If you are a tenant in a building or apartment with a mold problem in Texas, you should read this.
Mold is a serious environmental hazard, and it is not something that landlords can just ignore or sweep under the rug. It often grows quickly in damp places like basements, attics and other parts of a building that have poor ventilation and high humidity.
Mold causes a musty, moldy smell throughout a property, which can set off a chain reaction of coughing, sneezing, sniffling, and other issues in a building's residents.
Actively-growing mold breaks down the material upon which it grows, so not only does it eat drywall, carpet, and anything else it can reach, but it also threatens the structural integrity of the building.
Mold is also hazardous to human health and can cause serious respiratory illnesses in some people, including asthma and serious infections. It can also cause pneumonia, respiratory issues, fevers, inflamed sinuses, laryngitis, fevers, and muscle aches, among other conditions. A name called "toxic mold syndrome" has sprung up around these illnesses, though this is more for legal purposes in court than for medical diagnoses and doesn't label specific conditions.
What you can do if you're a tenant in Texas
Tenants might feel like there is nothing they can do if they look up one day and see their ceiling spotted with a constellation of black dots.
Some landlords are very helpful, but others are notoriously slow to deal with tenant complaints. Many are even out-of-state investors who only collect rent checks and rely on property managers to deal with apartment issues.
When this is the case, sometimes tenants have to take matters into their own hands. Texas courts have recognized two self-help strategies for tenants after a mold outbreak on a rental property:
- Rent withholding: The tenant stops paying rent and claims the mold makes the dwelling unlivable. Landlords in Texas must abide by the "implied warranty of habitability." This legal doctrine requires the landlord to provide a property in a livable condition. This means that the apartment cannot affect the "physical health or safety" of the tenant.
- Repair and deduct: The tenant can elect to do the mold cleanup on her own and deduct the cost from her rent.
See the Texas Tenants' Rights Handbook for more information on both strategies.
Liability for toxic mold in Texas
If you have health problems caused by mold on a Texas property you are leasing, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the landlord or property manager.
It is their responsibility to keep the property in habitable shape and to protect the tenant's "physical health and safety," as noted before, in Texas. As such, any problems associated with the building would be their problem to handle.
Also, if you just purchased a new home in Texas and toxic mold becomes obvious, the previous owner could be held liable for losses. If the previous owners knew about the mold problem, they were legally obligated to disclose this information to potential buyers.
Just like they were obligated to tell you about a leaky roof, they had to tell you about the black mold if they knew about it.
What if you have mold in your house?
You might be wondering whether you should DIY it or hire a professional to remove the scum. If it isn't a large amount of mold, you can probably get rid of it yourself.
However, if the area of mold is larger than 10 square feet or has spread onto places like baseboards, drywall or behind walls, then you absolutely should call a licensed professional.
Whatever you decide to do, take lots and lots of photographs if you decide to file a potential lawsuit against another party. All of the evidence will be gone once you decide to remediate the mold.
Regardless of any lawsuit, please remember that your health is more important and should dictate any decision you make.
If you think you may have a potential lawsuit over health problems caused by toxic mold, you would benefit by speaking to an attorney who specializes in Texas toxic mold cases. Find an attorney now.