How do I get my landlord to repair mold growth in my rented home?


There is some mold growing on parts of the ceiling. I've informed my landlord of this several times, yet he is not willing to fix it. It looks very disgusting and makes my living quarters unbearable, but I am not in a position to move. Do I have any rights as a tenant to a mold-free rental?


Tenants in all states but Arkansas are entitled to a "fit and habitable" dwelling. Traditionally, this requirement has included leak-proof walls and roofs, operable plumbing and heating, the absence of vermin, and other obviously important aspects of any living situation. In recent years, as mold has become more of a problem, states are gradually adding "mold-free" to the list of necessary qualities in a rental.

Responsibility for Mold Growth

The first issue to consider is whether your own activities have created the problem. For example, if conditions in the rental are moist and the tenant does not open the windows, the tenant may be the cause of the mold growth. On the other hand, if the mold is the result of structural problems, such as leaky pipes or a leaky roof, it's the landlord's responsibility to repair it.

How Serious is the Outbreak?

When mold becomes a danger to health and safety, it may be making your rental "uninhabitable and unfit." A few spots on a wall may not make the grade, but a widespread outbreak would be another matter. It's important to accurately gauge the extent of the problem, because your legal remedies depend on how serious the mold growth has become. If the mold is "unbearable" because it's unsightly but not widespread, you may not be entitled to use the state remedies described below.

Tenant Remedies for Serious Mold Growth

Serious mold problems may make a rental unfit. At that point, tenants may utilize any one of several remedies, depending on the laws of their states:

  • Move out. In all states that recognize the requirement that landlords offer fit and habitable housing, tenants may move out without liability for future rent as long as they have given the landlord an reasonable time to fix the problem. States may define "reasonable time" in terms of hours or days.
  • Withhold rent. In some states, tenants may withhold rent (or pay rent into a court-supervised escrow account) until the landlord takes care of the problem. Again, the laws typically provide for notice to the landlord and a minimum amount of time in which to make the repair.
  • Repair-and-deduct. Some states allow the tenant to fix the problem and deduct the cost from the rent (after notice and a period for the landlord to respond).

If you intend to utilize any of these remedies, it's very important to know precisely how to do so, which you'll find in the state statute that describes the remedy. Not following the procedure could expose you to a termination notice for rent nonpayment.

You may also want to see if the local health department has inspectors who will respond to mold problems in rentals. Call your agency and describe the situation. If the condition constitutes a violation of a state or local law or ordinance, an inspector may be able to issue a clean-up order, which will be backed by a court order if necessary.

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