Water Leak and tenant is complaining about mold and moved out

26 Replies

I had a leak several months ago, the window cap blew off and I repaired and fixed it.  

Now I get a called about 1 week ago and there is a massive leak from somewhere. Either from the other window,  or from the tenants ac in the window. Its a old window but no one every complained in the last 10 years. The flooring and sub floor will need to be removed and replaced. They moved out and said the place is unlivable and mold is growing. They reported me to the zoning officer and also filed with there renters insurance claim but it was rejected. I agreed that I will not charge them rent for the time they are not living there. Zoning officer was out and said he did not see any mold and the house was livable just not that room till its fixed.  They also did not cut the grass in like 1 month. I am working with my insurance company too and they said dont fix it until a water expert looks at it next week. My tenants said they feel sick from all the mold and mildew after being exposed to it but moved out right away and let all their items.

Tenants now want to be reimbursed for the rent, damage to there items which is nothing, they said their clothes smell like mold, hotel expenses, and reimbursed for financial burden. They want to move back in when its fixed but not sure if mabay I should just be rid of them now to prevent future problems with them.

What would you do? Fix it and let them move back in or try and get rid of them? Should I be charging them rent again soon as its fixed if their not living there? Should I charge them for the grass cutting since it will need to be cut? 

Sounds like they are asking for a lot. Have you contacted your home insurance co.? If they feel like their is mold although someone has already inspected for that ... you can get one of those water scanner things (sorry I have no clue what it is called) but it essentially checks for moisture (it shows certain color based on the moisture) also I would remove the base boards and cut about a foot of the dry wall to see if that is wet. If so, there probably is some unseen mold somewhere. Take what I say win a grain of salt ... I know nothing lol I’ve only heard of stories and how landlords responded

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

Sounds like they are asking for a lot. Have you contacted your home insurance co.? If they feel like their is mold although someone has already inspected for that ... you can get one of those water scanner things (sorry I have no clue what it is called) but it essentially checks for moisture (it shows certain color based on the moisture) also I would remove the base boards and cut about a foot of the dry wall to see if that is wet. If so, there probably is some unseen mold somewhere. Take what I say win a grain of salt ... I know nothing lol I’ve only heard of stories and how landlords responded

A moisture meter?

Say No to reimbursing on their stuff.  Their stuff is covered under their rental insurance and that is it.  If it was unlivable you prorate rent back for the unlivable portion of the rental.  Read the lease mine has something like if it becomes completely  or partially uninhabitable the lease doesn't hold at my discretion.  I would lay out what you will and won't do and let them out of the lease early even if its not in the lease. Yes they get charged for mowing the lawn, probably not mowed way before the window issue.  After all  is said and done they may just find it easier to move on especially when you say work will take this long and room is unusable but i can only credit you for that area. Right now they are asking for the moon and if you don't give them the moon they may change their mind on moving back in.   It would also be important to know if it was their AC that did it or the window.   And if it was floor AC and not a window AC,  I bet it was the AC.  Let us know what your water expert says.

Seems to me I've heard this song before...

@Colleen F. is correct about using their insurance.

These tenants are pros, and probably on vacation somewhere enjoying themselves on your dime.  

You have several options, however I'd like to ask whose air conditioner is it?  Who installed it?  If it was the tenant, I'd file a claim against their insurance for the damages.  If the unit belongs to the house, I'd still go after them for not reporting the leak immediately.  An AC does not cause a "massive" leak, but it can do damage over time.

I'd give them 5 days (or whatever your state laws allow) to get their stuff out of YOUR house.  If you have to go to court, I'd sue for the amount of unpaid rent, price of lawn care, etc.  The judge will decide.  

Get the damage (if any) fixed and move on to the next tenant--make sure you include a 'mold information and prevention addendum' to your lease.

(Yes, a moisture meter is the instrument, and should be in every landlord's tool kit.)

Yes! @Roy N.

Originally posted by @Roy N.:
Originally posted by @Bree Blades:

Sounds like they are asking for a lot. Have you contacted your home insurance co.? If they feel like their is mold although someone has already inspected for that ... you can get one of those water scanner things (sorry I have no clue what it is called) but it essentially checks for moisture (it shows certain color based on the moisture) also I would remove the base boards and cut about a foot of the dry wall to see if that is wet. If so, there probably is some unseen mold somewhere. Take what I say win a grain of salt ... I know nothing lol I’ve only heard of stories and how landlords responded

A moisture meter?

We require all tenants to have renter insurance for this reason.  However, we do not check that they maintain it.  We occasionally send out a reminder that we require renter's insurance.

