthly” (and the filter couldn’t have been changed in a while because it was black and soaked” I have a 18 month old who’s had constant chest colds and the doctor didn’t think it was anything else. After being in that room my nose has been running and now my chest feels congested. I had no idea and now I am so angry. They put my kids lives in danger!!! They knowingly knew about this and did NOTHING!
I have complained to my landlord for over a year that my condo is infested with rats and have pictures of about 20 rats that I trapped in the unit. They are in the AC ducts and it is filled with rat feces. After over a year of complaining to the landlord I was forced to evacuate because the smell was so bad. I was also notified that a sewage pipe broke in the wall and there is mold inside the walls. I had to throw out my sofa and bedding because of the smell of mold and rats. I have been sick for over a year and loss my sense of smell due to the toxic environment. I’m not the type of person to sue anyone but I am left with no choice. I am meeting with a physician who specializes in mold Exposure to see what type of health conditions this has possibly caused me. I just need to know if this is worth pursuing? I would sincerely appreciate any feedback
Ian Pisarcik says
Your landlord has a duty to provide you with a habitable environment. It sounds like this was not done. As a result, your landlord could be liable for any injuries suffered as a result. I would recommend meeting with a personal injury attorney in your area. Most initial consultations are free and the attorney will be able to tell you whether the claim is worth pursuing. Be sure to take your medical records with you when you meet with the attorney.
If you need help finding an attorney, visit our free online directory.
Mitch Kelner says
I rent a 4,500 sqft home from International Capital investment that is owned or connected to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America located in Boca. I have 3 types of Toxic Black Mold in the attic storage area due to improperly installed and maintained HVAC systems. When we issued the mold report to their Attorneys for immediate remediation they no longer replied. I have six Grandchildren and other family that have visited here over the past 2.5 years and these people do not acknowledge the “human” element. It is outrageous that the State of Florida or PBC have very limited resources against “SlumLords”, my house is deeded to the Director of Global Relations, its now about accountability, I cannot allow them to rent or sell this property as is, Toxic Tort Lawyers say it’s personal injury, how would we even know at this time. Any suggestions to bring accountability or litigate these demons would be appreciated, they have now forced me into a situation of costly relocation just by not responding!
Melissa Gold says
Hello, Mitch. Thank you for reaching out with your concerns. I can definitely understand why you don’t want to risk your own or your family’s health by potential exposure to toxic black mold. It sounds like you’ve already had an expert perform tests on the mold and air quality and prepare a report with the findings. Although you’re not aware of anyone in the residence experiencing health effects from toxic black mold at this time, there is the possibility of issues in the future, as you mentioned.
You could choose to hire a professional to remediate the mold, and then obligate the landlord to pay for the expense. You don’t need to wait until someone becomes sick to make a claim because the presence of toxic black mold means that the residence is uninhabitable. It would be a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer about your situation. Bring the reports with you that indicate that the property has been shown to contain a toxic substance, and the lawyer will advise you about your rights and the most effective way to be compensated for any expenses you’ve incurred if you’re living in a property that would be considered uninhabitable. I hope you’re able to find a fast and cost-effective solution.
Elodia Techak says
What if you dont live in Florida, and you live in California? Like my brother who is disabled. He was renting a studio. One day it flood the floor. My other brothers went in and help the landlord to clean up the place and put in new wooden floor. This place only has walk- in closet, 4 1/2 by 4 1/2 living-room. With a 4 by 4 kitchen. A bathroom wth a shower, toilet, and sink. The washer sits outside, it had no overhead roof. The studio sit on flat grown. One big tree with large roots. It keeps cousing damage to the pipes. My brother cannot talk or able to express himself. 2008 until 2018. Since after the water flood in 2010, his health had declined. He was all was getting a coughing, and was getting worse, he was loosing wight, his son moved in to help him. He didnt have a good appite anymore. His son worked nights. My was now wieghting 80 pound’s. He was put in the hospital for 2 1/2 monthes. Then put in Hospice, he had lung damage, ammonia, his heart was inflamed also his bladder was damaged he had to have a Cathater install, they said he was going to die. So he is now with me in my home, since March 2019. Im a retired Medical Assistan and have knowledge of health-care medication. Doctor said we can try it to see if it could help. They took him off of hospice In May 2019. He is now eating, and the doctor have seen him and are supprice. But he still has lung damage, he has to have the Cathater on for life. Im looking for a Personal ingury Lawyer for him. Do we in California have lawyer’s for that?
