In the News: Landlord’s Liability for Rental Properties in KC Metro Increasing!
Landlords of rental properties in the Kansas City metro area need to start taking notice of the new ordinances that local cities are beginning to impose or propose. With routine inspections, fees and tougher consequences for landlord’s whose rental properties have problems with toxic mold, hazardous electrical, & rodents. These are just a few of the most mentioned “health hazards” at the top of the city health inspector’s list to be monitored. With recent proposals by Kansas City, MO and new ordinances being implemented by Independence and Overland Park. Most cities within the metro area cite regulations by the Missouri and Kansas Department of Health in regards to their policies related to the landlord’s liability for maintaining healthy living conditions.
Rental Properties with Mold
Many times we see landlords attempting to keep the cost of repairs low. At times these landlords knowingly or unknowingly put their tenant’s health at risk by cutting corners. Mold is a common item that we see landlords attempt to “resolve” with insufficient methods in their rental properties. Such as painting over with Kilz, cleaning with bleach, removing the mold damage themselves or with an uncertified contractor. All of these items may appear to be a sufficient resolution, however, each of these items may remove the “visible indication” of mold, but all of them increase the property owner’s liability, cost and litigation risk for ongoing mold problems. Any reputable real estate attorney will tell you that a tenant that reports mold problems in their rental property has a strong case against the landlord for negligence and damages. Let’s take a look at each of these common tactics and explain the risk associated with each method.
1) Painting Over Mold with Kilz or Other Products
This is the most common method we see used in multifamily rental properties such as apartments or large property management companies. Paint may hide mold for a short period of time, but it does not remove the health effects of mold exposure. If mold is visible the underlying and hidden mold problem is more severe. Once a tenant starts connecting health problems with mold exposure the liability can reach ten times the cost of the original mitigation if it had been done by a properly certified and trained mold remediation company.
2) Clean Mold with Bleach
Bleach is often the first item people reach for when dealing with mold. There are many false facts about bleach. Bleach does what it does best and “bleaches” the color of mold. Most think they if the mold is no longer visible that the mold is eradicated. However, this thinking is completely inaccurate. There is scientific evidence by many 3rd party organizations including Oregon State University that have verified that bleach does not kill mold spores and that mold remains toxic even after bleach is used. The color of the mold may be gone but the fungi of the mold are still thriving. Bleach does not claim to be antimicrobial on any of its labels. Thus, verifying the inability of bleach to kill mold.
3) DIY Mold Removal or Removal Completed by Non-Mold-Certified Professionals
This is the most common approach we see that landlord’s take in dealing with mold in their rental properties. There is a reason that the EPA and all mold certification firms require the use of hazmat gear, containment barriers, and specific protocols, mold removal is dangerous. Mold spores become easily airborne when disturbed and can easily spread throughout the property leading to ongoing mold problems. In addition to the increased property damage risk, the health risk is disturbing. Researchers are finding more and more evidence of long-term health effects and diseases like cancer and Alzheimers are connected to the exposure of mold. Even in the last 5 years, there is a greater awareness by medical professionals of the health effects of mold and the significance of the problem. As research continues, the risk of mold exposure will consistently be a more dominant featured story by the news. In effect, this will also cause the legal litigation over mold related issues to rise as the public becomes more educated on the risk and effects of mold exposure.
Mold liability is one of the riskiest and most expensive liabilities that you can take as a landlord. The key to minimizing the cost and liability of mold is to address moisture problems quickly and accurately. When you find you have a mold problem, contact a local, reputable certified mold professional company to resolve quickly and inexpensively. In our 10 years of helping customers with moisture and mold problems, we have seen a clear track record. Our customers who address mold quickly and professionally upon the first indication of problems minimized their cost and their liability substantially. Customers who elected to use insufficient methods that we have already discussed had ongoing mold problems with much greater cost and liability than if they had chosen to resolve properly initially.
Contact your local health department to determine their protocols when dealing with tenant complaints. It is best to educate, prevent and prepare yourself instead of being surprised by a tenant contacting your health department first.