As a Tampa property management company, I just got a new owner who had me start managing an attractive townhome that had been sitting vacate for quite some time. They were trying to manage themselves but had family health issues, so it was taking a backseat to other priorities. We checked the home out and started marketing it in a couple of days, no sweat.
Well, a week later I hear from the owner about a mold problem they are having at another rental property they have in Tampa. As a Tampa property manager this kind of call sets off all kinds of alarms in my head. Mold can be very a touchy event leading to expensive law suits for the owner and my company. We happen to be state licensed mold remediators and have done tons of mold jobs both big and small.
It turns out the tenant of this home called out a mold company who claims the house is infested with mold. The mold inspector recommended she leave the home immediately until the home was cleared of mold. They used words like “this house should be condemned” and “Mold infestation.” This immediately clued me into the very real possibility of a shakedown or gross exaggeration.
You see mold needs water to grow. The only way you get a “Mold Infestation” is having a major leak that goes unchecked for weeks. This is extremely unlikely when a tenant lives there. These sorts of catastrophes occur normally when the home is empty (tenant is on vacation) and the AC is off. Then you have a horrible mold problem.
However, since the tenant has lived there for 8 years and had been a good tenant according to the owner, I recommended moving the tenant to the empty townhome until we can check everything. It should take about a week to handle everything if the job is not too bad. I also recommended having my mold tech check out the home to ensure the other mold company isn’t exaggerating in order to blow up the bill.
Sure, enough he doesn’t find any mold and nothing is wet. This is not uncommon because outside mold companies can easily lie or exaggerate and basically scare the owner, to get a big payday. It happens all the time.
Meanwhile, the tenant says she isn’t going to pay rent for the month since she had to spend $1000 to move all of her stuff to the new townhome. I tell the owner this is not okay according to what I know about landlord tenant law. All the owner had to do was let her out of her lease. There is no requirement that I’m aware of that require owner to pay for moving expenses.
Then the tenant drops the bomb that she had severe respiratory problems. I immediately recommend to the owner to not allow the tenant to move back into the home with the “reported mold.” If mold is ever discovered in that original home, she could sue his insurance company for big money and win. It is not worth the risk.
I recommended he let her stay at the new townhome until she finds somewhere else to stay. She did finally agree to pay rent for the month, and everything seems to have worked out okay.
The thing to keep in mind is if a tenant reports mold and an expert says the home is not livable, let the tenant out of their lease immediately without penalty (provided they didn’t trash the home). Give them their security deposit back immediately. Get the home treated if needed and rent to a new tenant. You never want to put a tenant with respiratory problems back into a rental where the tenant previously reported mold. It opens you and the owner up to a huge lawsuit if something was missed or a new mold situation develops in future. The tenant can easily claim the property manager and owner were negligent and, in my opinion, easily convince a jury.
I’m not giving legal advice as I’m not an attorney and you should always consult with one when you have a legal question. This is just my opinion from being in the mold and property management business for so long.