What are my rights if I have been forced from my rental due to mold and health issues?

I am almost 6 months pregnant and I have a 6 year that has asthma. I believe there is mold growing in my bathroom and my apartment has a musty smell. I contacted my landlord and she was rude and didn’t seem to care about it; she told me it was fine. My doctor does not want me staying there and I haven’t been but I have been paying rent. What do I do?

Asked on October 19, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Ohio

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You may be able to terminate your lease based on the presence of mold in your rental unit. If the condition is severe enough you may be able to claim what is called "constructive eviction". If there is mold that has caused you health issues to the point that you had to move out, you might well be able to terminate your lease (an obtain a refund of your security deposit) and have a legal claim for any costs you incur as a result (such a motel, etc.). Additionally, there is the potential for you to recover your attorney's fees, if any.  Any documentation that you may have will add to the strength of your claim (e.g. your doctor's note, photos, health department inspection, etc). However, a high standard of proof is required for making a case for constructive eviction.

In the alternative, you can claim that there has been a breach of the "warranty of habitability". This is essentially a guarantee that is implied in every residential lease. Accordingly, a tenant must be given a safe and sanitary premises in which to live. You have several options regarding such a breach. You can: terminate your lease (and get the return of security deposit); withhold rent until the repair is made; or make the repair yourself and the deduct the cost from your rent. The presence of mold would qualify as such a breach. Again proof is key (although there is a somewhat lesser standard required the for constructive eviction).

At this point, you need to consult directly with an attorney in your area. Speak with one who specializes in landlord-tenant matters. At the very least, contact a tenants' right advocacy group. If you attempt any of the above remedies you must be certain of your rights under applicable state law. The consequences of wrongfully using self-help measures could cost you.  


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