Maryland is known for several things, one of which is the Chesapeake Bay, an extensive eco-system known as an estuary that surrounds the state. An estuary is a “partially enclosed body of water along the coast where freshwater from rivers and streams meet and mix with salt water from the ocean.” This kind of eco-system can produce organic matter at a higher level than most “forest, grassland or agricultural” areas. This thriving environment can also be a great catalyst for the growth of mold. This type of occurrence can become quite a nuisance for the residents of this area – especially those individuals in a rented property.
In such an area it is important for the residents to understand their rights as tenants, and that if mold growth occurs, the landlord must remove it. Unfortunately, in the state of Maryland specific laws in regards to mold testing and removal do not exist. However, there are standards and codes that exist in regards to mold exposure in the Landlord Tenant Handbook, Maryland Attorney General’s Office, and the Maryland Health Department. The above resources illustrate the danger of being exposed to mold and what a renter should do if they feel their residence is contaminated.
In the past 10 years there have been various lawsuits in regards to toxic mold exposure in rentals, where the landlord was found accountable for not taking care of the problem promptly. One such instance involved a group of individuals in Maryland who had rented a home together, and were exposed to toxic mold. They decided to file a case against their landlord for his negligence and refusal to fix the problem quickly. The argument being, “The landlords failed to fulfill their obligation to respond to the renters’ requests for repairs and failed to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. “ The tenants had complained of water damage that existed within the home, and asked the landlord to fix the issue, which never occurred. Because of this, many of the occupants had health issues and were hospitalized on several occasions. At the end of the trial the verdict was in favor of the tenants and they were awarded $270,000 for the medical problems they had sustained. This case illustrates just how important it is for tenants in the Maryland area to know, and understand, their rights.
It is also crucial to understand the danger associated with exposure to black mold, and that symptoms will persist if you are regularly exposed. Some of the less dangerous reactions to exposure include, but are not limited to, irritated and watery eyes, throat irritation, problems breathing, shortness of breath, memory loss, sneezing, runny nose, cough, and even nosebleeds. Some of the more serious reactions include damage to the kidneys, nervous system, immune system, and even the brain. In some cases it has even led to death, and those who suffer the most from exposure include the elderly and children. It is important that if you suspect mold may be present in your residence, that you know what steps you should take to remove the problem permanently.
According to the Maryland Health Department, mold is one of the many contaminants that can cause serious damage to an individual’s health, and agrees with the Environmental Protection Agency, in regards to proper removal of mold. For example, a report issued by the EPA indicates that when it comes to getting rid of mold “bleach or cleaner is not enough, the mold itself has to be removed. “ This can be done by a certified mold inspector to identify the issue, and a mold remediator to properly remove the mold from the rental.
In the instance that you believe mold is present in your rental, whether that is due to visible mold, a musty odor, or just a feeling, it is important for you to know if your environment is a healthy one. You must first make your landlord aware of this issue, by sending a written complaint describing in detail the issue you have with your unit. Remember to always send any documentation via certified mail so you can have proof of the time you sent the complaint and that the landlord received it. Depending on the county you live in within the state of Maryland, there are various time limits placed on when the landlord is required to fix a problem once they have been notified. Generally speaking, the landlord has a week to make the repairs once they have received your complaint. If the landlord does not make repairs, or contact you to establish a date in which they will fix the problem, you may contact your local County Code Enforcement Division. You may contact them to schedule an inspection to determine if the issue is considered a health hazard. If the inspector determines that the problem is dangerous and needs to be repaired, a time frame may be established in which the landlord must repair the issue or suffer a possible fine. You may also file a complaint with the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs (COLTA). Yet another step you may take if the landlord still refuses to remove the mold is to “pay your rent into an escrow account established at the local district court.” This means that if you take your claim to court, the money you would normally pay for rent will be placed in an account that merely holds the money until a verdict is rendered. City Code, Chapter 6.16 for the state of Maryland indicates that it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that “any condition that presents a serious fire or health hazard” is repaired or removed from the rental.
In the case of mold, it is necessary, especially in cases of extensive toxic mold levels, that it be removed completely from the unit. It is your right as a tenant in the state of Maryland to have a healthy home or business, and if these conditions are not met, you have options to ensure that your health is not in jeopardy.
For more information about tenant rights in the State of Maryland and how an inspection can help determine if you have a problem at your property, call us at 1-866-358-3838 or email us here.