Tenant is claiming "Mold issues" Doesn't want to pay rent.

16 Replies

Hey all,

I have a tenant that did not pay rent on time this month. So, the day rent was late I put a 5 day noticed on their door. He came out and got the notice very quickly and called me after I had just driven off. He claimed that it was bs, blah, blah blah. Then said "well, what about these repairs you haven't made?" To which I said, "I was unaware these repairs need to be made. You need to tell me about them in order for me to know to fix them. And, also in Oklahoma I don't believe small repairs is a reason to not pay rent." He agreed and said that he would be paying me within the time frame.

The next day I got on the phone with some of my repair men who all said they could start work the next day. I messaged the tenant asking if that was all right. No response. In the next few days I tried to get a hold of them without any luck.

Tuesday of this week rolls around and the tenant calls saying how their family has been getting sick, and that their cat just died due to their being health risks in the home. She said "it is probably black mold." I told her I was assuming they wanted to move out, to which she said yes. We agreed they would pay a half month's rent and move out as quickly as possible. For their health concerns and so I can just be done with their ordeal.

They are wanting to back out of that agreement now. I'm not even sure I really believe that they are having these mold issues, because I know if it were my family and it really was an issue with the home, I would have left immediately. They were also late with their rent last month as well. I am somewhat hesitant to file for an eviction on Monday morning on the chance that they aren't lying about the mold and decide to take me to court about hazardous living conditions, even though I knew nothing about them.

Sorry for the long post, but what would some more experienced people do? I know every state will vary in law depending on the "uninhabitable conditions" but, I'm not even sure that is actually the case here. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

I would find an inspector and be there with them Monday to determine whether there is or isn't mold.  I suspect there isn't.  If there isn't, my next stop would be to file eviction paperwork.

Pro-tenants say this stuff all the time. If there really is an issue they should put in writing and document by taking pictures. They should immediately let you into the property to inspect.

Mold can be airborne and on the surface. Airborne is tested with a air particle reader companies use. Surface mold you can test with a swab kit to determine what it is.

It seems to me since they keep switching stories on you that they are professional tenants. When you go to court a judge will usually ask the tenant did you inform the landlord in writing of the repairs?? They usually say no  and eviction is granted. If they say yes judge will ask for copy and compare to what the landlord has to make sure stories match up and validate differences.

If tenant says it is unsafe judge will ask why they didn't move right away?? If they say same spiel as no money, not enough time, etc. then judge will grant eviction.

If tenant did repairs and paid for them after informing landlord and landlord did not cure the problem  then judge generally will take that off of rent owed etc. If landlord is asking for lost rent and damages etc. judge usually throws that out and just evicts. Judges I have seen ask tenants how many times the judge has seen tenants inform in writing and pay for repairs if landlord doesn't?? The judge throws up the big fat ZERO. I am sure it has happened but I have never seen it.

The point is do everything right on your side and do not stop the eviction. The judge sees thousands of eviction cases a year and they see through the tenants bull very quickly. Only give up information the judge asks for and be short and concise. Let the tenants dig their own grave by talking and talking, irritating the judge, talking over the judge and getting threatened with contempt of court. Judge then grants you eviction and you are on your merry way.

Each state is different and I am relaying experience from the past and doing evictions myself in court.

No legal advice.     

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in oklahoma they can withhold up to $100 for a repair from their rent and provide you with a receipt for the work/parts(if it goes beyond this amount their only other option is to move out and sue to void/cancel the lease).  this is only after giving you notice via certified mail and after waiting 14 days for a repair to take place.  they must also make the property accessible to you and your workers with 24 hours notice, or less if it is an emergency situation.  

basically this guy is trying to play you because he either

-does not have the money

-is doing something or has someone in the house he does not want you to see.

call his bluff, send him notice and post it on his door the day and time you will be there for the work, if he refuses access then evict him.  worst I have seen a judge do is allow the tenant to finish out the month and then move out.  I think there is something else going on here.  

there is a lawyer in town i use for evictions that will give you free advice on how to handle message me and I can get you his info.  also look up the oklahoma landlord tenant act online and read it over a few times.  its also good to go sit in FED court a few times to see how it goes here in oklahoma county.

Wow you guys gave some great advice. I really appreciate it. 

I am going to go in on Monday morning and get this taken care of. I think I just needed to hear that that's what I needed to do, and that I wasn't a complete idiot. 

