Tenant Claims He Smells Mold

19 Replies

I have a tenant  has allergy problems.  He moved in a week ago and immediately after moving in he complained about not being able to breathe because "the air ducts needed to be cleaned".  After running the HVAC for a couple days with a new filter, he said he no longer has that problem.  Now he says he smells mold in the half bath.  I checked it out and I don't smell anything or see any mold.  I honestly believe that he at-least THINKS he smells mold and that he isn't just trying to get out of the lease.

What would you do?  Do I pay hundreds of dollars for an air quality test when I see no evidence of a problem?  The problem with holding him responsible for the cost of the air test if nothing is found is that there is no clear pass or fail for the test, so he could say "well there is a slighlty elevated level of this type of mold which normal people aren't allergic to, so you have to pay because I was right... Now go fix the problem"

What if you said "you pay for the mold test and if there is mold, I'll reimburse you and pay to get it taken care of?"  Of course...like you said if there's some kind of 'trace' that isn't really a problem for 99.99% of people...I dunno.  Let him out of the lease?


I worry about this also sometimes.  Haven't had a problem yet.

If the house is on a crawl, there may be some mold under the bathroom. Otherwise, I would recommend that he buy a HEPA air filter. Any HEPA filter should technically be able to filter mold spores from the air.

Most likely he will be a pain in a$$ no matter what.  If he wants out, let him out.  It will be less stressful on you at the end of the day.  Just my personal opinion.  A potential tenant gave me the same line once.  Thankfully she never submitted an application.  Well, I may have influenced that a little bit.  

As for smelling mold... My wife and I were looking at a property and she kept telling me she smelled something "mildew" or "mold" like everywhere in the house.  I opened the air handler and there was mold.  Replaced the unit and air cleaned right up. 

Just a thought...Dose the bathroom have a vent/fan to the exterior?  Many older homes had unvented bathrooms or rely on a widow for ventilation (which will not get used in the colder months).  If there is no ventilation, adding a vent that turns on with the light could be a huge help in limiting moisture levels in a bathroom, if nothing else it will pull fresh air into the bathroom and help get rid of any odors.  

I have had a few like this, it is not mold but it is some small thing that is making them uncomfortable in the first weeks of occupancy. It smells different, should it be sounding like that etc.  Check the ducts and any ventilation fan you have as well as insuring that your drains are clear.   If you don't find a basis for it I would ask him to let you know if it continues in the next few weeks or he has identified where he thinks it is coming from. If everyone was smelling it I might take a different path but if it is just him, it may be the change in environment.

So my contractor checked out the crawlspace and underneath the area of the house where the tenant smelled the "mold" the worst, there was some standing water and moisture.  He didn't see any mold problem, but recommended having a sump pump installed and some additional ventilation since it could cause a problem in the future.  He also said he does notice a musty smell, but no mold.  So the plan is to go with the contractor's recommendations

In the meantime I told the tenant the plan and offered the tenant an out.  I said that if he still has concerns he can leave within the next three weeks and not even have to give me any notice.  I'll refund any remaining rent and I even offered to pay toward moving expenses, all because I really don't want to deal with this guy for the next year. I really hope he takes the offer but he hasn't indicated that he has.

My contractor is working on the sump pump and ventilation now and he just sent me a text complaining about the tenant.  The tenant seems to want to remove the water heater and toilet to look for mold, even though no mold is visible.  This jives with past emails he's sent me, telling me mold can be hidden in walls, around toilet wax rings, etc.  Sounds like he wants me to rip the house apart trying to find imaginary mold.

How do you deal with these people?!!!

Account Closed 

Get rid of him/her anyway possible that is cheapest for you to do so. 

Tell him to go f himself. You must learn not to be bullied by these ingrates. Tell him N O. Now the ball is in his court. He wants to prove otherwise, he can and youll address it. Until then...feel free to fall off the planet.

