A Renter’s Guide to Mold

Jan 3, 2019

Renters have unique challenges because they are limited in the types of repairs and changes they can make to their home.  If you are renting and are concerned about mold, what should you do? This post can serve as a general guide for renters on what to do, but keep in mind that every situation is different and the severity of the mold problem plays a huge factor.

What should I do if I suspect a mold problem?

The first thing you should do is document the problem.  Maybe you see large amounts of obvious mold growth in your home or maybe you suspect that there could be mold but are not sure.  We advise that you document everything. Take as many pictures as possible. Consider keeping a log of any odors or dampness you discover. Contact your landlord or property management company as soon as possible after documenting the problem.  Typically most landlords will want to fix the issue quickly in order to minimize damage to their property. Depending on your lease and your landlord, you may be able to be temporarily relocated while the mold and leaks are remediated. When mold is found in an apartment, many landlords will allow the tenant to break the lease.  Landlords are likely worried about big lawsuits so they are often willing to break a lease in return for you signing a release of liability document.

Can the Public Health Department Help?

You may have a landlord that is not taking the mold problem seriously.  Or maybe you disagree about the extent or severity of the problem. Can the Public Health Department help?  Unfortunately, there are few public health departments in the United States that offer free mold inspections and they are often limited to public housing.  The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) for example, does not test for mold. On their website, however, they do recommend “individuals or companies that employ certified industrial hygienists or persons who work under the supervision of industrial hygienists” http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/toxicology/indoor-air-quality-healthy-homes/mold-faqs .  This means that the renter or landlord wanting to get the property inspected will need to hire a company like Indoor Science that has a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) on staff. This brings up a good question.

Who Should Hire the Independent Consultant?

Our company works with both landlords and tenants.  Sometimes the tenant hires and pays for our services and sometimes the landlord does.  You should keep in mind that our responsibility and contractual obligation is limited to our client, whether that be the landlord or tenant. We are not allowed to share information to any other parties unless given permission by our client.  If you are a renter and want to guarantee that you’ll see the results, you should hire the consultant directly. In some instances, landlords will reimburse the tenant for the inspection but sometimes they only reimburse the tenant when there is a problem.  If you’re concerned about who receives the information and who is responsible for payment, you may want to discuss these concerns with your landlord prior to hiring an outside company.

What should I do until it is fixed?

A non-invasive approach to reducing the mold levels in your home is operating an air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter and operating a HEPA vacuum.  The air purifier will help filter out mold spores in the air and the vacuum will clean settled spores off surfaces. Also, remember that mold is caused by moisture so be sure to run exhaust fans when cooking and showering and refrain from using any plumbing fixtures that may be leaking. While these approaches will not solve the underlying mold issue, they can reduce mold spores in the air and buy you time until the landlord takes action (or the lease expires).