You bend down to pick up the toothbrush you dropped on your bathroom floor and that’s when you see it — black mold covering the bottom of your sink.
You’re renting the apartment and your first instinct is to pack your suitcase and run out the door. But, you have two children and no place to go.
Step outside and take a deep breath. In Georgia, you have options when black mold appears in your rental.
What is mold?
Mold is a fungus that can appear on all sorts of surfaces, including:
- Paper products
- Wood products
- Ceiling tiles
Molds thrive in moist conditions and reproduce by producing tiny spores that travel through the air.
Though people often think of mold as being black or green, mold can be gray, yellow, orange, or some combination of colors. Generally speaking, mold has a velvety, wooly, or fuzzy texture.
Can black mold be harmful?
It’s important to remember that not all black molds are toxic and not all toxic molds are black.
Let’s look first at non-toxic black mold.
Non-toxic black mold
Several types of black mold aren’t toxic at all. The most common type is Cladosporium, which is most frequently found on living and dead plants, both inside and outside. Other non-toxic molds that may appear black include Ulocladium, Stemphylium, Pithomyces, Alternaria, Dresclera, and Aureobasidium.
Non-toxic black molds generally don’t harm healthy people. However, people who have allergies or asthma and inhale excessive quantities of mold particles inside may experience:
- Skin rashes
- Runny noses
- Eye irritation
- Nasal congestion
- Aggravation of asthma
- Difficulty breathing
People with immune suppression or lung disease may be at increased risk for infections from non-toxic black molds.
Now let’s look at toxic black molds.
Toxic black mold
Some molds produce toxins called mycotoxins. The 2 black molds that contain mycotoxins are:
- Stachybotrys chartarum
- Aspergillus niger
These 2 black molds are commonly found in moisture-damaged buildings (usually on materials with high cellulose content, like drywall, wood, paper, and ceiling tiles). People who are exposed to high levels of mycotoxins can suffer:
- Irritation of the lungs and eyes
- Asthma and other respiratory issues
Though these health consequences may not seem too severe, it’s important to keep in mind that public health departments admit the full health effects of toxic molds aren’t fully known.
Is your landlord required to take action if you discover toxic mold in your rental?
Landlords in Georgia have a statutory duty to maintain the rental unit in good repair. This means that the landlord must keep the premises in “that state of repair which is reasonably necessary to make it fit for the use intended by the [tenant].” If the landlord fails to make repairs within a reasonable time after due notice, the landlord is liable for damages resulting from the failure to make such repairs.
So, does the presence of toxic black mold render an apartment unfit for its intended use?
The law in Georgia isn’t clear, but case law suggests that the presence of black mold may make an apartment unfit. Consequently, a landlord in Georgia most likely has to remove black toxic mold from your apartment.
What should you do if you discover black mold?
Your landlord isn’t obligated to remove the black mold if they don’t know about it. Because of this, the first thing you need to do after discovering the mold is to provide your landlord with a written letter informing them of the issue.
If your landlord fails to remove the toxic mold, you have the right to pay a professional to remove the mold and subtract the cost from your rent. This is known as “repair and deduct.” If you choose to go this route, keep in mind that the removal costs must be “reasonable.” Be sure to keep all of your receipts.
As most tenants know, interactions with landlords don’t always go smoothly. Your landlord might argue that they don’t have to clean up the mold because you caused it, or they might argue that the mold isn’t toxic or that the cleanup costs you subtracted from your rent were too high.
Use our free online directory to locate an experienced landlord-tenant attorney in your area.