tenant complaining about damaged window, claims mold, not paying rent

14 Replies

Tenant started to paint apartment walls (I gave permission), peeled back some old paint around a window, and noticed the wood window frame was rotted. It appears to have been damaged by water some time ago, but the area is completely dry now and no leaking presently. I am doing everything I can to repair/replace the damaged wood as soon as possible, but he is claiming there is mold and refuses to pay anymore rent until it is fixed. If the window did leak years ago, and the problem was fixed on the outside but the interior wood frame was left, is there any possibility at all that there could be mold? I always thought that if there was no water, there is no mold. Even if there was mold on the frame at one point, if it has been completely dry for years, is there any chance it could be dangerous and/or show up positive on a mold test?

It could have mold present but most likely not dangerous. Most windows in humid climates will always have some mold but again it's not dangerous. You may need to have it tested just to satisfy your tenant but as long as you are taking steps to correct the issue they have no right to withhold rent. They can only hold back rent if you are not attempting to correct the problem..... Assuming your states landlord/tenant laws are the same as mine.

Yes, mold will die from desecration, but if it get moist it can became harmful. To be safe I would get it removed. I had a microbiology class a few semester ago and studied mold. 


a rotted wooden window hardly dicatates there is mold present. I would go over to the property and take a look for yourself. IF it is damp or moist I would think potentially it can create a mold condition but from an old leak that dried up years ago highly unlikely......

Sound slike this tenant wants to play hardball, well guess what? Two can play at that game  :)

good luck,


Thank you both. I am positive that the window is dry and not leaking. I looked at it with the maintenance guy (condo) and it had rained pretty heavily the night before and it was still bone dry. Before I take any legal steps, I just want to be sure that it can't be harmful mold, like the tenant is claiming (he has been known to be overly dramatic about things).

It depends entirely on whether there is actually mold present.  If there is not, she is playing games.  If there is (even though many here think this is silly) it needs to be taken very seriously.  Very seriously as in "I am doing everything I can to repair/replace the damaged wood as soon as possible" is not OK if "as soon as possible" is measured in weeks or even days, rather than hours.  And if you actually have a mold issue, you may need to hire an actual remediation company, not just rip some wood out and slather paint over the rest.

So first order of business, get the testing done.

1)  Don't let your tenants paint.

2) What does your local law say...ie Can a tenant legally hold back payment for something not being repaired?

3) How long has it been left untreated since the tenant brought this to your attention. Has he been unrealistic and blown up after 24 hours or have weeks gone by since you were notified?

I have no problem ordering a mold test. My only concern is that the tenant has been known to be a PITA and complain about every little thing, so what is preventing him from saying he suspects mold here or there or there, or wants me to test for other things, etc? I want to be sure a mold test is warranted before I order it, and I'm not sure if it is warranted if the window has been completely dry for such a long time.

just do the repair. then get your rent. no need to make more of it than it is. if he continues to not pay post repair,...see him in rent court.


Sounds like he is being over dramatic. What makes him think there is mold present? Does he see something that appears to be mold? OR is he just asasuming there is mold because of a past leak?

First things first, lets think worse case and mold was present.... he most likelt cannot just withhold rent from you, it needs to be put into an esscrow account and sit there until you remediate the problem. He should not be able to just not make rent payment to you because he thinks there is mold there. Check with yourlocal laws but here in NJ if a tenant want sto withold rent due to a major issue in apt. it needs to be deposited into an escsrow account with the special civil tenant landlord court, otherwise whats to show he even has the rent to pay you?

Now, that being said

I highly doubt there is a mold condition even present, get it tested show him results and hopefully put it behind you.

good luck keep us posted.


@Ryan F.   If you read the PA Landlord Tenant law, they can withhold part or all of the rent under the Implied Warranty of Habitability clause ... but only if they notify you in writing. 

I too would ask if this is an overreaction to you not showing up that day, or have you been delaying for weeks because you don't want to be bothered?

To have active mold you'd need moisture. Get a moisture meter and test the wood. If your wood is wet, you have an active leak, you need to get this fixed. If not (or after you get the leak fixed), replace ALL of the areas where there is any sign of any mold (this means wood, drywall, insulation, everything that possibly has any mold on it) and go test after the next few rains to verify that there is no active leak.

Here's is a long list of meters at Amazon.


This is my goto moisture meter. I bought a nice one with advanced features and check all my properties obsessively while in construction:


I also have and like this one. The biggest downfall is that you have to poke holes in the material to use it. In your case you'd need to poke holes in a couple pieces of wood that you know are dry to determine the normal readings, then poke the holes in your rotted wood. The holes are pretty small and you could simply putty them to fill them in:


There are cheaper versions with good reviews that also might work. I just don't have any experience with them.

if what you are saying is accurate. I would be over there today with a pay or quit notice. Sounds like you have the orgininal wood windows on the house. I always replace old windows like that for a variety of reasons. Most people have no idea what they are talking about on home repair, or house issues in general. They go on their computer and search something like, "deadly mold on my window", or symptoms of toxic mold and find all the wrong answers they are looking for and freak out. Along with the pay or auit notice I would give her a piece of paper detailing your findings from you and your maintenance mans investigation of his "mold issue". If he doesn't pay move to eviction...

Has this person put any complaints in writing? Why does he think there is mold, is he a mold inspector?  I don't know that I would order a mold test because then the PITA may want a mold test of everything. Take lots of picture with one of the moisture meters above documenting that things are dry. Send a letter to him explaining there is no evidence of mold or current leaking and therefore you are not replacing any wood and he needs to pay up by XX date or you will start the eviction process. You may also want to give him the option that if he is not ok with this course of remediation to move out within the next 30 days to get rid of this PITA and that if he doesn't opt to move out that he accepts this remediation you are performing and this is the last time it will be discussed. Perhaps have a signature line where he needs to sign for one of the two options offered, he either accepts the remediation you plan to do or is moving out within the next 30 days.

**I am not a lawyer, inspector, or mold remediator. This is not legal advice**

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