Who is responsible for mold damage to a tenant’s possessions?

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Who is responsible for mold damage to a tenant’s possessions?

My tenant who, is due to move out in 3 weeks, has just informed me that there is a somewhat severe mold problem in one of the unoccupied bedrooms. He does not want me to enter the house to even assess the damage pre-move, but the issue is apparently severe enough that he has removed all of the furniture except for a bed that he considers “a total loss”, and taped off the room with plastic. I don’t want to wait and am concerned that if I do, the problem will become worse. Also, who is responsible financially for the damage? I am also worried that he will expect me to pay for his bed, when he never alerted me to any issue. I just purchased the house 6 months ago, they have been renting for 1 1/2 years.

Asked on April 21, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) A landlord has a right to enter the tenant's home without notice for an emergency (e.g. a water or gas leak) and with notice for necessary non-emergency repair or remediation. Since mold falls somewhere between the two situations, you can clearly enter with notice (make it at least 24, preferably more, hours on written notice) and could arguably, if there was a reason to believe the situation bad enough (e.g. imminent threat to other tenants), without notice.

2) Who is responsible for property damage depends on the facts. If the mold was caused by the landlord's negligence (e.g. not remediating a leak), then usually the landlord would be liable. If the mold was caused by the tenant spilling, say, the water in a humidifier and never cleaning it up, or leaving windows open when it rained, the tenant would be liable. If the mold was originally due to landlord liability (untreated leak, for example), but the tenant exacerbated the situation by not reporting it or not letting the landlord treat the situation, that would generally reduce (but probably not eliminate) the landlord's share of the liability and what he or she has to pay.


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