Mold Claims by a Florida Tenant: Can You Sue the Landlord When Mold Is Found in a Leased Home, Apartment, Office, or Condo?
Posted By Larry Tolchinsky on April 22, 2014
In Florida, the leasing and renting of residential and commercial real estate is governed by Florida statutes and Florida court opinions – which together, make-up Florida’s Landlord-Tenant Law.
Mold Issue and Landlord-Tenant Disputes
In Florida, there’s a particularly common issue that causes legal issues between landlords and tenants year after year, particularly when the weather heats up. It’s mold and mold-related issues.
The quality of air that a person breathes inside a dwelling or commercial structure (for example, an office building), as well as the presence of mold on property, can be a serious legal concern for all the parties involved in the leasing of real property.
In fact, mold can lead to personal injury claims being asserted against a property owner and/or other interested parties alike (i.e. real estate agents). (These injury claims are in addition to property repair, business interruption, and reclamation costs and expenses.) In those situations, the question most often asked is who, under Florida law, is responsible for these claims and costs when the property has been leased or rented?
Mold Claims – What About Insurance?
Accordingly, Florida home owners, landlords, property managers, and those operating businesses in our area need to be on a constant vigil against the presence of mold as well as identifying environments where mold can grow and flourish.
Most property owners and businesses, can purchase insurance policies that cover the expense of mold removal and repair. Thus, if available, individual property insurance policies should be purchased and existing policies read to determine the extent of mold coverage and if the carrier has excluded mold from the insurance agreement.
Please note, some insurance policies may require the insured party to mitigate any damage to the property. So, if additional damage occurs that could have been prevented, the insurance company may deny a claim. Also, Florida law allows insurance companies to withhold payments for any damage until repairs have been made for certain insurance claims. Therefore, the property owner or other responsible party will be required to pay for damages before the insurance company will reimburse them for any repairs.
Can Mold Cause a Personal Injury & Loss of Business Claim?
If a tenant, or its employees, becomes seriously ill due to mold exposure, then the landlord (commercial or residential) may be held liable for those injuries. In Florida, landlords are responsible for fighting against mold by making reasonable efforts to prevent it from growing and maintaining the property in such a way that mold is not going to readily grow.
For example, a landlord should continually monitor property for mold growth, especially where mold has been found growing in the past or where the property is located in a environment known to be prone to wet and moist conditions.
Under Florida law, it is the landlord’s responsibility to be aware of these dangers and to take the necessary precautions to make sure that property is safe. However, if a tenant discovers mold, it is then the responsibility of the tenant to promptly notify the landlord of the mold discovery so the landlord can then undertake immediate mold remediation procedures. Should a tenant fail to do so, the tenant’s procrastination can be a defense by the landlord against a later injury claim, thus mitigating the landlord’s financial liability.
Further, the claim for damages in a mold lawsuit can be significant, particularly if a business is involved and the lawsuit includes a claim for lost profits. For example, a business may sue its landlord for lost profits it would have enjoyed but for the mold event (the mold prevented the tenant from being able to run its business - see, e.g., Katz Deli of Aventura, Inc., v. Waterways Plaza, LLC). Of course, employers can also face their own injury damage claims from employees who may have suffered respiratory injuries from long-term mold exposure at their place of employment.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to Chat with Larry in the comments below, at email@example.com, or (954) 458-8655. If you have a specific or personal situation, please call or email Larry because he can’t answer specific fact questions in general comments.