Mold Exposure: Indiana Landlord Liability

black mold and landlord liability

What you’ll learn from reading this article:

  • Common symptoms of mold exposure
  • How to recognize signs of mold in your residence
  • What to do if your apartment or rental has mold

You have probably heard the disconcerting term “black mold.” It may not invoke terror in quite the same way as the term “Black Death” did in the mid-1300s, but it is still unpleasant and often unsafe. If you are renting an apartment or house and find yourself or your family members experiencing unexplained physical symptoms, you may want to look around for evidence of mold.

Although some people may not be affected by mold in their living spaces, many people, especially children, the elderly, those with mold allergies or sensitivities, and immuno-compromised individuals, experience a variety of symptoms.

Common symptoms of mold exposure

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red or itchy eyes
  • Rashes
  • Sore throats

Even worse than the upper respiratory symptoms listed above is the possibility of pneumonia in individuals with HP (hypersensitivity pneumonitis). This can cause inflammation of the lung tissue and even scarring of the lungs over time. Additionally, a 2016 study showed that high levels of mold exposure are a risk factor for asthma in children.

Approximately 4.6 million cases of asthma in the United States are attributable to dampness and mold exposure in the home.

Although there have been no conclusive long-term studies connecting mold in the home to memory decline, there are certainly plenty of case studies and anecdotal evidence suggesting that this is a factor.

What does mold look like?

Although the term “black mold” is infamous, mold isn’t always black. There are hundreds of thousands of different types of mold quite apart from Stachybotrys chartarum (a blackish or dark greenish common mold). Mold, which is a type of fungus reproduced through spores that travel through the air, can be purple, orange, pink, red, white, brown, or a combination of any of these. The color doesn’t really matter.

No mold belongs in your residence. You will likely notice it in warm and moist environments, such as in bathrooms, kitchens, and leaky pipe areas. You may notice bubbled or peeling vinyl floors or damp drywall. Inspect anywhere with possible water damage. Also, pay attention to any stale or musty odors.

So — you have identified what seems to be mold. What should you do next?

Contact your landlord in writing. You will want to have documentation in case the landlord doesn’t rectify the problem or in case you decide to pursue legal action based on health problems caused by negligence.

Visit a health professional to explain your symptoms. Again, keep documentation of your visit(s). Mold toxins can accumulate in the body over time, so symptoms may not show up immediately. According to Psychology Today, many medical practitioners are not hyper-aware of health issues caused by allergy-causing mold spores or toxic mold. You may need to find a physician who is aware of the available research.

Call your local health department to report the problem. (Document, document, document!)

If your health issues have caused you to miss work and lose earnings, keep that documentation on hand as well.

The state of Indiana doesn’t have specific laws that hold landlords liable for mold prevention and remediation, but you may have a strong case if your landlord refuses to provide a habitable  environment. Regardless of what is in your written lease, you should be aware that landlords in Indiana are bound by a legal doctrine that provides tenants with residences in liveable conditions; this is called the “implied warranty of habitability.” Obviously, you need to read your lease carefully — you may have agreed that you are responsible for fixing all plumbing issues, and it may be that an unattended leak is what caused your mold.

Contact an attorney. The whole mold situation is quite nebulous and confusing, which is why the most sensible step for you to take to protect yourself and your family is to contact Poynter & Bucheri to see if you can hold your landlord liable for medical bills, lost wages, or even emotional pain and suffering.

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