Pennsylvania Renters are Entitled to a Habitable, Mold-Free Home
Renters in Pennsylvania are ensured a certain set of tenant-landlord rights. It is a measure taken to maintain safety, security, and health of all members of the community. In terms of mold, it can be a matter of public health concern and should be resolved with a sense of urgency. We’ve discussed some New Jersey Renters Rights with mold and outlined some steps to take in terms of how to approach mold in a rental unit and the conversation that needs to be had with the landlord. While there are some federal health and safety regulations, a majority of the guidelines are state specific.
In nearly every state, tenants are entitled to a safe and livable home. Since mold is a relatively new-found danger, there are still limited regulations. For example, currently, there is no federal law that sets the permissible exposure limit or building tolerance standards for mold in residential buildings. However, based on the dangers we know about mold, it can be argued that the existence of mold compromises the other above-mentioned health and safety rights.
Livable- basic necessities of a home are well maintained: roof that protects against outside elements, hot water, heat, and sturdy floors and walls. It also encompasses the absence of significant danger: lead, asbestos, and mold.
As we gain more knowledge about mold, there is more mold litigation moving through the courts, which allows for the law to catch up to science and drive more regulation on permissible mold standards. Some states have already began the transition forward and taken the step toward establishing mold regulations: New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, California, and Indiana.
Implied Warranty of Habitability
Currently, in Pennsylvania, there are no mold-specific regulations for residential property; however, Pennsylvania tenants are legally entitled to a rental property that meets basic structural, health, and safety standards and is in good repair. Under an “Implied Warranty of Habitability,” tenants are guaranteed a residence fit for human habitation in exchange for the tenant’s promise to pay rent. It is an implied warranty because it does not have to be in writing. The Implied Warranty of Habitability covers various maintenance that the landlord must provide to ensure fit housing, one of which being a safe and sanitary environment. The presence of a major mold concern would violate that, so long as it is not a direct result of tenant behavior.
Landlords should be held liable for damages and threats that are a direct result of the landlord’s neglect to regulate the above mentioned maintenance and repair.
For example, if the mold is caused by a landlord’s failure to resolve leaks — Landlords in a large majority of the states (all but Arkansas) are responsible for maintaining fit housing and repairing rental property. This extends to fixing leaking pipes, windows, and roofs. Furthermore, most major water intrusion requires a professional water damage restoration, which might be the landlord’s responsibility depending on the nature of the causation. If the appropriate repairs are not implemented, and a mold problem develops as a result, the landlord should be held liable due to the dangers of mold presence.
If you believe you have a potential mold problem that is contributing to an unfit living environment, be sure to communicate the issue with your landlord first with a clear time frame of expected resolution. This way your landlord is made aware of the defective condition and has a reasonable opportunity to make the necessary repairs. Be sure that all communication with your landlord is in writing and dated to ensure that the process is well documented. Once you have provided the proper notification to your landlord, if (s)he fails to implement the appropriate repairs in a timely manner, you may have grounds to take further action.
If a landlord neglects a mold problem, despite fair notice and time to complete a professional mold remediation, the tenant is entitled to several legal rights:
- The right to withhold partial or full rent until the appropriate repairs are made
- The right to terminate the leasing agreement without paying any further— Tenant would have to vacate the premise in a timely manner
- The right to “repair and deduct”—Tenant hires a professional to complete a mold remediation that returns the residence back to fit and habitable. All costs for the work will be deducted from the cost of rent.
- The right to sue the landlord and take him/her to court
If you believe your landlord has breached the Warranty of Habitability, you should seek out legal advice from a professional prior to taking any further action.
Regardless of the specific outcome of any potential case, the important thing to keep in mind is that as a renter, you have the power to make sure that the environment in which you live is safe not only for yourself, but also for your family, friends, and other members of the community. Ideally, we encourage prevention, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” As a tenant, you can take the necessary precautions to control moisture in the residence and prevent mold growth. However, if the mold develops as a direct result of a landlord’s negligence, you are entitled to a certain set of rights. New Jersey renters rights with mold is a topic closely related as it is a neighboring state that you may know a family member or friend with a similar circumstance.