Can I withhold my rent due to mold and unsafe living conditions, as well as any other cost accrued, because of the mold?

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Can I withhold my rent due to mold and unsafe living conditions, as well as any other cost accrued, because of the mold?

I live in a rental home and it is infested with hazardous mold. This mold is a result of the roof leaking, which it has been leaking for months. The manager of the property is aware of this problem due to my phone calls and written letter. I had the mold tested to determine if it could be hazardous to my health and the results say that it is hazardous. I was hospitalized last week due to exposure to this mold. My health as well as the health of my son has been declining ever since I have been living in this residence. I have written my property manager a letter as well as placing more than several phone calls to try to get in touch with him to get this situation resolved quickly. It has been over a month since the manager was made aware of this situation and he has done nothing to try to fix this and get rid of the mold problem or fix the leaky roof. The manager has threatened eviction due to my phone calls about the property due to mold and roof.

Asked on August 5, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

In every lease there is an implied warranty of habitability which requires the landlord to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with state and local housing codes.  The mold and roof leaking are health and safety hazards which constitute breaches of the implied warranty of habitability.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant notifies the landlord as you have done and the landlord is required to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs.  When the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time, the tenant has the following options:  The tenant can make the repairs (call someone to make the repairs) and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant stays on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  Another alternative is to sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  You can also contact your local housing code inspector, who can bring an enforcement action against the landlord for housing code violations.  You cannot be evicted for complaining about these problems to the landlord.  If you were evicted, you could sue the landlord for retaliatory eviction.  Retaliatory eviction means the landlord is retaliating against you for something that is not a breach of the lease.  You can also recover damages (monetary compensation) for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and wage loss.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  The medical reports will document the nature and extent of your injury from exposure to the mold and will be used to determine compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for wage loss due to illness from the mold exposure is straight reimbursement.   Your son's personal injury claim for mold exposure is separate from yours.  You will need to be appointed guardian ad litem to file a lawsuit on behalf of your son if he is a minor because a minor cannot file a lawsuit himself.


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