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A Nightmare Story about Mold

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As a Tampa property management company, I recently signed a new owner who had me start managing a lovely townhome that had been sitting vacate for a long time.  They were trying to manage the property on their own but had family health issues, so it was taking a backseat to other responsibilities.  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 own in Tampa.  As a Tampa property manager, this kind of call sets off all sorts of alarms in my head. Though, we happen to be state licensed mold remediators and have done tons of mold jobs both big and small.  Mold is a very a touchy subject; it can lead to an expensive lawsuit, for the owner and my company.

We found out the tenant hired 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

raised a concern that there is a genuine possibility of a shakedown or gross exaggeration.

Here's why mold needs water to grow.  The only way you get "Infested by Mold" is having a significant leak that goes unchecked for weeks.  This is extremely unlikely when a tenant lives there.  These sorts of catastrophes usually occur when the home is empty (tenant is on vacation), and the AC is off. All of the above can cause a horrible mold problem.

However, since the tenant has resided in the home eight 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.I also suggested having my mold tech check out the home to ensure the other mold company isn't exaggerating to blow up the bill. The total process should take about a week to handle as long as the job is not too bad.

When my Technician arrived 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 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 expenses of $1000 to move to the new townhome.  I explained to the owner "this is not okay, according to Landlord-tenant laws."All the owner is required to do is let the tenant out of their lease.  There are no requirements that I'm aware of that require an owner to pay for moving expenses.

Then the tenant drops the bomb that she had severe respiratory problems.  I immediately recommend to the owner, not to allow the tenant to move back into the home with the "reported mold." If mold is ever discovered in that original home, anytime in the future, she would have the right to sue his insurance company for a surprising amount of money and would likely win. It is not worth the risk.

I recommended letting her stay at the new townhome until she finds a new place.  She did finally agree to pay rent for the outstanding 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 house).  Refund them their security deposit promptly.  Get the home treated if needed and rent to a new Qualified 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 massive lawsuit if something was missed or a new mold situation develops in the future.  The tenant can easily claim the property manager and owner were negligent and, in my opinion, easily convince a jury.

This isn't legal advice as I'm not an attorney and you should defiantly consult with one when you have a legal question.  This is just my opinion from being in property management and mold business for as long as I have been.

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Friday, 18 September 2020
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