Rhett, I will definitely message you. The last attorney I used for my eviction was okay, but I felt he could have been better. I have read through the landlord and tenant act multiple times, but in some instances it can be very vague. 

"I have read through the landlord and tenant act multiple times, but in some instances it can be very vague."

That's where experience comes in from seeing how  a judge interprets that vagueness in your local court with the tenant laws.

So either go to eviction court yourself and learn the ropes or get an experienced eviction attorney who knows how these things play out in your area. Do not get a general practice attorney that dabbles in eviction but a full time specialist. One wrong move can cost you  a lot of money.

No legal advice.

Once you're in front of a judge, you can forget the Oklahoma tenant and landlord act. They each have their own little quirks, and some additional guidelines have been established by "case law." When we decided to go forward on the multi unit project, I went to several FED hearings; it was very eye-opening.  You can still win, but the judge will likely give the tenant more time to act than you would expect. 

This is a case where I too would consider using an attorney instead of doing it myself. And I am definitely not an attorney and this is definitely not legal advice.

Tell them you are bringing in a specialist to take air and topical readings for black mold. Tell them that if no black mold is found, they would pay for the service charge, which is pricey.

I'm sure they will decline. Put this all in writing, too.

Since you started the eviction process, you have the right to still evict. It's up to you to get the service done, in case there is mold. A walk through will be evident as black mold will be noticeable right away by smell, visible, or physical symptoms (hard to breathe, headache, etc). 

My family lived with black mold and my landlord's insurance paid for 4 months of free hotel stay for my 7 person family. That was because we had written letters, took pictures, called with recorder on. Cottonwood trees that were dying rooted on a slanted hill posed a big problem, which we told the property manager about for months. 1 fell and barely missed the house. Two feel days of each other and totally destroyed the tiled roof during a real bad storm. Water flooded in. Our stuff was moved out of those rooms, but mold took over and quickly spread. All furniture, clothes, books, and that type of stuff was repairable. All other stuff had to be cleaned and returned weeks later.

We probably could have sued since it took them weeks to respond to us about the initial and resulting damage. They finally sent in an air specialist and he reported Black mold and other highly toxic molds. My family had already started to exhibit physical symptoms. I'm glad it stopped there, because I hear it can get much worse and even cause death. After that specialist told us immediately after taking readings, I called the insurance folks and they put us up in a Hotel that night. It was Marriott's Residence Inn, which was a fabulous place, btw. 4 months rent free, as great as it sounds, was nothing compared to what we lost and they potential of longer lasting symptoms. They did write a check for the stuff that they couldn't return, but it was a pittance compared to what it really cost us to buy it in the first place. We love oak and nice furniture. They priced is as if it was laminate and POS furniture. Thinking about it again, I wish I would have sued. But I didn't have the money to move again, let alone stay in a motel, or pay for a lawyer. 

I was able to call a bluff on a tenant that wanted to break the lease based on a mold claim. She contacted me through her attorney and I don't take lightly to being bullied. I really read up on mold and landlords' rights and I turned the tables. I told her attorney that if she continues the fight I will claim any mold was a result of her failing to properly clean the home and I would file a counter suit for damages.

They dropped the issue, I let her out of the lease and kept her security deposit. I was able to re-rent with no real loss.

I've learned in my 6 years of being a landlord that most threats are because the tenant is broke and cant pay. Use the laws to your advantage not theirs.

Luke,

I would recommend that you get a mold specialist out there in the next 24 hours.  Call the guy and tell him you will be there at "X" time tomorrow with your specialist.   You should have in your lease that you can have access with a 24 hour notice.  If he doesn't answer, leave a note on the door.  Tomorrow, let yourself and the mold guy in to do the inspection. 

You need to find out if you in fact have mold or not.  People are sue happy to say the least.  Think about it from the perspective of the judge you might be in front of someday.  "Did this landlord do everything in his power to fix the problem of the mold"?  I would document that you had your repair people go out to the house and were not allowed to go into the house.  Just have them sign a simple statement saying they were there and weren't allowed into the house to make repairs.  Have them date it and sign it.  Throw it in their lease file.  Good luck on this one.

Oh, evict them!  They are playing you. 

