Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, mold in a rental property is concerning. Landlords want to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their tenants, and tenants want to trust that the property they are renting is safe. What are the Virginia landlord-tenant laws regarding mold?
Virginia landlord-tenant laws regarding mold impose duties on both landlords and tenants. Landlords must disclose visible mold to tenants before move-in. Tenants may cancel the agreement and not move into the unit. If the tenant decides to stay, the landlord must remediate the mold within five days.
If you are a rental property owner, there are ways to help protect your tenants from potentially harmful mold allergens.
We have put together a comprehensive resource that will provide both tenants and landlords valuable information on understanding why mold is harmful, how to recognize mold in a home, and how best to get rid of and prevent mold.
Now go grab a beverage, get comfortable, and give this article the time it deserves. You cannot afford not to invest in learning more about mold, and best yet, how to prevent it in the first place.
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Virginia Landlord – Tenant Laws Regarding Mold
We all expect a livable home, and the term livable can be interpreted differently depending on one’s view. Landlords must show the tenant any visible mold before the tenant moves in.
Once the mold has been brought to the tenant’s attention, the tenant has the right to back out of the rental agreement and not move in.
Should the tenant decide to move in, the landlord will have five days to remedy the mold.
Tenants have a responsibility to promptly notify their landlord of any visible mold or moisture accumulation. (Va. Code Ann. § 55.1-1227(10) (2020)
Tenants are also required to do their part in preventing excess moisture in their homes by the use of provided working ventilation systems in bathrooms and kitchens.
Tenants who believe they have been damaged by high concentrations of mold in their rental unit may seek to recover damages from their landlord through court proceedings.
Landlords are encouraged to address reported water leaks and other water issues as soon as possible and to take care of any reported mold as quickly as possible. Proof of addressing the issues swiftly will help to eliminate any legal liability.
Virginia Code § 8.01-226.12 – Duty of Landlord and Managing Agent with Respect to Visible Mold.
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Who is Responsible for Cleaning Mold in a Rental?
Living with mold in a rental home can be concerning, especially if there are experienced health problems that may be caused by mold. Who is responsible for cleaning mold in a rental?
Landlords can be held responsible for mold problems in a rental, even with a lack of specific laws governing mold. A landlord has the responsibility to provide safe and livable housing. All states but Arkansas hold the landlord responsible for maintaining fit and habitable housing and making repairs.
As NOLO points out, such repairs include fixing leaking pipes, windows, and roofs, all contributors to the causes of mold.
Mold is a health concern among most renters. NOLO goes on to explain that across the country, tenants have won multimillion-dollar cases against landlords for notable health problems due to suspected “toxic” molds in their homes.
There is much controversy about the health hazards of mold, and there is substantial debate among the scientific and medical community on which mold scenarios and even which types of mold cause the most harm.
It’s important to point out, however, that most mold is not harmful to one’s health. For example, the mold commonly seen on shower tiles is not harmful.
Renters have just as much responsibility to keep mold under control as the landlord and can be the liable party in a mold case of their neglectful behavior.
See Tenant Repair and Responsibilities provided by NOLO for more information.
Failing to maintain a level of cleanliness, and creating high humidity in a home by opting to not use the provided ventilation systems in bathrooms and kitchens can significantly increase the risk of mold growth.
The best scenario in dealing with mold is to be proactive in mold prevention by maintaining a rental and keeping the property in good repair.
Landlords and tenants should work together as partners to help ensure that mold does not become an issue.
If you are a tenant and suspect mold, give your landlord a chance to address the problem before jumping on a defensive bandwagon.
Most landlords want to provide a safe, habitable home for their renters and will take necessary measures to help alleviate the mold problem.
Visit the Virginia Department of Health to get more information on mold and what you can do to protect yourself.
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How Does Mold Affect Air Quality?
A commonly overlooked aspect of the existence of mold in a home is how mold affects the quality of the air that we breathe. How does mold affect air quality?
Mold affects air quality by producing spores that, when disturbed, become airborne. Airborne spores are inhaled into the lungs causing a variety of reactions. Symptoms of inhaling mold spores include but are not limited to sneezing, runny nose, irritated eyes, skin rash, and severe asthma attacks.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that the full effects of inhaling mold spores are still unknown, and studies are ongoing.
Touching mold also causes allergic side effects, so it’s important to avoid direct skin contact if you think you have detected mold.
There are ways you can help to alleviate the allergens in your home by making sure you have ample ventilation and regular house cleaning.
It may be worth researching in-home air purifiers, as well.
For mold, in particular, controlling the humidity levels in your home is of utmost importance.
I wrote an in-depth article on the relationship between mold and humidity. Visit Can High Humidity in a Home Cause Mold? Protect Yourself.
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What Does Black Mold Look Like?
Unless you have lived under a rock, you have likely heard of the terms “black mold” or “toxic black mold”. So what should you look out for? What does black mold look like?
Any mold that you see is the color black, that is black mold. Mold is mold, and often it is black. Exposure to mold that happens to be black does not imply a greater health risk than molds of another color. The terms “toxic black mold” and “black mold” are not scientific terms.
