For residents of Ohio, the threat of possible mold exposure is all too real. Many remember especially parents, the case of approximately 10 infants that suffered from pulmonary hemorrhage (PH) or bleeding of the lungs back in November of 1994 after being exposed to mold. After this incident, yet another issue has arisen, not only in Ohio but throughout the United States. In recent years there has been a significant rise in number foreclosed homes entering the real estate market. The reason this can become an issue for possible buyers or renters, is that homes such as this can be overrun with mold. For those who will be or are currently renting in the state of Ohio, it is important to understand your rights as a tenant, and the steps you should take to ensure that your home is a healthy one.
As mentioned above back in November of 1994, Cleveland was affected by the sudden increase of infants suffering from PH. This ailment usually affects only 1 in one million infants. In Cleveland, however it was affecting 1 out of 1000 infants. The Centers for Disease Control or CDC was contacted and they responded by sending a representative to determine what was causing this sudden increase of PH. The doctor who had originally cared for the children and the representative from the CDC determined that the main culprit responsible for the infants’ illness was toxic mold (stachybotrys chartarum) that was present in the children’s homes. Since then, however, the CDC has stated that they cannot show empirically that a strong connection exists between black mold exposure and the bleeding of lungs in infants; they cannot state however, that it was not a factor. The doctor who had cared for the children, Dr. Dearborn, has written a rebuttal to the CDC’s findings in recent years, and still believes that black mold was the main reason why these infants suffered from bleeding of the lungs. Not only that, but Dr. Dearborn, had also exhumed several infants that had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS during the same time period, and found that several of them had suffered from bleeding of the lungs as well. He then concluded that it was possible that these children had been ill due to exposure to black mold as well and testing of their homes revealed that black mold was in fact present. It should also be noted that the children involved in the study lived in a ten zip code cluster area and many of the homes had suffered some sort of water damage. Other factors such as environmental tobacco smoke appear to be important triggers in precipitating overt pulmonary hemorrhage.
Foreclosure is another term that Ohionians have been hearing more of in recent years and many are unaware of the danger that can lurk inside these homes. For those who are looking to rent a place that has been foreclosed on, it is important to make sure that extensive mold growth has not happened in the home. After a home has been foreclosed on, it can sit for weeks, months or even years without proper maintenance, ventilation or inspection. These homes may have had existing leaks or moisture intrusions that have gone unfixed resulting in a home that is literally infested with mold. The problem with this is that in many cases the mold growth may not be visible and can be hidden in attics, crawl spaces, basements, behind walls, in drywall, under flooring, in ceilings and several other hidden places. An aesthetic inspection of the property will not show this damaging fungi ravaging through a home, and the occupants may be inhaling this deadly contaminant unknowingly.
Mold is a biological contaminant that can cause minor allergic reactions as well as more severe symptoms after of exposure. Some of the common symptoms of mold exposure include watery irritated eyes, throat irritation, cough, rash, skin sensitivity, nose bleeds, sinus infection, and flu like symptoms. Some of the more severe reactions include damage to the kidneys, immune system, nervous system, exacerbation of asthma, chronic respiratory problems, damage to the brain and even death. The more severe symptoms generally strike those with compromised immune systems, the elderly and young children. All the above health issues can be acute, meaning short-lived or chronic meaning they can last for years, or even a lifetime. If you suspect that mold is either present in a rental property or are thinking about renting and just want to be informed, the following information may aide your decision. Ohio Revised Code 5302.30 Requires sellers of residential real property containing 1-4 units to deliver a disclosure form to buyers disclosing the presence of hazardous materials or substances, including radon gas. Regulations adopted under the law (Ohio Admin. Code § 1301:1-4-10) establish the form, which includes disclosure of mold inspection or remediation of the property, and contains a warning statement about mold to purchasers. This applies primarily to the seller and buyer of a commercial or residential property, however if a potential landlord purchases a property with the intent of renting to a tenant, it is quite possible that they may already have knowledge of mold growth, leaks, moisture intrusion or sewage back-ups have occurred on the property to date. When renting a property or apartment, ask the landlord whether the previous owner had signed such a document or whether existing leaks, mold and so forth have happened on the property in the past. A sample of the disclosure form can be found at the following link: http://codes.ohio.gov/pdf/oh/admin/2011/1301$5-6-10_PH_FF_N_APP1_20081027_1405.pdf
If you are a current tenant in Ohio and have discovered what appears to be mold in your home, there are a few steps you can take to try and remedy the situation. The following is merely to inform and should not take the place of contacting an attorney in the event that mold is found on your property. First make sure to document everything, take pictures of visible mold, leaks, and moisture intrusion or ventilation issues. Even though the landlord may not need to test or remove mold, he is still obligated to fix any leaks, moisture intrusions or ventilation issues as per Ohio Revised Code 5321.04 Obligations of landlord. After documenting everything make sure to write your complaint to the landlord in writing, make a photocopy for yourself and send the other copy to your landlord via certified mail. This ensures that you have proof the landlord received the complaint and on what date. After receipt of the letter, the landlord has 30-days to make contact or make the necessary repairs to the unit. If the landlord fails to do so, you may have the right to withhold rent, break the lease or take them to court. Again if the landlord fails to make the repairs or repairs only what he/she has to and feels that the mold is not part of that, you will want to contact an attorney to understand what options you have.
Since on average Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, knowing the air quality in your home is safe, will allow you to breathe easier and healthier.
- http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5321 http://codes.ohio.gov/pdf/oh/admin/2011/130$5-6-10_PH_FF_N_APP1_20081027_1405.pdf