Holding Residents Accountable for Preventing Mold Growth
It's not uncommon to hear about residents suing owners, claiming that they were injured by the presence of mold in their units. Exposure to certain molds or fungi has been linked to a number of ailments, including asthma, headaches, and skin rashes.
In a recent New Jersey case, a resident notified the owner of the presence of mold in the unit. The owner then hired an inspection and testing company, which evaluated the conditions of the resident’s unit. The company did find elevated levels of mold, and it also identified various conditions created by the residents that contributed to mold growth, including: pet urine "observed at multiple carpet locations"; a piece of wood laid over an open toilet tank creating moisture on a porous surface; plastic bags piled against an HVAC filtration unit; distribution ducts "obstructed by furnishings and storage"; and other evidence of poor housekeeping.
The resident eventually rejected the owner's remediation plan and sued the owner for negligence in a New Jersey court. The owner eventually won the case, but not without significant legal cost and hassle [Yakoleva v. Griggs Farm, Inc., April 2013].
To help prevent mold growth at your tax credit site, you, as a site owner or manager, should establish and enforce a preventive maintenance program. One way to start is to get residents to report conditions, such as leaks, that can cause mold or other organic growth to develop. Residents who don't report leaks in their units, or who keep high levels of moisture or humidity in their units may be encouraging mold or organic growth. Even though these residents may be responsible for allowing the conditions that cause mold growth to develop, they still may sue your site if they are injured by the effect caused by mold or other organic growth.
That's why you should start asking your new residents, as well as those renewing their leases, to sign a lease addendum that makes residents responsible for doing their share to prevent mold growth. Click here, for an example of a Lease Addendum on Mold that you can adapt and use at your tax credit site.