Ian Pisarcik says
Lawsuits against landlords for mold exposure aren’t limited to Florida. You can certainly hire a California attorney to file a lawsuit for your brother’s damages.
Use our free legal directory to locate a personal injury attorney in California.
I have been looking for a lawyer to help me with my mold case in Florida. Nobody wants to help me with this issue. I didn’t have the time to get a mold test done because my health was most important to me at the time and I had to get out of the apartment because my health was getting worse. My husband left his new job because of my health issues. We end up moving to a new place in Pennsylvania area were I was treated for my mold. I have Hypothyroidism which is autoimmune disease. Which mold can cause autoimmune diseases which can attract the thyroid. I have other health issues also. I can’t work anymore. I was without my voice for a year and had syncope last year and one year before that. I would like to sue my old apartment complex for loss wages and medical expenses and pain suffering. I have been turned down by many lawery in Florida. This so unfair to me. I have photographs and tons medical expenses and letters from my doctors who have treated me and I’m on medication for the rest of my life and blood drawn every six to eight months. My old landlords blamed us for the mold. We didn’t see the mold in our master bedroom closet until we moved out of unit. I did report mold in bathroom and other places in apartment and took the maintenance personal 4 weeks to fix it. I had many lawyer hang up the phone on because they thought i was drunk at the time. You see I had a plup on my vocal cords which prevent me from talking clearly. I have been looking for a lawyer since 2018. No lawyer in Florida wants to help me out here. I’m 100% allergic to mold and have been tested for mold awhile living in Colorado.
Alma C says
I have had shortness of breathe for the past three months. This unfortunate matter was right as the pandemic hit. I have been home for the Past three months and noticed my breathing was becoming unmanageable. I have tested negative for Covid and diagnosed with Bronchitis. It has been 3 months and still having the same problem. I spoke to my doctor and mentioned if mold in my apartment would be the issue. She said it could very well be. I got home and sure enough I found dark black mold all over the air ducts and on my bathroom ceiling. What should I do in this case ?
Melissa Gold says
Hi, Alma. I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. Yes, the landlord has a responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy living environment and to remediate toxic mold if it’s present in your living area. However, you can’t diagnose toxic mold just by looking. Usually, a mold remediation specialist will take a sample and run testing in order to determine what type of mold you have (or if it’s mildew, which isn’t mold at all) and what the health risks might be. It’s likely difficult to take these steps right now during the pandemic, but you should provide written notice to your landlord that there’s a possibility there’s black mold and ask the landlord to take appropriate measures to look into remediation.
Frederica Hill says
Last year, after losing our home to hurricane Michael we finally found a place to rent. Shortly there after my son his wife and my two-year-old granddaughter she was three months shy of being two. They moved in suddenly my granddaughter started snoring loudly, sleep apnea, sneezing fits like severe allergy respiratory issues waking up screaming her skin very red and inflamed bad gastric gas constipation tonsils swollen to the point they had to be removed.They moved out in April. I have asthma and other health issues and all my problems kept getting worse. Due to not having insurance and increased doctors visits and medications we could no longer afford to pay our bills so Landlord was notified that we would be moving. While cleaning the homeIn hopes of getting our security deposit back, by the way we did not, We found mold everywhere in the house growing on the back of the linoleum in the wood on the walls, do we have any recourse For suing this landlord? I live in Florida
Ian Pisarcik says
Landlord’s have an obligation to provide reasonably safe housing. You may be able to sue your landlord for damages if you can prove that the landlord (a) knew or should have known about the toxic mold, and (b) the toxic mold was the cause of your medical issues.
Proving these two elements may be challenging, but it’s worth meeting with a personal injury attorney in your area to discuss the strength of your case. Most initial consultations are free.