Ok, needy tenants.    First make it clear that contractors work for you and won't be responding to any requests by the tenant.  Also, reinforce you have given the tenant an out that he needs to take in a specified time period. I then as a landlord become less pleasant to deal with, I just can't help it.  This is the issue you brought to me, this is the solution. I don't give a lot of positive reinforcement to ongoing complaints on such closed issues.  Quick responses, and evening call backs go out the window. Don't engage. Be blunt and firm.   I can't tell you it always works or that it is the best thing to do but I can tell you that engaging less with this type of tenant will give you more peace and in some cases end the constant texts and calls. Some people it is settling in and some are just ongoing PIAs.  You may have people say this is a service industry but the customer is not always right and like kids you need to set firm limits. Wish you luck with this one.

I've had this exact scenario happen in one of my rentals, and it sucked.

We actually ordered an air test at our expense.  The results for these tests aren't always definitive.  Meaning, it will report some levels of particles in the air, many of which are perfectly normal and acceptable to 99.99% of people.  However, it opens the discussion to interpretation and gives a whiny tenant more reason to argue.

My recommendation is to get the tenant out of your property at all costs.  That's what we did, since we just envisioned that this person would just end up costing us many headaches in the future if we decided to keep them.

Account Closed Have to ask, before you rented to this person, did you detect that this guy would be one of "those" types of tenants?

As to your question, I second what another poster said.  Have him pay for a test and if it's not in a normal range offer to reimburse him and try and remedy the problem.

We are in a similar boat. We debated for months about renting out our former primary home since, technically, we could afford to keep it as a second home. However, I advertised in only one military-oriented site (we're retired Navy) thinking that if we found just the right people, we consider it.

Within 4 days of key exchange the new tenant poured draino down our 100 yr old pipes, stripped the 100-yr old tub faucet valves, and somehow caused a HUGE leak in our upstairs bathroom that then leaked though the foyer ceiling and basement ceiling. She claims no fault, of course. We are already over $5000 in repairs to plumber & drywall contractors (and $200 to an electrician to flip a breaker on a Saturday because she was afraid the whole house would burn down due to the water-logged foyer light...and so turned off the Master breaker instead of just isolating the light) and now she's saying she doesn't want carpet reinstalled in the basement because it might get wet & moldy and "affect her boys & dogs". The carpet had been pulled prior to their move in because the old carpet had been their 15+ years from prior owners & we spent $3000 on the new carpet to appease our "high end" tenants....yet she has not allowed to be installed, to date.

We've already paid for the basement drain to be relocated the basement drain so it's no longer under carpet (as previously....something we had in the works prior to their lease as well). The house has French drains, so with heavy rains, there are areas that sweat, but in the 2.5 years we lived there NEVER standing water.

Through all of this, there have been multiple texts, emails, and phone calls complaining about everything, despite the fact that they've done NOTHING to mitigate damage, such as putting down fans to dry the hardwood floors / ceilings. No dehumidifier in the basement, etc.

We're going to be wasting the only 4-day weekend I'll have for months, taking a 12-hr train trip up there this weekend, just so we can personally document / overlook the finished repairs & reiterate that I will NOT be remodeling my entire basement to appease her. We're laying the carpet, or we'll sell it for remnants, since we can't get a refund, and she can deal with an old concrete floor.

We are already looking for ideas on how to terminate their 2-year lease???

We are in a similar boat. We debated for months about renting out our former primary home since, technically, we could afford to keep it as a second home. However, I advertised in only one military-oriented site (we're retired Navy) thinking that if we found just the right people, we consider it.

Within 4 days of key exchange the new tenant poured draino down our 100 yr old pipes, stripped the 100-yr old tub faucet valves, and somehow caused a HUGE leak in our upstairs bathroom that then leaked though the foyer ceiling and basement ceiling. She claims no fault, of course. We are already over $5000 in repairs to plumber & drywall contractors (and $200 to an electrician to flip a breaker on a Saturday because she was afraid the whole house would burn down due to the water-logged foyer light...and so turned off the Master breaker instead of just isolating the light) and now she's saying she doesn't want carpet reinstalled in the basement because it might get wet & moldy and "affect her boys & dogs". The carpet had been pulled prior to their move in because the old carpet had been their 15+ years from prior owners & we spent $3000 on the new carpet to appease our "high end" tenants....yet she has not allowed to be installed, to date.