According to Medical News Today, there is no convincing research suggesting that exposure to a specific type of mold is any more concerning than any other type of mold.
Medical News Today goes on to explain that there is no evidence that any type of mold causes health conditions such as lung disease or cancer.
There are, however, certain types of mold that some people are more sensitive to, which may in turn trigger respiratory symptoms after inhalation.
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How Do You Get Rid of Mold in a Rental?
Mold is something none of us desire in our homes.
If you are faced with a mold problem, you have questions. How do you get rid of mold in a rental?
Items Needed to Get Rid of Mold:
- Mold & mildew spray for bathrooms and kitchens
- Mold & mildew spray for tiles
- Spray specifically made for mold
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Diluted vinegar in a spray bottle
Mold can destroy household valuables and cause allergic reactions, so detecting the mold sooner rather than later is best.
If you are seeing mold in more than one place, or a single area of mold larger than about four square feet, you will want to call a professional to ensure the mold is handled, as well as address the cause of the mold.
Depending where the mold is will determine which product you use to tackle the mold problem. Good Housekeeping makes the following recommendations:
Mold on Wood
Wooden kitchen cabinets are a common place for mold accumulation due to the higher humidity from cooking or running the dishwasher.
Poor ventilation is the greatest contributor.
In areas that are very humid with little air circulation, mold can grow on wood paneling and wood furniture.
Follow these steps to remove mold from wood:
- Vacuum the loose spores with a soft brush attachment.
- Using water mixed with liquid dish detergent and a damp cloth, wipe the surface where mold exists making sure not to saturate the surface too much.
- A dry rag will absorb residual moisture from the cleaning process. Wood left wet too long will show signs of damage.
Mold on Shower Curtains and Liners
My first recommendation would be to toss out the moldy shower curtain and liner and start fresh with a new set.
If instead, you wish to clean what you have, follow these steps:
- Using a mold and mildew spray safe for plastic, spray and let sit until the stains disappear. Then simply rinse off.
- Alternatively, wash your plastic shower liner in the washing machine on a gentle cycle in warm water. Add a bit of bleach to kill the mold and remove the mold coloring.
Mold on Tile and Grout
With the constant humidity of the shower and hot baths, shower tile and grout can be a challenge to keep mold-free.
The following recommendations should remove any mold you may see:
- Mix bleach with water in a spray bottle and spray the moldy areas.
- Or, using a spray and grout cleaner, apply the cleaner, scrub the areas of mold, and voila!
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Mold on Walls and Ceilings
Sadly, porous surfaces like walls and ceilings can have mold crawling all over them. Your best bet is to replace the sheetrock and start fresh.
If, however, the mold is seen in one localized place, you can stop the mold from spreading. The trick is to take care of it as soon as possible.
Otherwise, it will easily keep spreading. Mold thrives in warm, porous places. Do the following:
- Mix warm water with liquid detergent, and use a sponge or brush to clean the surface. Make sure to let the surface dry completely.
- Your next step is to mix 3/4 cup of bleach with a gallon of water. Using rubber gloves, apply the bleach water onto the stained areas using a brush or sponge.
Mold on Fabric
Here again, if it’s something you can replace and start fresh, it may be better to do so.
Damp towels or clothing, if stored where they cannot breathe, tend to show signs of mold.
If you have a fabric item that you’d rather not replace and instead clean, see the following:
- Take the fabric item outside and give it a good shake to release any loose, moldy spores. Also, give the item a good wipe-down.
- Providing the fabric item can go into the washing machine, wash in hot, soapy water with the addition of chlorine bleach.
- For fabrics that cannot go into the washing machine, try dry cleaning or hand washing to remove the mold.
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How to Prevent Mold in a Rental
The best way to combat mold is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To know how to prevent mold, it’s important to understand what attracts mold.
According to WebMD, household molds can trigger allergy symptoms in allergy sufferers.
It’s also important to point out that a wet, humid environment can create more of a problem than just mold.
Water leaks that can lead to mold can also cause structural problems, creating costly repairs.
Let’s take a look at ways you can prevent mold in your rental home:
- One of the best ways to address mold, moisture, and humidity in a home is through the use of a dehumidifier. The recommended humidity level in a home is between 30 and 50%.
- Use your ventilation systems when cooking, running the dishwasher, and taking hot baths and showers. Kitchens and bathrooms are prime areas for mold accumulation.
- Ensure there are no pipe leaks.
- The use of plastic over dirt in crawl spaces helps reduce moisture in the home.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpet directly over concrete and instead, use throw rugs that are able to be tossed into the washing machine.
- Air-drying clothing indoors increases the humidity. It’s best to have an area outside for air-drying clothes.
- Wiping down the inside of the shower and/or bathtub after use can dramatically cut down on mildew and mold accumulation.
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- Virginia Code § 8.01-226.12 – Duty of Landlord and Managing Agent with Respect to Visible Mold
- Tenant Repair and Responsibilities
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Medical News Today
- Good Housekeeping
- Virginia Department of Health
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.