Dear PoPville – “my neighbor has had black mold issues for the last 3 years and refuses to properly treat it”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rich Renomeron

“Dear PoPville,

I live in a small condo on Ust, my neighbor has had black mold issues for the last 3 years and refuses to properly treat it. Instead, he essentially masks the smell in bleach whenever he has a new tenant. Eventually, the mold re-appears and his tenants decide to break the lease early. Each time, he refuses to return their deposit (since they’re breaking the lease) and blames the tenants for the mold. I’ve seen this cycle several times and he gets away with being a horrible land lord time and time again. I have seen multiple distraught tenants come and go, each one knocking on my door wondering if I have mold too. He lists the unit for a VERY low price so his tenants are typically very young, new to the city types that don’t know a studio on Ust doesn’t go for $1k. DC tenants rights office said that mold isn’t an issue they cover, any other suggestions???

Short of standing outside of his unit when he shows it to perspective tenants with a “DO NOT MOVE IN” sign, I’m not sure what I should/could do.”

16 Comment

  • I’m not tying to be snarky, but what is your concern or question? Are you concerned the mold will get into your unit? Or you don’t like to see tenants come and go? He sounds like an terrible landlord but I’m not sure if you have a responsibility to do anything here.

    • It might not be OP’s “responsibility” but in addition to the potential for the mold to spread and affect his/her unit, I’m guessing he/she doesn’t like to see the poor, unsuspecting tenants (who don’t appear to be very savvy about the real estate market and may well be on a tight budget) getting duped, having to go through the hassle of moving, and losing a security deposit. After all, these people are the OP’s neighbors, if only for a brief period of time. Sounds to me like OP is asking if there’s something he/she can do to compel the landlord to do the right thing…and kudos for the OP for being willing to put some time and energy into helping other people out of a bad situation (or helping them to avoid a bad situation).

    • Seems like the OP is concerned with protecting future tenants from this fraudulent landlord.

  • epric002

    while 14 D.C.M.R. §§ 301 & 400-999 doesn’t mention mold per se, there are requirements for ventilation, plumbing, and maintaining the property in a sanitary condition. perhaps the ventilation, plumbing, or “sanitary” requirements should be the avenues pursued with the DC tenant advocate?

  • I’m a renter so this may be way off, but do you have a condo association or something that you could talk to about this? Indoor mold means that there is a problem with moisture inside your building from something that is leaking or not draining properly, or some other problem with water intrusion. If the source of the mold is not addressed then it could potentially cause problems throughout the building and to other tenants, not just in this one guy’s apartment.

  • the tenant should request a housing code inspection via DCRA:

  • Maybe the next time this happens you should help/encourage the tenant to complain through the DC Tenant Advocate Office. You could act as a supporting witness for the tenant, testifying that you know the mold issue has existed for several years. It might help the tenant get their money back and discourage your neighbor from repeating the offense.

  • andy

    Is it a legal housing unit? I wonder what DCRA would say after a call asking for an inspection. I think you have a right to be concerned as a neighbor. Doesn’t that stuff spread?

  • I agree. Get the tenants to complain. This is ridiculous if he’s doing this intentionally.

  • If he does not have a certificate of occupancy, DC will not let the landlord keep the deposit if the tenant takes the landlord to court.. I would call the health department on the landlord.

  • There is a website called rate my landlord where you can rate landlords and properties. This might not fix the problem but if a future tenant googles the address they will see the complaint.

  • Write the landlord a letter – let him know you know what he’s been up to and you’re prepared to take action. Bring it up with condo board? Seems like something they should be concerned about.

    One time while looking for apartments (in Brooklyn) I opened up the medicine cabinet and saw someone had scrawled “This apartment floods and is moldy!” on the inside of the door. Maybe you can break in the place and plant a note of warning somewhere!

  • PLEASE do your best to stick up for future tenants and have this taken care of. My current landlord has let a mold problem grow in my apartment building for at least 10 months now. It has ruined my life. I am not being facetious. I am financially ruined and will have major health problems for the rest of my life. About 25% of the population has a gene variant that makes it very difficult for their immune systems to excrete the mycotoxins from the mold spores. It makes us very, very sick. It’s not an allergy, it is a crippling situation that can even cause permanent brain damage.

    The Office of the Tenant Advocate is excellent; you should definitely go to their office or call them. They’re incredibly helpful. Here’s the catch — you can’t compel DCRA to inspect a unit that you don’t own. Also, they won’t cite for mold, only the causes of mold. That means you’ll need to ask them to inspect common areas that you share that could communicate with the mold and potentially cause it to come into your place. OTA will likely have some good strategies for you. You could also form a tenant association, but that would take a lot of time to incorporate.

    You can also hire a certified industrial hygienist to come to your place and do an air quality sample. It’s pricey, but that serves as evidence of what kind of molds are in the air against a control. You might be able to use that as evidence to sue the landlord for not cleaning up his property and affecting yours. It’s worth at least calling them — try MMTS; they are the people who did the report for my place.

  • Thanks for posting that link! I see that the absolute slumlord I dealt with at one of my old apartments has already received a terrible rating from three other people. Great resource.

  • I’m so sorry to hear that! I hope you get some resolution.

    To the OP, definitely let future tenants know about OTA and encourage them to know their rights. I moved out of a unit after water damage during a storm. The manager and owner were slow to make repairs (over a month) and when I moved out the unit still stank of mold.

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