We had a slab leak that affected two tenants.  Flooring would need to be replaced.  Whole two units replumbed (we decided to do the cold at the same time because it was not that much extra).  Neither tenant had the required renter's insurance.  They asked for expenses and we told them no and that was why we require our tenants to have renter's insurance.  The wife being a softy offered them to continue to live in the units at a reduced rent.  We had insurance that covered the rent difference so we would have gotten the entire rent from the insurance without letting them live in the units while the work was done.  We therefore ended up with the same rent we would have gotten without the tenants living there while tenants got a rent discount but did have to tolerate a construction zone.

It worked out OK though and we still have the tenants.  Hopefully they now have renter's insurance.

Likely the AC was installed improperly. If it was theirs and they installed it I would go after them for full rent as well as the cost of repairs.

Landlords take warning ...never allow a tennat to install a window AC unit. Hire a professional to do th einstall at th etennats expense.

So the primary complaint and the basis of their moving out is a mold complaint. If you think there is a chance that they will sue, you may want to consider having someone from an environmental company come in and get air samples. Collection is easier and less expensive than you may think. They won't have to be tested right away but it is best to collect the evidence as close to the event as possible. If you are sued, you can then have your attorney hire a "consulting" expert to test the samples. If they come back in your favor, you can then chose to disclose them. If mold is found, the law may not require you turn it over if your attorney ordered the test from a consulting expert. Every law has exceptions and every state's rules of Civil Procedure differ so consultant your lawyer first. For example, the federal rules require disclosure of consulting expert's findings when there are "exceptional circumstances." The codes official that came can only testify as to what he saw, which is helpful but not conclusive. If you think there is a high likelihood mold will be found in the air, talk to an attorney before taking samples.

Document ever single word between you and them from now on, you are in a lose lose situation here. I would not pay them anything. They already moved out so you don't need to evict them, just get the problem fixed and get a new tenant in. Tell them you are willing to let them walk away but you won't pay them any damages. If they take you to small claims court, countersue for breach of lease, and bring all the documentation proving there was no mold and you fixed the problem quickly and they broke the lease in bad faith. Ask for the max you can under the lease plus attorney fees if needed. Try to get it settled outside of court first through mediation if it gets that far. Hopefully they are just empty threats and they will just move on. Good luck. 

Originally posted by @Peter M. :

Document ever single word between you and them from now on, you are in a lose lose situation here. I would not pay them anything. They already moved out so you don't need to evict them, just get the problem fixed and get a new tenant in. Tell them you are willing to let them walk away but you won't pay them any damages. If they take you to small claims court, countersue for breach of lease, and bring all the documentation proving there was no mold and you fixed the problem quickly and they broke the lease in bad faith. Ask for the max you can under the lease plus attorney fees if needed. Try to get it settled outside of court first through mediation if it gets that far. Hopefully they are just empty threats and they will just move on. Good luck. 

Peter: 

While they may have physically vacated the apartment, they may still be in possession.   Here, if the tenant has not returned the keys, they are still in possession - even if they have truly abandoned the property - and the landlord must go through the motions of the eviction process to regain possession.

That's a bummer. In that case, I would start the eviction process and try to get them to agree to just walk away. But Texas is obviously much different so I would talk to a lawyer who knows how courts there generally rule when it comes to health issues. Even in Texas landlords will lose when it comes to health and welfare so try to avoid court.

Unless they can prove neglect on your part, this is their issue and they should be paying you for the damages. It is unlikely mold would grow that quickly, most molds are not hazardous to health, and even the dangerous molds are typically only dangerous to people with existing respiratory problems. If the inspector said it's fine, they don't have a leg to stand on.

These are not good tenants and they are trying to squeeze you for money. You should probably hire an attorney and squash this right now.

If it were me, I would offer to let them go or stay and suffer the consequences. Something like this:

"Dear Tenants,

You reported me to the zoning officer even though I acted as soon as the problem was brought to my attention. After seeing the situation and speaking with others, I believe the damage was caused by your air conditioner, not through any fault of myself or the home. The zoning inspector found no evidence of mold and said the home is livable so I will not reimburse you for rent, pay for your hotel, etc. I not only expect you to pay rent but I also expect you to mow the lawn, which has not been done in a month.

You don't want to live in the house and i don't want you living there. I will offer to let you break your lease without penalty if you are out no later than July 10, 2018. If you insist on staying or squeezing me for money, I will hand this over to my attorney to not only protect me from your unfounded charges but to seek reimbursement for the floor replacement necessitated by your negligence.

Please notify me - in writing - of your intentions."

I’m certified in mold remediation and removal. Lots of bad info in this thread. Mold is a naturally occurring organism. It’s how nature breaks down dead organic matter. There is always mold in any place you are unless it has been specifically removed - like a hospital or a mold remediation company using proper techniques. The only way to know what kind of mold is in an area is to have it laboratory tested. You also need to take indoor and outdoor samples from the property and compare them. If the measurements are similar indoors & outdoors, no issues. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have mold growth removed from inside your property if it exists. Unless you are trained and certified in safe remediation techniques, taking your own measurements with a moisture meter is pretty useless and self diagnosis and removal of materials that are suspected to be contaminated is a bad idea. Have a professional come diagnose the problem and recommend solutions. Use those recommendations to deal with your tenant issue.