We've already paid for the basement drain to be relocated the basement drain so it's no longer under carpet (as previously....something we had in the works prior to their lease as well). The house has French drains, so with heavy rains, there are areas that sweat, but in the 2.5 years we lived there NEVER standing water.

Through all of this, there have been multiple texts, emails, and phone calls complaining about everything, despite the fact that they've done NOTHING to mitigate damage, such as putting down fans to dry the hardwood floors / ceilings. No dehumidifier in the basement, etc. and despite the fact that there have been contractors in the house almost daily for the last 2 weeks either working or giving bids.

We're going to be wasting the only 4-day weekend I'll have for months, taking a 12-hr train trip up there this weekend, just so we can personally document / overlook the finished repairs & reiterate that I will NOT be remodeling my entire basement to appease her. We're laying the carpet, or we'll sell it for remnants, since we can't get a refund, and she can deal with an old concrete floor.

We are already looking for ideas on how to terminate their 2-year lease???

Just let him out of the lease.  Almost every property has some sort of mold in it..and every house has dormant mold spores....just is what it is.  Some folks are just more sensitive to it than others.  I nearly died earlier this year from mold induced pneumonia so it can be quite serious....CA has a number of multi-million dollar verdicts.  Every bath should really have an exhaust fan vented to the outside.  You can paint the ceilings with Zinser Mildew-proof bath paint available at Ace Hardware....awesome product.

If you buy a vacant home or foreclosure that has been closed up for more than a month...it's a great idea to wipe everything down with Microban which will kill mold on contact.  We also usually add a mildewcide to paints for basements and bathrooms just as an added precaution.  We're currently having a problem with one particular basement area and just about tracked down all of the mold sources.  Check you roof vents and plumbing vent boots to make sure they are sealed.....water will enter here and travel down until it hits a ceiling...where it will cause mold.  Through-the-Roof is the best product we've ever found for sealing roofs...awesome stuff also available at Ace Hardware.

Did you give your tenant the EPA booklet "Mold, Moisture, and Your Home"? It is an excellent resource and should be given to every tenant, along with a mold/moisture disclosure addendum. 

You may be able to save the tenancy or not. The tenant will need to decide if he can live in the unit or not, taking into consideration his unique health needs. Do what you can to make your unit safe and clean and dry. Act in good faith. 

Be aware that some people are able to smell mold and mildew better than others. For example, I am able to discern odors better than my husband. Whether the tenant is smelling something that is real or perceived, you still should address his concerns with an open mind.

If the tenant claims a disability related need and presents you with a written request for an accommodation, that would be another matter. The reality is that mold spores are in the air practically everywhere. Do what is reasonable and prudent for a landlord to do. It sounds like you are doing just that. You should be fine.

There shouldn't be standing water under the house. Did you find where it's coming from? Usually, there is some leak in the bathroom. I would have your worker in the crawl space under the bathroom and flush the toilet and run the sink and tub to check for leaks before installing a sump pump.

@Account Closed   

You definitely need to take care of the detected issues. But I would take an additional step. Have your lawyer draft an agreement whereby the tenant waives all claims regarding health related mold issues. If they are saying it bothers them, and they stay, you need to make sure they will not come back later and sue. If they don't stay, then they would agree that you provided a reasonable and acceptable resolution and waive any further considerations.

The mold smelling tenant.  I let my tenant break the lease and asked when was the soonest they could move out.  I'm glad she left.  I lived in the place for 2 years and did not have a problem with a mold smell.   

Get them out fast.  

Didn't read this entire thread but as a whole tenants cry mold when it is usually in reality it is usually just a musty smell.

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