Mildew on window sills - charge tenant?

9 Replies

Hey BP community,
I have an inherited tenant who moved out of a single family home. They left with a decent amount of mildew on the window sills. I'm in Montana and the windows are good double pane vinyl windows. I assume the window sill mildew is a result of cold outdoor temps, maybe not great wall insulation, keeping the heat turned down when they were away building their house and/ or not venting the bathroom during showers. 

I have an estoppel that says there was no maintenance issues 6 months ago when I purchased it. A few months ago, they mentioned mildew on a baseboard after leaving a wet towel there for a while. It'll probably take me 4 - 6 hours to clean up. Is it worth charging them ~$150 out of their security deposit to clean this or should I just move on? Should I charge more, less, or nothing at all?
Sounds like other forums would suggest to move on and not deal with any future legal battles about mold being the landlords responsibility.

Thanks, Andrew 

I agree with the last statement you made in your post.  My subjective view is that if it takes me a little bit of elbow grease to clean it up, it's not worth aggravating the tenant and your cash flow.  Remember, this is an investment and you'll constantly be making sacrifices in order to keep the tenants content.

Of course if it starts to become a recurring issue, I would keep record of the amount of time you personally invest in the remedying of these instances and charge accordingly based on recorded fact (write it down, take pictures, receipts, etc).

From personal experience, I would just take photos, clean and repaint. Unless you are a mold-certified expert and know for a FACT it is beyond a doubt it's mildew, mold, or fungus, don't even mention it.  Just list cleaning/painting and charge those lazy tenants for it.

@Andrew Schrader

I agree that it is something you should clean and move on from. In my rentals, I make sure to wire the fan to the light switch, so every time a tenant uses shower, the fan is running. Also, a lot of older homes in Montana have bath fans venting into attic space. You might want to check if this is the case in your rental and get the ducting to vent outside.

Originally posted by @Ryan Frey :

@Andrew Schrader

 Also, a lot of older homes in Montana have bath fans venting into attic space. You might want to check if this is the case in your rental and get the ducting to vent outside.

I know that venting to the outside is the proper way to do it, but how would venting into the attic cause mildew on the window sills? 

Mildew isn't mold and it could be caused from inadequate ventilation - which could prove to be a "landlord maintenance issue." There's nothing to gain from pursuing the tenant for this...I vote with those who recommend cleaning it up and moving on. You may want to have your AC/Heat system checked to make sure you don't have condensation forming on the inside of the windows.

Clean it (or hire someone to), charge for the mould/mildew product you use and your time. Personally I run a pro cleaner through every unit at turnover. If the place was actually rentable I foot the bill. If it wasn’t, their deposit covers it and they can fight it in court to get $ back if they want.

@Andrew Schrader I'm in Cody, Wyoming and see this every year. When temperatures are below freezing outside, condensation collects on the windows and other areas. I had a new home built in 2014 and it happened there, too.

Yes, it is their responsibility to wipe up that water and prevent mold. Yes, you can charge them the cost of cleaning.

By the way, it is always recommended you hire a professional cleaner when charging the tenant. If the tenant contests the charges and you end up in court, you may lose if you did the work yourself because it's too easy for you to exaggerate the situation or over-charge. Hire a disinterested third party as a form of protection.

@Nathan G. Thanks. Do you supply renters with a dehumidifier? I assume that would help.

I didn't plan to charge the tenant for cleaning and planned to do a minor cleaning and then paint. They texted about the mildew the day before moving out and then didn't have time to do a walk through. I didn't have a cleaner lined up and planned my day to work there so I just went to cleaning.
The disinterested third party makes sense for reasonable and fair cleaning charges.