Originally posted by @Peter M. :

That's a bummer. In that case, I would start the eviction process and try to get them to agree to just walk away. But Texas is obviously much different so I would talk to a lawyer who knows how courts there generally rule when it comes to health issues. Even in Texas landlords will lose when it comes to health and welfare so try to avoid court.

 I would disagree with your premise that landlords in Texas would lose especially under this scenario.  The process to either terminate a lease or allow a tenant to make repairs is spelled out in the property code and very rarely is followed by a tenant

thanks everyone for so many responses so quickly. I will keep everyone updated in this process. I would have to evict them if I choose. All there belongs are there and they have the keys. Insurance company will be out tomorrow with a water expert to see what caused it.

update, the insurance is not 100% what caused it. It could be the roof or old windows. My tenant sent me a letter and also reported me to zoning about a mold issue which there is not any visible mold but I have not tested it. There is a 6x10 water stain which flooring and subfloor will be cut out and replaced. Zoning said it is fine but I should  get it tested. I talked to a couple of mold people but they basically told me they will find mold if they test it. Its in every house. I am worried now my tenant might sue me over "this mold issue". Do I need to worry about it? I dont think they will sue me but it seem odd they sent me a certified letter with pictures and reported me to zoning without calling me first. They stated they waited several days before telling me and this has been a ongoing situation for 6 months and they had to evacuate the property due to feeling sick and it being unsafe and they are legally allowed to withhold rent from me. These are 2 different issues, I had a window cap blow off after they moved in had a small leak in the same room. I gave them the option to move out and they want to stay and move back in when its fixed. All their belongs are there and they have keys.

Would you get it tested which will cost thousands or trying to get rid of them, not sure how since they pay on time or am I just being paranoid about them down the road trying to sue me?

Originally posted by @Felicia Elliott :

What does your lease states?  Always refer back to your lease it’s your strong point

 Its says this

20.LEAD PAINT, RADON, MILDEW, MOLD, ASBESTOS OR ANYTHING SIMILAR WAIVER OF RIGHTS

LANDLORD is not aware of or does not have any knowledge of anything in or on the premises mentioned above. This is a disclosure that there may or may not be anything in or on the premises listed above. LANDLORD is not responsible nor can be held liable in anyway. TENANT is aware of the possible risks and or side effects.

I dont see how this is anything except a setup for a lawsuit. Document everything, have the air tested and make sure you keep everything they said, esp that it has been ongoing for months and they didn't tell you. Did they install a window AC? If it was set up wrong and dripped into the building, then they need to be held accountable. 

Originally posted by @Bryan Devitt :

I dont see how this is anything except a setup for a lawsuit. Document everything, have the air tested and make sure you keep everything they said, esp that it has been ongoing for months and they didn't tell you. Did they install a window AC? If it was set up wrong and dripped into the building, then they need to be held accountable. 

 The insurance company said it looks like it was a maintenance issue due to the old windows or roof (5years old) or the window ac.  I have had the house 8 years and never had this problem. Yes there ac was in the window or the other one 4 foot away. They sent me picture after the ac was removed from the window and sitting on the ground which is odd I thought.

If they installed the AC,then sue them for the damages above their security deposit and evict them. Have a roofing company and window company come inspect the areas and write a letter stating that everything looks fine. 

Originally posted by @Jimmy S. :
Originally posted by @Bryan Devitt:

I dont see how this is anything except a setup for a lawsuit. Document everything, have the air tested and make sure you keep everything they said, esp that it has been ongoing for months and they didn't tell you. Did they install a window AC? If it was set up wrong and dripped into the building, then they need to be held accountable. 

 The insurance company said it looks like it was a maintenance issue due to the old windows or roof (5years old) or the window ac.  I have had the house 8 years and never had this problem. Yes there ac was in the window or the other one 4 foot away. They sent me picture after the ac was removed from the window and sitting on the ground which is odd I thought.

update, still working with the insurance company to find out what caused it. They are mostly thinking the old windows. I have repaired all damage with new sub floor and flooring. Its been 3 weeks my tenant has not been there and I stopped by today for zoning inspections and they have 2 moving trucks and everything out of  the house. They said I broke the law and I am refusing to fix anything which is untrue. They never gave me any notice about moving out. I am trying to fix it but if I dont know what caused it, how can I fix it. They said they want credit for the last 3 weeks of not living there, refund of the security and last month rent. My insurance company is slow but we are making progress and I have kept in touch with my tenants.

What would you do?  Refund them the money? Repairs are completed as of today and zoning approved it today but they moved out today. Not sure what my insurance will cover. Charge them rent from today until I get it re rented?  We are 6 months into a 1 year lease.