Tenant wants mold test. Should I do it?

8 Replies

I rent out a townhouse in Florida. The house is in great condition, and the tenant has been there over a year and pays on time and is well-organized, neat. She just started dating a home inspector, and he hypothesizes that there is mold in the townhome. He pointed to a "wet" spot on the ceiling; however, we touched the spot where he said it was damp and couldn't feel anything. He also pointed to a thin black ring around the base of the toilet. I've seen this a lot of times on various toilets. The house doesn't smell musty or have any other obvious signs of mold or water intrusion. Personally, I think that they are overreacting and that there is not a mold problem.

However, I got quotes for a full mold check from local companies and with all the lab fees, etc., it adds up to about $400. I think the tenant will split the cost. My concern is -- if the test does come back positive for some type of mold, what are the legal implications? We would have to disclose this if we ever want to sell the townhouse, right?

Can we legally say no -- we will not do a mold test even though the tenant requested it? If we didn't do the test, I'm pretty sure that the tenant would elect to move out, but I'm confident that we could find another tenant fairly quickly.


Hi @Hannah Spirrison ,

I can't speak specifically to Florida laws. However in general I would find out what is causing the "spot" on the ceiling. If there is a roof leak or a pipe leak etc I would get it addressed and fixed. Something caused it and the root cause should be identified and corrected. Going and checking for mold is useless at this point without knowing there is a wet environment (and a whole lot more expensive). I know in my area a handyman can correct mold up to a certain size, so fix the problem and have the area cleaned up.

As far as the "mildew" around the toilet bleach and water cleans that up. If there is a leak there it has to be corrected as well and the area around it repaired. I would recommend getting the items fixed (they sound like small handyman fixes from the post but without seeing them I am guessing). 

Under no circumstances would I use that inspector or his contacts, I would be polite and thank them for pointing out the issues and send someone out to look at it (not a mold inspector at this point though) you need boots on the ground.

Good Luck!

We have gone through this with fussy tenants. There is mold everywhere on the planet, including homes.  Cleaning with a fungicide or bleach is the simplest cure we tell folks. Tenants should always turn on the bath fan when showering, etc.

If you search on here there's a very good clause to include in your lease regarding mold sent in by a sharp landlord. 

Thanks for the advice! Asking a handyman to check out the ceiling is a good idea. Just to clarify though -- "the spot" is not visible or wet/soft to the touch (in my opinion) -- it's just an area that he claimed was damp.

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In a lot of states home inspectors are not licensed. So basically many are failed real estate agents that become home inspectors.

Some are good but you have to know their track record and years of service doing inspections. That does not mean how many inspections their company has done. The company they work for if not themselves could have completed 10,000 inspections over decades but they have only done 1 or 2.

Sounds like they are trying to impress the new girlfriend with their knowledge etc. If a spot appears wet there is equipment called a moisture meter that reads how wet currently the area is. There is a normal range and above normal on the meter. If it's an old leak that is not ongoing then visually you might see old damage but it will be dry. If it is ongoing then elevated moisture should be present. If elevated moisture is present then there could be mold behind the wall where it is visually wet.

There is surface mold and air mold. There are normal levels and above normal levels, different strains of mold, and a difference between mold and mildew. So it is not a simple yes or no question. If the tenant has really sensitive allergies then that can trigger a response versus not bothering someone else  at lower levels.

Definitely you could have an inspector come in and look at the issue that is well qualified with the proper initial equipment and track record to see if a mold company and further testing is warranted.

No legal advice given.

If you test and no mold you'd be out the $400.00.

I'd get the spot on ceiling figured out. you can use a moisture meter to see if it's damp and if it has attic or crawl space above get in there and check it out. a roof leak can travel and is hard to spot so if you can't figure it out right away go right after or during a good hard rain.

As for the toilet, replace wax ring, the toilet may be sweating, it may have a small leak causing more sweating so get the flapper looked at, to limit the moisture around the toilet.

I had a tenant do a mold test on my unit unannounced to me. She paid for it and I did not reimburse her.

Test showed mold was at normal levels no hazard but mold guy actually peeled some of the rubber baseboard off the wall next the a sink / toilet area which from use over the years had some discoloration behind it. We scraped off the discoloration, kilzed the area, and put up new rubber baseboard. He said it was mold related, but was not causing level of health hazard. 

The tenant said she just couldn't live there and I let her out of the lease, she constantly felt sick, so I let her out of the lease.

It's a free country if they want mold test that's up to them.

If it shows there is a problem then you'd probably have to pay for that and re-mediate the issue, but I'd start first with the areas you know need addressing, and yes make sure all the ventilation systems, including A/C filters and drains are working properly.

If they want out of the lease.. I'd let them GO

I agree with @Deanna McCormick that you should let the tenant out of the lease if she is uncomfortable living there.  If there has been rain lately and the ceiling is not wet, then it's probably an old leak and I would spray the ceiling KILZ on it and see if it reappears the next time it rains.  If you do hire an inspector and he says there is black mold then you would have to disclose it to any future purchasers and the property may be declared uninhabitable.  I would also consider not renewing her lease because her boyfriend sounds like he may cause problems for you in the future.  

@Marelyn Valdes makes some great points. 

So due diligence in checking apartment.

Mold is present everywhere, research some sites on mold, mold types and mold testing so you can identify and have better idea of what and how to proceed.

For more information on how to limit costly mold repairs and legal problems, see Mold and Your Rental Property: A Landlord's Prevention and Liability Guide.

Google land lord , rental. mold, and do some research for your state laws

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