Senate Bill 655 Housing Standards Mold
Senate Bill 655 was signed into law on October 9, 2015 and went into effect on January 1, 2016. This law adds mold to the list of habitability issues that a tenant can use in defense of an eviction case.
How is mold defined under SB 655? “Mold” means a microscopic organism or fungi that can grow in damp conditions in the interior of a building.
The California Apartment Association boasts that this law protects both the landlord and the tenant. The tenant is protected from the harmful effects of exposure to mold over an extended period of time.
The landlord is protected from eviction defense attorneys using “mold” as a last minute defense in an unlawful detainer proceedings. To qualify as a habitability issue, the mold must be visible, the landlord must have been notified of its presence, and it must NOT be attributable to the tenants misuse or neglect.
Dealing with Mold in a Rental
From the California Association of Realtors® (CAR) Q&A on the law:
QUESTION: “If the landlord suspects that the tenant’s failure to keep the property clean and sanitary has contributed substantially to the mold problem, should the landlord nonetheless repair the mold problem?”
ANSWER: “Yes. Even where it’s clear that the tenant’s own negligent actions have led to the mold problem, the conservative course of action from a risk management perspective, is to act quickly to repair the problem. Afterwards, if it’s clear that the tenant had caused the problem, the landlord may bill the tenant for the cost.
Recall that a landlord has a duty to maintain the habitability of the property. This obligation is found under common law, by statute, and often in the terms of the lease agreement. Failure of the landlord to maintain the property in a habitable condition may allow the tenant various legal remedies such as rent withholding, termination of the rental agreement, discounted rent and other rights and damages. Because the risk of liability is high, it’s prudent to take a cautious approach by remediating first, and assessing costs afterwards.”
CAR® Form on Mold
The California Association of Realtors® provides a standard form, “Lease/Rental Mold and Ventilation Addendum”, for dealing with mold issues when you are leasing a unit. You can use it to address some of these issues when a new tenant takes occupancy.
You should always address tenant issues with your legal counsel to get their advice on matters pertaining to law.
Further Reading on SB 655:
- What Rental Property Owners and Managers Need to Know About the New Substandard Housing Mold Law – Apartment Association of Southern California
- Newly signed mold bill protects both landlords and tenants – C.A.A.
- MOLD AND THE RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD
- Mold bill vastly improved with help of CAA
*Photo Credit: Moldy Wall by Matti Mattila Used with Creative Commons License 2.0