Mold growing, who is responsible

10 Replies


My tenant just informed my yesterday there is mold growing on the bathroom wall next to the bathtub.  From the picture that she sent to me, it seems like the mold has been there for a while.  

I contacted ServPro, a mold remediation company, and they said they can provide a free consultation.  However, I'm also worried that there might be mold somewhere where it is not visible.  

I'm not sure what should be my action.  Can I just get a contractor to scrap those mold on the wall?  Should I get a professional mold remediation like ServPro?  Should I get a professional mold inspector to make sure there is no mold in other places?

What's the best plan to ensure I can protect my rental house, and provide a safe environment for the tenant, without costing me too much money.

Finally, who is responsible for paying for the repairs?  I see this as a tenant negligence for not reporting earlier, and keeping the bathroom wet and damp.  



If the tenant doesn't keep the area around the bathtub clean and dry it is inevitable that mold will grow.  Especially in a damp climate like yours.   I'd start the conversation by discussing cleaning practices.  

But, if there was mold present, and someone just slapped new tile over old, moldy backing, that's probably your problem to fix.  Or, if this is an older property from the time when just sticking tile right on sheetrock was common, then you would need to do some work to fix it.  Do you know the history of the property in this regard?

Rest assured that a company like ServePro will find a problem that needs an expensive repair.  They may be right, but they may also be doing work that's not really needed.  Unfortunately, mold is a hot button.

Is there ventilation in the bathroom?  If not, regardless of what repairs you do the mold will likely continue to grow if there is too much moisture.  

I see tons of mold in bathrooms and kitchens even in really arid areas, because there are many people living in a small house and the house did not have enough ventilation.  

The EPA's website has a ton of good info on mold.  This is the link I recommened to my clients that are worried about mold:

The conversation about mold in the home and how to prevent it and how to report it should happen at the time the tenancy begins. 

Federal law requires landlords to inform tenants about mold and moisture hazards prior to move-in and to provide educational material. We cover this topic in our rental agreement too and hand each tenant a great booklet published by the EPA called "A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home."

Mold spores are in the air, practically everywhere, but mold spores will adhere to surfaces and start to grow only under certain conditions. Surface mold on non-porous surfaces can be easily cleaned off. Mold that has set roots in sheet rock will need to be cut out.

I would start by visiting the unit and doing your own inspection. Find out the extent of the mold problem and the root cause. Address the root cause to prevent this happening again, clean up the mold, educate the tenant. You may need to replace damaged materials if they can not be effectively cleaned. Unless the mold is extensive, you most likely will not need to hire a remediation company. Make sure the home has proper ventilation and the tenant is property using the bathroom exhaust fan.

Here is an excerpt from our rental agreement that you might find helpful to add to yours:

"MOLD AND MILDEW. Mold may grow and exist in any structure where there is, or ever has been, a presence of moisture and a food source for mold to grow. Its presence may exist without the knowledge of the structure owner and may be concealed from the untrained observer. Some varieties of mold are toxic and may cause adverse reactions in certain individuals. Tenant and Landlord will complete a Mold and Moisture Hazards addendum that will become part of this rental agreement." 

Note, in the addendum, we have the tenant acknowledge that they have received the EPA booklet and will take measures to prevent mold and mildew from developing. We also do periodic inspections of our rental units and keep an eye out for conditions which are conducive for developing mold and mildew. Prevention is the key.

@Jon Holdman and @Gene Hacker

I lived in that house for over 10 years before I rent it out.  It was a newly build house, and I have not seen any sign of mold anywhere in the house when I rent it out.  

@Marcia Maynard

I inspected the mold yesterday, and it seems like it is in a bad condition (see picture below).  My tenant said she tried to clean it a few times and it keeps coming back.  So, it might have been there for months before she suspected the black patch is a mold.  

Based on what you see on the picture, do you think this is bad?  

Thank you so much for all your feedback and insight.  

What is that picture?   How large is that?  If that's the corner of the bathtub, that's a mess.  That rough surface will never be able to be kept clean.  There's more going on there than just mold.

@Donny Widjaja , that picture shows a long-term problem that cannot be fixed with just a slap of bleach and paint. Is that some sort of texture on the walls? It almost looks like expanding foam next to the shower, which is not code in any state.

There is fresh caulk in the corner of the tub, that isn't a fix either. I'd get the mold company out there to fix it. What you see on the wall may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Looks like it has been going on over time. If this is a photo of the corner of the tub/shower, you need to teach the tenant how to keep water in the tub/shower.  If the bathroom walls are rough texture, change them to smooth texture.  How many square inches are affected?

You will need to determine the extent of the problem. Can you get a look from below, such as from the crawl space? If it is just in the drywall, it is a relatively easy fix, replace the affected materials. Consider using green board (water resistant) for bathroom walls and cement board (water proof) for walls around the tub & shower.

Many building contractors have the skill to deal with this. If the mold is extensive and/or you are not skilled in removing and replacing the mold affected materials, call in an expert. If the building contractor thinks it needs full on mold remediation, then go that route. You do not want mold spores to become disturbed and fly into the air.

What's going on with the tub and caulking? Is there a crack or hole under that white goop? If water went through there, then you may need to pull the whole tub and surround. How do feel about doing a bathroom remodel?

I personally wouldn't panic or call in the big guns yet. 

What is shown in the picture looks like it is much less than 10 Square feet which is what the EPA considers the threshold on what can be repaired by a homeowner or contractor.  

if it was my home/rental, I would hire someone to remove the damage drywall (or whatever the material is.  Then you will be able to view the interior of the wall assembly.  It is possible there could much more hidden damage, but there is no way to tell from just looking at a small section of surface damage. Regardless of what the growth is, that section of wall will need to removed.  Anyone who works on this should wear appropriate personal protection equipment.  

Once you open up wall, then you will have a much better idea of the extent of the damage.  If the studs and framing have apparent growth as well, then I would bring in a mold remediation company.

If not, the repair the wall, and consider a different material to avoid this issue.  You may also want to install a large splashguard in that corner.  Something like this:

They also have similar items at lowes/home depot.

As far as the sealant on the tub/shower...why was that installed?  Is the tub/shower damaged in that area or is the sealant applied for another reason (possibly just sloppy workmanship?)?

usually when there's mold in my rentals and it's not something to be worried about like next to the shower. I usually put some bleach in a bottle then spray it on and shop vac everything away. Problem solved