Black mold in rental. Can I get deposit back?

By Tenant

Black mold is quickly becoming a legal nuisance because of the way it spreads and the health hazards that it creates. The good thing about it is that its life cycle is pretty much known to everyone so it’s easy to spot them. Mold, of any kind, thrives in moist places – fiber, ceiling, wall paneling, paint, cardboard boxes and tiles and so on. But the most ideal breeding grounds for mold would be in ceilings and walls because these are the places in the house that may get exposed to moisture because of a roof or plumbing leak.

Those who have lived with black mold can tell you the horror of sharing the same house with a monster. There were cases of asthma, allergy attack, nausea, hemorrhaging and chronic fatigue and so on. The only test available to determine if your health problems have been caused or complicated by black mold is if you get blood test results that confirms the presence of some black mold DNA.

What are the landlord’s responsibilities when it comes to black mold?

The warranty of habitability requires that landlords must maintain an environment that is safe and healthy for the tenants. This does not only pertain to structural maintenance but also in ensuring that the building does not pose any health hazards to the tenants. Unfortunately, the definition of the warranty of habitability is still quite foggy because it does not list all the possible issues that may be considered direct violations.

However, courts would usually apply it as a landlord’s responsibility to make sure that the building is free of black mold. They would usually rule in favor of the tenant if it was established that the black mold formed due to landlord’s negligence like a reported problem on leaks that was not fixed. The case would even become stronger if there was medical data to back the claims.

But the tenant will have an equal responsibility too. Black mold forms because of moisture so if there are no broken pipes or leaks and the black molds formed because you forgot to keep your apartment tightly shut, you create a lot of humidity or if you fail to maintain cleanliness, then the landlord can sue you instead.

Will I get my security deposit back?

This is a common question tenants ask when contemplating the idea of breaking a lease early because of unresolved mold issues. If black mold is already causing serious health issues or if the landlord did not take the time to take them off, then you may legally terminate your lease. To do that, you would need the help of a mediation company or a lawyer.

On the issue of the security deposit, you must refer to the original and most basic description: a security deposit is a deposit that will take care of the cost of repairs that are beyond normal wear and tear. So if you break the lease early, your landlord may not give you back your full security deposit if there are repairs that need to be done and these repairs are beyond the normal wear and tear.

If a refund has been denied you, you can ask the help of a mediator company like RPA. You can do this by accessing their complaint center or by using this link:

How will you know if you have black molds in the house?

  1. Smell it. Your nose is a very inexpensive mold detector. Molds produce a certain musty smell that your nose can easily detect.
  2. See it. If you can smell mold, then next thing that you can do is to look for it. Use your eyes. From a distance, they would look like dirt but upon closer inspection, you would notice that they have some fiber-like characteristics that make them stand out from accumulated dust particles.
  3. Feel it. Yes, unfortunately for some people, they start becoming sick even before seeing the mold. A professional may come in and test for molds if you are constantly getting sick but without visible signs of the monster.

Edited on: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 7:39 pm

11 Responses to “Black mold in rental. Can I get deposit back?”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)


February 12th, 2013 10:40 pm

If black mold is in the house and it has been well documented, I think you can withhold rent with the clerk of court. I think this is one of the few exceptions wherein withdrawal of rent can be legal, but of course, you’d have to check your state laws first.


February 13th, 2013 6:00 pm

I’d say if this happens, give them enough time to fix the problem. Write a letter and send it through certified mail, and make sure to get a copy of the receipt. In the letter, be as detailed as possible. Write the location of the mold, how big it is and the medical conditions that you’ve had. Then give your landlord about 5-10 days to fix the problem, otherwise, you’ll call the local health department. In case you don’t really want the landlord to be fined and just wish to have the problem resolved, I agree that you can just contact RPA and get them to find a solution for you.


February 14th, 2013 1:20 pm

I agree. You need to completely document the mold issue in order to hold well in court. You also need to give your landlord a chance to try and fix the problem first. 5-10 days is a good timeframe. A lot could already be done by then. Again, do this before you proceed to calling a third party to help.


February 15th, 2013 8:40 am

Not all molds are harmful, in fact only about 1% of all molds can be black mold. So once you see mold, don’t go all out crazy and tell your landlord that they’re not keeping their end of the deal. Determine if the mold is dangerous or not first.


February 16th, 2013 4:00 am

My apartment got flooded because of the storm and I had to move out. When I got back three days later, I saw mold growing all over the place. I know that black mold takes between 8 and 12days to form so I’m not worried that I have those dangerous strains of mold. However, I still don’t feel comfortable with those molds all over the place and they smell too! Luckily, my landlord sent some maintenance guy to clean the place up, remove all excess water and then scrape the molds out of the apartment surfaces.


February 16th, 2013 11:40 pm

While your unit was being repaired, were you temporarily relocated? If so, was there an additional charge? If so, then that’s wrong. You should not be charged because it is the duty of the landlord to make sure that your apartment is habitable.


February 17th, 2013 7:00 pm

Being stuck with mold, even if it’s not the deadly strain, is a situation that I wouldn’t want to deal with. It’s just too much for me to handle since I have allergies. I know my respiratory problems are not my LL’s concern that’s why I always do a walk through and a close inspection of the apartment before I sign any lease agreement.


February 18th, 2013 2:20 pm

Correct. A complete inspection is necessary before you move in. Don’t just look at the apartment through a door or a window, you must really get in and look at every corner. Particular points to be inspected would be the ceiling and the walls. Bathrooms and kitchens are also good places to start since they are constantly exposed to moisture.


February 19th, 2013 9:40 am

Don’t put all the blame to the landlord. Tenants also play a key role when it comes to making sure that the apartment is mold-free.


February 20th, 2013 5:00 am

If you can talk to your LL about the issue then that’s great. If not, talk to a mediator company for some help.


August 15th, 2013 11:47 pm

My basement is full of mold both in stagnant water a d up the supporting walls. I have asked my landlord to take care of it many times he has ignored my letters. Finally I complained to fair Houseing. So he terminated my lease. When I didn’t leave he started to evict me.


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