If your apartment or other leased property becomes infested with mold in Florida, it's important to understand your rights as a tenant as well as any applicable landlord liability. Florida, as with other states, sets out landlord/tenant law in both statutory and common law (i.e., court opinions).
Mold has been blamed for a number of chronic health conditions including asthma, rashes, nausea and even cognitive issues. Not all of these conditions have been conclusively linked to mold in scientific studies, and the question of how dangerous mold really is has not been scientifically resolved. However, tenants suffering from respiratory problems because of exposure to mold may have a strong case against their landlord under Florida law.
Dangers of Mold
If a tenant gets sick because of exposure to mold, the landlord could be responsible for any damages. Exposure to mold can make a person feel sick, with symptoms such as congestion, coughing, rashes and irritated eyes and sinuses. People with asthma or allergies have reported severe reactions to mold exposure, and people with immune system problems may be exposed to infections through contact with mold.
Some have reported other symptoms such as headaches, nosebleeds and memory loss. These symptoms have no scientifically proven connection to mold as of yet, and a tenant probably would not be able to win a lawsuit based on a complaint with no scientific backing.
Legal Basis for Damages
The federal government has no nationwide standard for mold in residential or commercial properties, and most state and city governments also do not address mold issues directly. However, landlords in Florida still are responsible for keeping their properties free of mold. This responsibility derives from Florida statutes such as Section 83.51 that require landlords to maintain their properties in good repair, and case law such as Katz Deli v. Waterways Pizza, which awarded damages to a plaintiff whose business had been damaged by a mold infestation.
Thousands of lawsuits over mold infestation in residential buildings and apartments are filed and litigated every year. A landlord can potentially be held liable for the tenant's moving expenses and any mold damage to the tenant's possessions, as well as damages from illness.
The Landlord's Responsibilities
In Florida, the landlord is responsible for taking reasonable steps to keep the property mold free, and for removing mold once he becomes aware of its presence. Mold grows in moist places, so if the landlord keeps the property air-conditioned and dry then it shouldn't be able to grow. The landlord also should inspect the property for mold often, because he can be held liable if the mold has been present for a long time even if he didn't know about it.
If mold is discovered, the landlord is responsible for removing it from the property. Landlords should not to try to remove the mold themselves, because only a certified specialist in mold remediation can be sure of removing the problem completely and fulfilling the landlord's legal responsibilities.
The Tenant's Responsibilities
If the tenant discovers the mold problem before the landlord does, the tenant is responsible for telling the landlord about the problem promptly. If the tenant doesn't tell the landlord about the issue right away, the landlord can use that as a defense in court, and the tenant may have a harder time collecting damages.
- Nolo: Mold in Rentals: Landlord Liability, Responsibility, and Prevention
- Florida Department of Health: Mold and Moisture
- Sackrin and Tolchinsky Attorneys: Mold Claims by a Florida Tenant: Can You Sue the Landlord When Mold Is Found in a Leased Home, Apartment, Office, or Condo?
- The 2016 Florida Statutes: Landlord and Tenant
- Katz Deli v. Waterways Pizza