Mold contamination in homes, offices, and other indoor environments have been on the rise over the past 20 years.
Though no one wants to hear that their rental home has mold polluting the air their tenants breathe, it is more common than one might like to admit.
Unfortunately, discovering mold in your rental property can be more than just a nuisance. It has the potential to be financially devastating to the landlord responsible for the property and can have long-lasting effects on the tenants exposed to the contaminant.
The good news is, mold found within your rental property is quite manageable if handled properly and can even be prevented if the right steps are taken to avoid infecting the house.
It is important that landlords become knowledgeable about mold contamination in order to avoid mold growth in their rental homes.
Today we will take a look at what mold is and everything a landlord must know regarding this serious issue.
What is Mold?
Molds, a specific type of fungus, are simple microscopic organisms that exist everywhere. They are required for the breakdown of organic matter such as plants and animal matter present in nature and help recycle nutrients back into the environment. There are several thousand known types of mold, many of which are benign to humans, and can grow virtually anywhere there is moisture, organic material (such as soil, food, or plants), and oxygen. They have no need for sunlight making dark, damp places their favorite places to multiply.
By simply releasing spores into the air, molds reproduce extremely effectively and in large amounts. These spores have the ability to travel through air, water, or travel on animals and humans. The spores are minuscule and usually do not present any issues unless they land on a damp spot viable to their compounding growth. Since they eat organic materials to survive, whatever the mold spores land on is what they will digest for nutrients.
Here are just some of the many places mold growth can be found:
- Paper, including cardboard
- Dust or dirt that has gathered in large amounts
- In leaking roofs, pipes, and ceilings
- Near windows or other areas that have experienced flood damage
The truth is, mold can survive almost anywhere so long as the environment it is placed in is sustainable to its growth.
Mold in Your Rental Home
Because mold exists everywhere, it would not be unusual to find it within your rental home. And since mold multiplies into spores that are invisible to the naked eye, it would be impossible to notice if your tenants or their pets were tracking them inside your home. This can be especially true for a small city such as Laurel. Noted for being family friendly, Laurel residents have the potential to track many mold spores in and out of their homes on a daily basis due to the normal hustle and bustle of family life. Yet, for the most part, the mold that is detected within a home is harmless so long as the conditions for extreme growth are not met.
Mold spores can enter your rental property in many ways including through open doorways, windows, and vents, by attaching to clothing, shoes, bags, and pets, and via your rental home’s HVAC system. Mold growth can occur where there is flood damage, water leakage, or generally humid conditions.
What Are the Health Effects of Mold?
Mold spores found inside of your rental home have the potential to cause very severe, if not life-threatening, health problems for your tenants, especially for those with weakened immune systems, the young, or the elderly. Although scientific research of the effects mold has on people is ongoing, prolonged mold exposure has been linked to several medical problems ranging from annoying to fatal:
- Runny nose
- Red eyes
- Skin rashes
- Throat and lung irritation
- Asthma attacks
Though exposure to mold typically causes a reaction similar to the feeling of being sick with a cold or having seasonal allergies, extreme exposure has the potential to cause fatal medical episodes. Anyone that has had any exposure to mold contamination is advised to seek medical treatment to ensure there are no health related problems developing.
How Can I Prevent Mold in My Home?
While it is impossible to fully eradicate your Anne Arundel County rental property of all traces of mold because spores exist everywhere, there is one crucial step you can take as a responsible landlord to prevent the growth of mold within your rental property: moisture control.
Moisture control is the key to preventing all mold growth. The National Association of Home Builders claims that in just 48 hours, a moist environment can spur the growth of mold. Since damp places are needed for spores to grow into mold problems, by simply keeping your rental home free from water problems, mold spores will remain harmless and at bay. Through routine inspections of your rental property, prompt handling of all water damage maintenance requests, and informing tenants of their duties while living in your home, the chance of mold growth within your property can be dramatically decreased.
On the other hand, no matter what precautions you take to avoid things such as mold contamination there is always the possibility the worst can occur. Take for instance landlords owning homes in humid regions such as Severna Park. Located minutes from the coast, this area of Anne Arundel County experiences humid weather on a regular basis. It is important that tenants understand how to keep their homes well ventilated and not allow that humid moisture to settle in their homes.
Another issue facing landlords in Maryland are properties susceptible to storm damage. Glen Burnie residents encounter some of the worst storm damage in Maryland. Not properly handling flood damage in a rental home can create a mold problem very quickly.
Should your tenants contact your property management company about flooding or water damage within your property, it is important the maintenance request gets handled quickly:
- If it is a large area of mold that has formed, such as underneath floorboards due to a flood or deep within leaking pipes, contact the Environmental Protection Agency for advice as to how to handle the situation properly. For additional guidance, take note that the World Health Organization has extensive documentation regarding mold contamination as well.
- If you seek a contractor to help with mold cleanup make sure they are licensed according to Maryland state law.
Legal Duties a Landlord Must Follow Regarding Mold Contamination
With the sharp increase in personal injury litigation involving prolonged mold exposure hitting the courts these days, you should make note that there are some responsibilities you must follow regarding mold within your rental home.
Landlords are under no obligation to have their rental properties tested for mold contamination before allowing a tenant to move-in. However, should a tenant discover mold within the home after the fact, it then becomes the landlord’s legal responsibility to assess and solve the issue, including payment for the removal of all contaminants. Maryland law states that landlords in all regions, including Severn and Fort Meade, are required to provide tenants a safe and habitable place to live. Should you choose not to remedy a mold issue discovered in your rental property, you run the risk of being sued by your tenant, though the burden of proof lies with the tenant to show the landlord was negligent and unwilling to make the proper repairs.
Mold contamination within your rental home can become a nightmare very quickly. Although there are preventative measures you can take, it is best to have a knowledgeable property management team such as Bay Management Group by your side to help rectify any issues should mold be discovered by your tenant.
Consider contacting Bay Management Group for all of your property management needs in Washington DC, Montgomery County and nearby MD, including the ones that are unforeseen such as mold contamination.