Disclaimer: This post largely contains opinions based on the author’s experience as an attorney and property manager concerning mold. It should not be taken as legal or medical advice. Any parties dealing with a mold issue should consult an attorney and/or doctor for guidance specific to their situation.
Mold is a common issue faced by property owners and tenants in many parts of the country, and Texas is no exception. Mold spores exist naturally in the environment, and not all types of mold are toxic. Moreover, certain levels of mold are considered safe, and individuals have different levels of sensitivity to mold. In recent years, there has been a growing trend of tenants seeking mold inspections on their rental properties and using these inspections as leverage for lease terminations and financial compensation from landlords. In this post, we’ll explore some key considerations for landlords when dealing with mold-related claims by tenants.
Understanding the Challenges
One of the most significant challenges in pursuing a negligence action against a landlord related to mold is proving that the mold was the proximate cause of the tenant’s health issues. Establishing proximate cause often requires expensive expert testimony from doctors. For the defense, landlords may also need to hire expensive medical experts for rebuttal, making these claims financially burdensome for both parties.
To add to the complexity, almost all insurance policies in Texas exclude coverage for mold remediation and legal defense for landlords. This means that landlords may have to bear the full cost of defending against mold-related claims.
Taking Action as a Landlord
Given the expense and difficulty of handling mold claims, it’s advisable for landlords to allow tenants to terminate the lease and vacate the property if the tenant genuinely believes their health is at risk. Offering immediate settlement money to tenants is generally not recommended, as these claims can be costly to prosecute and often do not develop into full-blown lawsuits.
Once a tenant vacates the property after alleging mold issues, it’s crucial for the landlord to address the negative mold report promptly. Failure to do so could lead to serious liability for future tenants. The landlord must usually choose between two options.
Independent Mold Inspection and Licensed Remediation:
The best option, albeit often the most expensive, is to hire another independent mold inspector. Assuming this report shows the presence of dangerous mold, hire a licensed mold remediation company with the goal of obtaining a Certificate of Mold Remediation. Always ensure that both the inspector and remediator are licensed by The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). Avoid using the same company for both the inspection and remediation to prevent conflicts of interest.
Unlicensed Mold Remediation:
A less desirable but more cost-effective option for landlords is to use an unlicensed person for mold remediation on residential property with fewer than 10 dwelling units. While this type of remediation may address the mold issues mentioned in the tenant’s original report, it should be noted that it is not done by a licensed professional. Note that Section 1958.102 (e) of the Texas Occupations Code does not require an owner, management company, or employee of an owner to be licensed to remediate mold on residential property owned that is fewer than 10 dwelling units.