Tennessee is home to country music, Davey Crockett, and a plethora of other culturally significant contributions. With its beautiful scenery, majestic mountains, and western way of life, it is no wonder that many people have the desire to live in such a lovely region. However, what many people do not consider when moving to place is its potential for grow mold. As a prospective renter in the state of Tennessee, it is very important to fully understand your rights in regards to mold infestations. Mold can be very detrimental to your health and it may be the responsibility of the landlord to remove such a threat.
First it is important to understand just how dangerous mold can be to your health and the health of your family. Mold is considered to be a biological contaminant, and at high enough levels can cause a plethora of adverse health effects. Generally, mold exposure will result in allergic-type reactions including nasal congestion, eye irritation, cough, rash, nose bleeds and in some cases flu-like symptoms. These reactions are usually linked to the less harmful species of mold; however mold types such as toxic or black mold can cause a more severe response. The scientific name for black mold is this form of mold can be found indoors since it requires cellulose rich material to feed on and a little bit of moisture. If these conditions are met this fungi can become a huge problem in a structure. Some of the more intense reactions to mold exposure include kidney damage, damage to the nervous system, immune system, brain and in some cases can result in death. These afflictions are more common among the elderly, young children and the immune compromised. It is also important for those with existing respiratory conditions to avoid exposure to any kind of mold as it can exacerbate symptoms.
An area like that of Tennessee has seen its share of damage-causing weather. For example, back in 2010 a severe flood waterlogged many Tennessean homes, resulting in the onset of extensive mold growth for many residents. In one instance a local church that suffered flooding had to be nearly completely restored. Many people were unwilling to let the structure go and began to rip the damaged sections of the building apart. They soon realized that there were far more problems with the structure than they could possible deal with. One of the church members stated that “the place had mold, mildew and asbestos, so we stopped. If we would have kept going, we could have contaminated the whole neighborhood.” They realized an important thing about the damaging effects of contaminants such mold, that only a professional can truly remedy the problem. This story indicates the importance of removing mold and other contaminants without cross-contaminating. If mold exists in your rental, proper removal will help you to avoid getting the toxic fungi everywhere in the home.
For a tenant it can be difficult to determine how to remedy a situation such as mold infestation. It is important to follow certain steps to help avoid a costly problem in the future. As a potential renter in the state of Tennessee it is necessary that you fully understand your rights and the obligations of your landlord. Prior to signing any lease or rental agreement, it is suggested that you read it completely and compile a list of questions for your landlord to answer. One of these questions should be in regards to mold-related problems. You should find out if your landlord feels it is his or her responsibility to fix problems related to mold and the time frame in which it should be repaired. If the landlord agrees to fix issues that arise from a mold-related problem, make sure to get this in writing and include it in the lease agreement. That way in the future if the landlord refuses to fix the problem you have proof that they agreed to make the repairs. Make sure to ask your landlord about any previous problems on the property. Find out if past water damage may have made the unit more susceptible to potential mold growth. Make sure to ask if all the problems were properly remedied and for proof of such actions.
For those of you who are already renting in the great state of Tennessee, here are some steps that can help you if mold has infiltrated your rental. If you suspect that mold is in fact present in your unit, it is important to document everything. In writing, describe in detail what the problem is and what you feel should be done to fix it. Write this in the form of a letter as it will be sent to the landlord as a request for repairs notice. You can even include images of the affected areas to send with your request. After completing the document, make a copy and keep it for your records. Make sure to make copies of any images of the damage as well. Then you should send the letter to the landlord via certified mail. This will ensure that you have a receipt of when the landlord received the letter. From that date, the landlord has between 14-30 days to either contact you or begin making repairs.
As with several other states, Tennessee has a standard “implied warranty,” which states that the landlord is to make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition. One could deduce that, due to the unhealthy side effects associated with mold exposure, its presence could deem a building uninhabitable. Tennessee law also indicates that the landlord is required to comply with all applicable building and housing codes that affect health and safety. Not only that but they must keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition. Now again, the landlord may not feel they are obligated to fix a mold problem; however, they are still required to fix problems such as leaks, moisture intrusion, or ventilation issues.
If the landlord refuses to fix a needed repair or does not respond to your request to fix a mold issue, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer with mold ligation experience. They can help you to determine your next course of action. In some cases you may be able to make necessary repairs and deduct the cost from your rent. You may also be able to withhold rent until a problem is fixed or perhaps even receive compensation for being placed in an unhealthy environment. Again, this is all situational and contacting a lawyer should be your first step.
For potential Tennesseans, finding the right rental property can be a daunting task. The right location, cheapest rent, and lowest deposit are all part of this process. However, the sometimes in the overwhelming process of moving certain things can get neglected, such as renters rights. It is necessary to fully understand these rights prior to even deciding on a potential unit, as it could save you a lot of energy and time in the future. Regardless of your current living situation you have the right to a healthy indoor environment.
TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED: TITLE 66 PROPERTY; CHAPTER 28 UNIFORM RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT ACT