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FamilyAttorney
FamilyAttorney, Lawyer
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 941
Experience:  Owner, attorney in private practice, appellate attorney, GAL & former trial lawyer, licensed for 37 years
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I live in an apt. which has all the signs of having mold.

Customer Question

I live in an apt. which has all the signs of having mold. The manager said she doesn't know the maintenence man says he doesn't know and the Health Dept. says its probably mold but all he can do is advise me to have the air tested which will cost $55. Do I have any legal recourse? There is one other apt. that has mold but its at the other end of the building
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 1 year ago.

Hello. I’m Ronna, a licensed attorney with 35 years’ experience. I specialize in family law, landlord-tenant and appeals. I look forward to helping you today.

Please note: (A) This is general information and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms; and (B) please wait to rate until I ask you to do so. It may take a few replies for me to be able to render a complete answer.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 1 year ago.

In Wisconsin, just like most states, there is what is called an implied warranty of habitability. The landlord must make sure the premises are habitable for you. If the premises are uninhabitable for any reason, you have some recourse. You can vacate the premises without owing current rent, or you can have the repair made and deduct from the rent.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 1 year ago.

You first should contact the landlord in writing to advise of the mold problem. You know the landlord knows about it, but knowing about it and having it in writing are two different things. Make a written record of your "conversations" with the landlord or any communications with the landlord. Put the complaint about the mold, refer to the other apartment in the building that also has mold, and ask the landlord to fix it to make your apartment habitable. Explain that the apartment, without these needed repairs, is uninhabitable and you will be forced to repair and deduct from rent if he doesn't fix it. Of course your recourse is also to move out, but most people don't want to do that, and you'd have to show that it's mold -- you have to know for sure that it's mold otherwise the landlord could still charge you rent if you move and there is nothing uninhabitable about the place.

If you think it's mold you may be right. If you can get that fixed for $55, that is really inexpensive. However, you have to be careful. If it's black mold, I have spoken with repair people who do this for a living and they have to wear Hazmat suits for black mold because once you open up the spores, the mold becomes airborne and it is really hazardous and dangerous for the whole family. Most mold cleanups cost more than that. Make sure if you eventually get someone to remove it, that they are licensed, that they know what they're doing, and that they've done this many times before. You don't want just anyone -- you need a mold expert. It would probably cost a lot more than that for an expert unless you are confident that this person you have in mind knows what he is doing.

Start keeping a diary of all calls, what time and when, who you talked to, etc. You may need this later if you need to bring the landlord to small claims court to sue for expenses.

Keep your conversations about the mold with the landlord, as much as possible, in writing. If you talk to him/her/managing agent, write down what they said in your diary. You can use a regular notebook for something like this or you can keep it on your computer.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 1 year ago.

It is illegal for a landlord to go after you and retaliate for your request for repairs. To protect yourself, you need to have the request for repairs in writing.
If the landlord doesn't do anything after you write to him to fix immediately(!), then write again and give him another short deadline to make the needed repairs. If he won't fix, you can contact a building inspector in your county or city. If there is no building inspector, you can call the fire department and see if they can inspect it or they may know someone who can.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 1 year ago.

If he doesn't repair, and you want to stay there, you can usually repair (you spend the $ on repairs) and deduct from the rent. Keep a copy of all bills and correspondence with your repair person.

If you have any additional questions and it gets to the point where you want to move out, you should contact a local landlord-tenant attorney. Most L&T attorneys are less expensive than other types of lawyers, generally speaking.

There may also be a Department of Safety and Professional Services in your area if there is no building inspector.

You have the right to a habitable apartment. The landlord cannot just do nothing.

I see you contacted Environmental health -- have they confirmed that it's mold? You should not try to clean it yourself because if it turns out to be black mold, then you're breathing that in and that's dangerous. Contact a professional if the landlord doesn't repair. Give him a reasonable time to make repairs, but since this is an urgent problem, reasonable in this situation would be somewhere in the range of 1 week. That is more than enough time to give him to make repairs.

If you are in Milwaukee, you will need to discuss this with an L&Tenant attorney because there are specific procedures to withhold rent. In other areas of the state, withholding rent procedures are not crystal clear -- the statutes are not clear and it's open to interpretation. If you're going to withhhold rent, see if you can get a free consultation with a L&T attorney (it won't cost you anything but your time) and ask about withholding rent in the event the landlord doesn't repair.

I hope this helps and clarifies. If you could, I'd appreciate it if you can rate me when finished.

Please accept my answer, rate my answer and then submit, as this is how I get credit for my time with you and with your question. I work hard to give you a thorough and honest answer. I thank you in advance for rating me. Please let me know if there is more that I can do to answer your question and if you need more information. If not, I thank you for your rating. I can’t get credit for answering your question without your fair and honest rating. Thank you!

I wish you the best of luck. If you need to follow-up with any questions related to this topic, you can send me a follow-up email.

Sincerely,

Ronna DeLoe, Esq.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 1 year ago.

You said you contacted Environmental Health -- they're the ones who said they didn't know? I'm going to assume that is what you meant. You need an expert in mold removal who can tell you what is going on. I would write to the landlord immediately, tell him you need this remedied immediately, and if you don't hear from him in a few days, write again, give him another short deadline, and then you will have to fix it yourself with your own repair person. Be prepared for a possible argument from the LL but you cannot live like that, especially not knowing if it is mold or not. Document everything, write down everything, and best of luck! Don't be afraid to call an L&T attorney for advice.

I thank you in advance for your fair and honest rating.

Sincerely,

Ronna DeLoe, Esq.