I’ve been living in my duplex for about 12years, rent never went up, I’m having problems with black mold, i showed the handyman, he tried cleaning it with bleach but it still comes back. The gandyman never told the landlord about blk mold in my duplex, i have the smpthamy, headache, wheezing, short of breath, can’t sleep, coughing. How do i relate this to my landlord, cause i no the handyman didn’t. I’ve been to the hospital a couple of time about the black mold, i can’t afford to move no where else due to the fact i live off a fix income, i really wonna move, can i sue my landlord? I have pictures of blk mold in my phone., pluse more. What’s my frist step? i no ive been expose to the mold in been in this duplex about3years that i no of. Landlord doesn’t no, but the handyman nos, bur he no longer working for my landlord, i need some advice, I’m a older lady already have health problems, how long can i stay in my duplex without paying rent, due to the black mold, i cough all the time, dry cough, now I’m on a nebulizer, can’t hardly breath the dupkex is old and need to be condem, when it rain water comes out on the floor, but can’t find were. Outside have rotten black mold on the rim of the duplex. Mold underneath the bathroom sink, kitchen sink, around bathtub, bad odor coming from air conditioning vents, my son said you have blk mold in your house, how do i realte this to my landlord without no problem or a coviction?
When we moved into our townhouse 3 years ago, we immediately noticed a leak upstairs. We took photos, documented it with timestamps, and then requested assistance to take care of the leak. Someone came out and said they would “have to rip the floors up” to identify the leak, so they said the best they could do is spray paint the discoloration in the ceiling. After that, we have documentation over the last 3 years requesting the leak be taken care of and showing the wall was rotting. My brother who lives with us is having intensified anxiety and heart health issues, I’m having neurological issues and including seizures for the first time. We both are experiencing this increase of health issues at the same time. We called a mold guy to come test for us bc our renters insurance doesnt coveruse? We were already planning on moving out in a few weeks, but if this has damaged our health we dont want them to not be liable. If the tests come back positive with harmful mold, should we sue?
Ian Pisarcik says
If you were injured as a result of the toxic mold, I would strongly recommend meeting with an attorney to discuss your legal options. Landlords have a duty to repair dangerous conditions in a reasonable amount of time. When you meet with the attorney, be sure to take all the documents you described with you. Here are some other tips to prepare you for your initial meeting with the attorney: https://www.enjuris.com/personal-injury-law/preparing-first-meeting/
Laura P says
Every month since I move to this apartment complex in May 2019. There have been issues, the biggest concern that I have is that I am a mother of four children who deserve to live in a safe and clean environment. I would like to remain anonymous, but this apartment complex under the brand of McKinley apartments(Harbor Beach ) would continue to take your money and charge you late fees. But not fix the issues that you have within your apartment.
I have been living in this unit since May 2019, I had to deal with ants, roaches, and even small snake sneak inside my master bedroom. I been dealing with mold and water leakage. I would be showing the pictures because at this point, I don’t know what to do, is not fair to me and my children. The excuse they continue to use not to fix things promptly is due to COVID-19___0 19. I work in the healthcare field; I have been facing COVID-19 since it first started. I believe that by now they could come and make at least some reparations.
I have been dealing with the water leakage in my pantry since I move in here, they come and fix it according to them and nothing gets done. Which has created mold and I am not the only resident as you can see on the website with concerns and complaints about this landlord when it comes to reparations.
You can send them an email, and no one comes to fix your concern. You can place a work order and it gets updated as completed. It’s so unfair for them to take your money when they are failing to provide you with a safe and healthy environment inside your apartment.
I have asked to be move to another unit and is like talking to the wall. Please help and guide the right direction , I this point I feel helpless . I am just trying to fix my credit to be able to move out of here , but that is impossible with all this issues in this apartments.
Concerned Renter says
I have been living in this rental apt for 7 years now. The neighbors below me (2 story) had to have their bathroom ceiling replaced because it caved in. The handy man came to my apt, as I am directly above them.
We both looked in my masterbathroom. There was a tiny drip from in the shower. A minor clog in the sink. We saw no other issues.
We didn’t look well enough.
Last week my other bathroom was clogged so I had to use my master bathroom. From my new focused perspective. I noticed the shower wall OUTSIDE the shower has water damage, bubbling paint and definitely mold. I am afraid it may be black mold.
The leak is inside the wall. The handy man is coming to repair this tomorrow but my concern about the mold is serious. Do they need to test the air? How do I know if it’s safe to live here?
I do have renters insurance. I have to throw out a cabinet that was against the wall. Which was the main thing that prevented me from seeing the problem for who knows how long.
Can I ask them to test the air? What are my rights. I really appreciated your article. I feel much better knowing I have rights and some steps to take. What would you suggest for me? I live in Florida.
Thank you very kindly.