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By Katherine Duffy
Updated on Jul 29, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
You can only refuse to pay your rent if the mold in your unit is making the unit uninhabitable. If the mold isn’t serious, refusal to pay rent would be a breach of your tenancy agreement.
Mold infestations in your home are unsightly and can make rooms smell musty and sour. In serious cases, mold can pose significant threats to your health, making your unit unlivable. Unfortunately, landlords aren’t always cooperative when it comes to mold removal, leaving tenants to make decisions about how to deal with the mold and their living situation.
If you’re a tenant in this situation, you may be wondering if you can withhold rent when there’s mold in your unit, especially if your landlord won’t fix the mold. Jerry, the super app for home insurance savings, has all the answers to these tricky questions.
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Do I have the right to withhold rent for mold growth?
Yes, you do have the right to withhold rent if there’s mold growth in your rental unit, but only under certain circumstances. If your unit is uninhabitable because of advanced or toxic mold growth and your landlord has made no efforts to remedy the situation, you’re entitled to withhold rent.
But, if the mold is not making your unit unlivable and is reasonably manageable, it’s unlikely that you have the legal right to withhold rent.
Toxic or advanced mold growth situations are few and far between, so tread carefully when deciding whether you should withhold your rent.
What happens if you breach your tenancy contract
Most mold problems are mild and totally reversible with the correct cleaning products and maintenance. With that considered, withholding rent for mold is usually a breach of your tenancy contract.
If you end up withholding your rent without legal cause, your landlord can do the following:
- Serve you a written notice requesting you to pay the rent within a stated period of time
- Request for dispute resolution services, which help you and your landlord settle on an agreeable way for you to pay the rent
- Go to the appropriate legal authority and request an order that requires you to pay the rent
- Provide written notice that requires you to leave your unit if you fail to pay the rent within seven days
- File an eviction lawsuit against you
- Sue you for unpaid rent
Key Takeaway Don’t withhold your rent prematurely. If you violate your tenancy contract without legal cause, your landlord will have the legal right to collect rent from you, kick you out of your unit, or pursue an eviction lawsuit.
Is it the landlord’s responsibility to fix the mold in your unit?
Fortunately, it is your landlord’s responsibility to fix any mold in your unit. Your landlord has a duty to keep your rental unit in a reasonably repaired state, and they must ensure the unit is habitable at all times.
Mold compromises a property. In extreme cases, it can make a unit uninhabitable, which is why landlords have this responsibility. If you notice mold in your unit, you must provide your landlord notice as soon as possible. They generally have two weeks to fix it.
This generally remains true, but if the mold is a direct result of your own actions—like forgetting to turn a tap off, neglecting bathroom fans, or keeping damp items in poorly-ventilated areas—your landlord is generally not responsible for fixing the mold.
If you notice mold in your apartment and you are reasonably sure it didn’t occur as a result of your own actions, contact your landlord immediately to have it removed.
It’s a good idea to notify your landlord if the mold occurs from your actions as well. Just be fully prepared to remove it yourself or front the costs of a professional cleaning service.
What to do if your landlord won’t fix mold in your unit
Let’s say you’ve explicitly requested the mold be removed and given your landlord the full two weeks to remedy the situation. They haven’t taken any action or even acknowledged your complaint.
If you’re still dealing with an untreated mold problem after two weeks, here’s what you can do:
- Negotiate with the landlord to terminate your tenancy contract
- Remove the mold on your own and then request for the cost to be deducted from your rent
- Visit your local dispute authority to have the landlord be forced to fix the problem
- If the problem is serious enough, withhold rent legally until your landlord fixes your mold problem
- Sue your landlord for damages and health problems incurred by the mold problem
Remember, these options are only available to you if the mold in your unit is growing due to no fault or action of your own. If the mold is a direct result of your own actions, the landlord isn’t responsible, and you’ll have to clean it yourself or move elsewhere.
Does insurance cover mold damage?
Insurance may cover mold removal, but only in certain circumstances. Your insurance policy will likely cover some or all of your mold removal expenses if the mold is a direct result of a peril covered by your home or renters insurance policy.
Common perils covered by your policy include rain, snow, fire, lightning, or windstorms. Unfortunately, flooding (which can be a major cause of mold in your home) is usually not a covered peril.
On the other hand, your insurance provider is unlikely to provide coverage if your mold growth is due to negligence or general wear and tear. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have your landlord check your ducts every year or as soon as you smell mold in your home. Eliminating the problem quickly can help mitigate any related costs!
The easiest way to find renters and homeowners insurance
Dealing with mold problems in your rental unit or home can cause quite the headache, but protecting your personal belongings in your rental unit with the right insurance doesn’t have to be.
Put your home and renters insurance on autopilot with Jerry, the insurance super app. Jerry is the easiest and most effective way to find a home, renters, or auto insurance policy that is customized for you.
All you have to do is download the app, answer a few questions, and Jerry will take care of the rest. We’ll do a comprehensive cross-analysis of policies from the top, name-brand insurers to make sure you have a policy that suits your needs.
Choose the policy you like, then we’ll do the hard work for you—that means handling all phone calls, paperwork, and renewals.
“Jerry was wonderful! I used it for my auto and renters policies. I trusted it so much that I signed up my homeowners insurance under Jerry as well. All of the agents are amazingly nice and knowledgeable.” —Mary Y.
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Is mold dangerous to my health?
Mold generally doesn’t pose any serious dangers to your health unless it’s an advanced infestation or if it’s toxic mold.
If you’re experiencing dizzy spells, nausea, headaches, or difficulty breathing inside your home or rental unit, you may be dealing with a serious mold problem. In this case, find someplace else to live.
Can I break my lease because of mold?
You can, but only under certain circumstances. If your mold problem is so advanced that your unit becomes uninhabitable, you can break your lease.