Who determines if we have a mold problem?

17 Replies

I have a tenant writing me to say that she has mold growing in her attic. She sent a picture and it doesn't look like mold to me. It looks like paint splatter. I have my handyman going out there to work on some issues in her apartment, and he has dealt with minor mold issues for me before. Is it legit to have him him scope it out and see if she does indeed have a mold issue? Or do I need to call a mold company right away? She's complaining about her asthma already, so I can't mis-step this one.

If she's already complaining about asthma id call a professional company in to do an inspection. They can take air samples and see if they're is any mold present in the air. This way your 100 perc covered, 

@Alyssa Lebetsamer we had the same problem with our last tenant where she "claimed" that she and her mom were so severely sick every time they came into the house, that they had to be hospitalized and couldn't go into the house.  We knew they were full of it but this was after months of complaining about every little thing.  We actually offered to let them move out without penalty, because we knew they had an alternative living option.  But after they moved out, we did the right thing and had a professional mold test profile done for about $350 and there was next to ZERO mold spores found. In fact mold levels were so low, the company commented about it.

Bottom line, the professionals decide if there is a mold problem not the tenant or landlord. Get a test and squash it OR worst case, you do have a problem and you get it addressed.

Bridgette, that sounds like a complete nightmare. I hope they didn't try to make you foot the bill for any part of the hospital stay. 

Thank you Michael and Bridgette. Sounds like I have a call to a professional mold company to make in the morning.

@Alyssa Lebetsamer if it were me, I wouldn’t immediately start spending money on mold testing. Start with your handyman and have him take some pictures. If it’s questionable, then get a test done. If it’s obviously paint splatter, let the tenant know and move on.

If they keep complaining about mold, then Consider a test. But I wouldn’t just pay for one with a single complaint.

You have a handyman who already going there.  I agree with Mike, have the handyman check it out first and then call someone.  Make sure whoever you call just does testing.  Some that do testing and remediation may not be on the up and up.

@Alyssa Lebetsamer there is technically mold spores at some level many places that are damp or humid. There are mold testing companies in your area that can test if they are acceptable levels or dangerous/toxic levels. You might consider telling the tenant you will be happy to have a company come out and test. If the levels legally require remediation you will pay for the testing and if they do not the bill will go to the tenant.

You can also take the alternate approach of going into the attic with bleach or a solution of distilled vinegar and scrubbing the area that the tenant reported had mold.

I completely disagree with above recommendations. Handy man or "handyman" they are not qualified to the extent a contractor or a specialist is. We could all hope you don't have an issue and it is just that paint splatter but what if you do ? theirs too much liability in mold, and I guarantee you your handyman is not insured to handle mold. If you do have an issue and he cant find it or assumes the mold issue is a the roof and not in the walls and the symptoms continue you can be liable for time lost at work medical bills etc. Hire a company that can do an air sample test and cover your but in the event they decide to push the issue further. Again handyman are not mold inspectors, they take care of your odd and ends. Lets just say if fixes the issue in the attic and their was a little mold, so he cleaned it up and took care of it. 6 months down the road the "symptoms" are still present, you sware up and down you corrected the problem, well they decide to have an air sample done and sure enough theirs mold, well now your on the line for the medical bills etc. Its so much cheaper to just hire the right person to do the job, someone who is qualified licensed and insured to do such.

She probably just wants out of a lease. Is the tenant on a lease? Just offer to let her out of the lease. That's what I'd do. Just tell her you're really sorry but you can't afford to pay for a mold testing company, so if she wants to move, you'll waive the notice requirement and give her her full deposit as long as she leaves the place clean, and you'll give it to her in cash on her move-out day after she gives you the keys and you see the place is clean.

Then, if she actually gets some legal aid or lawyer involved, you can deal with it.  But, odds are, she just wants out of the lease.

I did this with some tenants of my daughter's. It was a similar situation and I just told them that my daughter doesn't have the money to fix what they wanted done. They were threatening to call the buiilding inspectors, yatta yatta. I said, yes, they have that right, but if the building inspector says the place is uninhabitable, they'll have to vacate right away. And even though the law says my daughter has to pay their relocation fees, if she just doesn't have the money, then all they can do is sue her or force her into foreclosure, but if she doesn't have the money, she just doesn't. But, of course, you have the right to call inspectors or get a lawyer, etc. Or - you can just move. In our case, and what I experienced 9 times out of 10, was they decided the place was okay after all and they stayed and quit complaining.

Either way, if you just say, well, I'm really sorry you're not happy with the unit, but we don't have the money (you could say because you're struggling because of Covid 19), so if you decide you need to move, I'll work with you...

@Alyssa Lebetsamer I agree with @Michael Gessner . Go get a professional mold inspector to do the mold inspection and testing for you. Ask them for a written report to be covered. But make sure the inspector is an independent one not a mold remediation contractor. The contractors like to disguise as inspectors and come not for inspection but for a solicitation. 100% conflict of interest. And are they expensive?

Originally posted by @Alyssa Lebetsamer :

@Sue K. I wish that she wanted out of her lease! She is currently on month to month - she could move any time that she wished. And if she chose to leave she would solve a lot of issues for me. 

 You could always buy her out under the new law.  I think you have to pay them two months rent.  But, the new law that says you can't kick them out except for cause also has a provision where you can kick them out without cause with 60 days notice, I think, and you have to pay them two months rent, I think.  I'm assuming the property is in CA.  

Anyway, I learned not to tapdance when a tenant demands it.  I had to learn the art of calling a bluff with a demanding tenant.  Sorry, nope, we can't do that.  They usually go into shock.  Then you can wait and see what they do.  But, in your case, if they're a regular pain in the rear, it might be worth it to just pay them to leave under the new law with proper notice.

Alyssa, it sounds like you have gotten great advice from the community. I have managed properties in your county and you will definitely want documented proof of acceptable levels of mold spores from a professional testing company.

It just makes it better for you to have documentation in the event they decide to take any type of legal action or attempt to withhold rent by stating that the unit is not habitable.

Thank you everyone! I really do appreciate all the advice and input. I have an appointment with a certified mold testing professional on Monday morning, and have properly informed the tenant that we will be there.