If a leak in my apartment caused mold to accumulate, can this be a possible lawsuit?

The maintenance let it leak for 8 days which cause mold to accumulate. As a result my 4 year old daughter started wheezing and was taken to the emergency room. When I got in contact with maintenance management he advised one of his workers to fix it and pull up the rug. When the worker pulled up the rug he failed to leave the padding down which left the rigid wood floor exposed for us to have to walk on. He also failed to pull up the side slats that had the nails and staples in it. Which was left that way for 4 days for my daughtyer and I to walk on.

Asked on July 20, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

All rentals have the implied warranty of habitability, or the obligation imposed by law on the landlord to make sure the rental is "fit for its intended purpose"--for example, safely inhabitable. Maintenance conditions which cause unhealthy or unsafe conditions can violate this warranty, giving the tenant grounds to either terminiate the lease without penalty and/or sue for monetary compensation. Key issues are 1) did you provide notice to the landlord of the condition--the landlord is not obligated or expected to simply "know" of problems, but must be warned of them by tenants in most cases; and 2) did the landlord take more  than a reasonable amount of time to address the situation. "Reasonable" is judged by the situation, both internal and external. For example, if you told the landlord there was a "small leak," he would be justified in not having his staff or contractors address it on an emergency basis; or if the landlord called for a plumber or other contractor immediately but none were available for several days, then the landlord did nothing wrong.

If you feel that the landlord had notice and took unreasonably long to respond, and the condition was unhealthy or unsafe, you may have grounds to seek compensation. The amount of compensation will be related to the injuries or costs (e.g. out-of-pocket medical costs) you incurred, as well as to the length of time the condition persisted. For example, say that you pay $1,000 a month; you've had 10 days of problems affecting habitability; and you had a $75 copay for the emergency room. You could potentially look to sue for a partial rebate of 1/3 of a month's rent (if the mold affect 1/2 the square footage of your apartment, potentially for 1/3 month x 1/2 sq. footage x $1,000, or around $165) plus the $75 copay. Thus, even if you have a legal claim, it may not economically be worthwhile taking action.


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