Mold is one of the nastiest problems you can have in a rental property. Not only is it unsightly and damaging, but certain types of mold can also cause major health problems. That’s why it’s important to deal with mold contamination as soon as it’s discovered.

However, there’s often a lot of confusion surrounding who’s responsible for taking care of mold in a rental property. 

It’s important for landlords to be clear on who is liable for mold removal and damage remediation, as well as what exactly landlord insurance does and does not cover.

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Does landlord insurance cover mold damage?

Many landlord insurance policies have a fungi or bacteria exclusion, meaning that they specifically do not provide coverage for issues related to mold. 

  • A typical fungi or bacteria exclusion might specify that the policy’s coverage doesn’t apply to:
  • Bodily injury due to the ingestion of mold within the property
  • Property damage caused specifically by the presence of mold
  • Losses, costs, or expenses accrued from dealing with mold (e.g., testing for, cleaning up, and removing mold) 

Additional mold coverage is usually available as a landlord insurance policy enhancement, but keep in mind that this can significantly raise the cost of your insurance.

Can you make a claim if you have mold?

There are certain instances in which homeowners or landlord insurance may cover mold-related expenses, namely when the mold is directly caused by another issue or peril that your policy does cover.

For example, let’s say your policy covers flood and water damage. If there is mold in your property because of something like an accidental flood or an ongoing plumbing leak, the insurance may also cover mold remediation in addition to other repairs.

That being said, whether or not your landlord insurance will pay for mold cleanup can differ greatly on a case-to-case basis. For instance, if mold is present because of a failure on your part to maintain your property’s plumbing, which resulted in an ongoing leak, you may not be able to make a claim to cover the mold removal.

Who is responsible for preventing mold, and who is liable?

Landlords and tenants share the responsibility for preventing mold, but the landlord is the sole party responsible for dealing with mold when it occurs. This is true whether mold contamination occurs because of something the landlord is responsible for fixing, like a leaky pipe or roof, or due to a tenant’s negligence, such as them leaving windows open during heavy rains and failing to properly dry out wet carpeting or walls.

In a case where mold develops because of a tenant's negligence, you may be able to deduct some or all of the expenses from the tenant’s security deposit.

All mold should be dealt with promptly, and it is the tenant’s responsibility to notify landlords when there is mold in their rental units and make a formal, written request for mold removal. This is especially true whenever there is black mold in a rental house or apartment, as this presents serious health risks, and landlords are responsible for keeping tenants’ living conditions safe.

In case of a dispute, what does the law say?

Laws regarding disputes related to mold in rental properties state that if a tenant has provided a mold removal request in writing, the landlord must remove the mold within a specified time period.

How long a landlord has to fix mold in their property varies from state to state, but it is typically from seven to 14 days.

A tenant can refuse to pay rent if there is mold present and the landlord fails to fix the issue within the legally specified time frame.

If the tenant experiences health issues due to mold contamination, they may also be eligible for compensation through a personal injury claim.

As you can see, when it comes to mold, renters' rights are quite strong. Because of this, it’s best to take care of any mold right away and avoid disputes. Or, even better, take steps to prevent mold in the first place!

What type of damage does mold cause?

The most obvious type of mold damage that landlords have to worry about is damage to their property. Mold can damage everything from drywall and insulation to floorboards and carpeting.

If left unchecked, mold can spread rapidly and lead to major, expensive repairs and replacements. In extreme cases, it can even make your property uninhabitable and require demolition.

Mold also presents human health hazards. It has the potential to cause a whole range of different health problems.

For starters, mold produces allergens, which can cause people to have hay fever-like allergy symptoms. For people who are particularly allergic to mold, it can even cause asthma attacks.

Even if you’re not allergic to mold, coming into close contact with mold spores can result in irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, skin, and lungs.

How to prevent mold from appearing in rental properties

If you take steps to prevent mold from occurring in the first place, you’re much less likely to deal with expensive mold remediation or a headache of a landlord-tenant dispute down the road.

  • Fix leaks as soon as possible
  • Require tenants to report leaks or other moisture-related problems right away
  • Routinely inspect your property for leaks and water damage
  • Divert water away from the outside of your property
  • Ensure all windows and fans work properly
  • Keep up with routine maintenance and landscaping
  • Use mold-resistant paint, roofing, and other building materials

There’s no way to 100% guarantee a mold-free rental property. But, by following these mold prevention recommendations, you’re much less likely to have to pay for major mold remediation. Plus, fixing leaks and maintaining your property prevents other expensive repairs and leads to good landlord-tenant relationships!

Key takeaways: 

  • Most landlord insurance policies have mold exclusions (fungi and bacteria exclusions)
  • Insurance policies may cover mold-related expenses if mold is caused by problems they do cover (such as flood damage)
  • Landlords are responsible for removing mold from rental properties
  • Tenants can withhold rent if landlords fail to address mold contamination
  • Preventing mold, in the first place, is the best way to avoid mold-related headaches