As the owner of rental property, you have likely researched the Delaware laws outlining your responsibilities toward your tenants and the obligations renters have. Most of these may involve the timely payment of rent and the need for keeping units in safe and sound repair.

While you may be prompt about fixing a leaking roof or making plumbing repairs, there is a sinister danger that you may have overlooked, especially after damage involving water.

Mold can create a serious health hazard

In recent years, medical science has impressed upon lawmakers the dangers of breathing mold spores and the illnesses that can result from such exposure. As a result, laws now protect tenants from mold in rental properties. Mold is a fungus that grows in moist climates, like bathrooms, basements or where water has seeped behind walls. It is sometimes visible, but you may not realize it is growing under your floorboards, in the ceiling or behind the shower.

Mold, particularly black mold, can be toxic, especially to those with sensitivities or those with delicate systems like the elderly or children. Some of the most common reactions to mold exposure include:

  • Allergy-like symptoms, such as runny nose, irritated eyes and sneezing
  • Cough, wheezing and chest congestion
  • Dizziness and blurry vision
  • Sinus infections
  • Fungal infections

If your tenants live with prolonged exposure to black mold, they may suffer permanent neurological damage from mycotoxin toxicity. To prevent this from happening, housing authorities recommend property owners and managers conduct frequent inspections for mold and take quick action to remediate when signs of mold appear.

Your legal responsibility

Even if your tenants’ actions have resulted in the growth of mold, the law holds you responsible for its removal and remediation. Landlord advocates suggest reviewing policies with your tenants for controlling moisture and documenting anything that may prove that ..your tenants caused the mold. Doing this may allow you to charge your tenants for the cost of removing the mold.

However, waiting for tenants to pay before cleaning up the problem is not a strategy many recommend. The longer you wait, the more the mold grows, and the greater the chances that someone in your building will become ill because of the toxic fungus. If you take care of the mold and repair the damage, you can then seek legal advice for reclaiming the cost from tenants who contributed to the presence of the mold.