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OK I know this is more for landlords. But i’m at tenant that just moved into an apartment. I am mediately started getting sick while in the apartment. It had a bad smell whenever I moved in but just thought do you last tenants one of the cleanest and it would go away. After several days of cleaning and not being able to put a dent in the smell I realized it would get better and worse to humidity and temperature. I realized it was mold I looked at my AC system it was obvious it hasn’t been serviced in a very long time. I went to the store and got an air filter to put in it when I was changing it I realized it had a bunch of mold on the evaporator. Then I noticed watermarks it was leaking water out of the pan at one point at this time it’s winter so I haven’t used a/c. I open the door below it to the hot water tank to discover a room full of mold. I immediately told my landlord about it she came over with maintenance and attempted to clean it they didn’t do it properly made it a lot worse. Now a lot of my stuff is growing mold and even worse then that my symptoms have gotten a lot worse and it is really affecting my health. I’ve even removed my dog from the apartment and took her to stay with a family member because I’m worried about her. I have found more mold underneath the counters and cabinets in the kitchen and she is denying it and I found proof that they painted over mold on the walls so they did know about it. I don’t want to get anything out of it and really don’t want to go to court. I just want a decent place to live without any mold and to fell healthy agin and can bring my dog back home. It’s affecting me bad enough that I bought two air purifiers which cost me over $400 and it’s not really helping and I’m starting to spend some nights sleeping in my car while more of my property gets damaged with mold growing on it. I’m paying a pretty good amount in rent I spent 1500 to move in and almost 900 a month in rent. She’s not willing to help me in any kind away knowing we don’t have any kind of mold loss in Oklahoma. All I want is to either get moved to another apartment that’s clean or let me out of my lease with at least half of my money I put down so I can get a new place. Is that asking too much? Or do you guys have any ideas how I can approach this without having to take legal action. I really like the location it’s right by my work and it’s a nice apartment community just a horrible apartment and really not the best landlord but I can get over that part.  keep in mind I’m just now about to pay rent for the first time since moving in I have a head property damage now and really bed health effects. She hired what she told me was a private contractor to do an inspection of the place to find out what’s going on. He didn’t do any testing for mold just looked for a water leek and he let it slip that he has worked with the management company for 14 years. My landlord called me Friday and told me that his report came back and he couldn’t find any signs or evidence of any problem witch is complete crap. So I ended up hiring a mold inspector paid for it out of my pocket to do a test on Monday I should have the results this week. I was going to have the results of the test and present it to her and try to work out a deal one more time with her before I pursue taking legal action. Do any of you guys have any ideas or suggestions on how to go about this to keep it out of court?

@David Bennett Welcome to BP David. You have some great questions for a bad situation. If I was your landlord and you came to me with this mold problem, and if the whole story played out as you say it does, I would release you from the lease. I would refund your SD and only charge the balance of the month we are in. Did you not smell anything weird when you inspected the place?

Obviously if you still have your sense of smell, you don't have COVID. 

@Michael King thanks for replying. I would be completely happy with that. No I didn’t have the opportunity to see the place at least signing. They said it was being worked on and it wouldn’t be ready until the morning. They new I was going out of town for work after signing the lease and wouldn’t be back until the morning of moving. That was the red flag I should of seen. I just trusted the wrong people. I would’ve of never iexpected these kind of problems with the way the place looks.  I definitely learned some lessons on this one

@David Bennett Mold can be easily masked. I bought my home in May 2019. On the first inspection there were some suspicious 'repairs' to sheet rock that I noticed, but couldn't detect mold. When I went back with a building inspector, I pried the baseboard back from the wall and oh wow it was a thick black shadow of mold, kind of like the Hiroshima shadows on the concrete from the A bomb. I asked the owner, and naturally he said oh no, never been any mold. I have found a bunch of areas of mold that has been painted over since. People can be shifty.

Back to your issue. Take photos of the mold, date stamped if you can. Contact the LL and explain to her how it's making you sick. You'd have to convince her that you can't live there in its current condition. The two most reasonable options are that she mitigates the mold professionally, and not charge you rent while she does so, or to release you from the contract. Try not to be confrontational and self righteous. If she's tough to deal with and refuses help one way or another, consider getting an expert in to assess the mold (you shouldn't have to go to this extent, if the LL is worth a pinch). 

There's a clause somewhere (check your state's LL laws) that permits you make repairs under certain conditions, and deduct the cost from rent. But be careful going down that road as it may mean court if the LL feels you are in the wrong. 

Good luck and keep us informed.