I purchased a house in April 7th this year. The house was inspected with no major problems. The seller lived in the house until the closing day with young kids. In visible areas, the house looked clean and no visible mold was found. The house was immediately rented to a tenant with transition on the next day. However, the tenant did not move all his stuff in and only occasionally came to stay overnight with an airbag. On May 22nd, he called me that he found some severe mold growth in the pantry.
I went to have an inspection with him. Mold growth was found in a closed-up pantry on the surface of the wall. It was also found that there was minor dripping from the connector of the water supply to the refrigerator, yet he did not have a refrigerator connected and the connector was not capped at all.
Three days later, we had a professional mold remover company came to inspect and he suggested that there is water damage, and that the water dripping from the connector is the source of the humidity. Water came off to the ground and was sucked into the drywall, with a radius of almost 7 feet. After removing the baseboard and the drywall, mold was found all over the place, behind the walls and below the laminate wood floor.
In my opinion, the tenant is liable of not safeguarding the place when he turned on the water service and left the water dripping condition unattended for almost one and half months before he finally planned to move all his family. He is also liable for not notifying me of the mold growth/water damage timely until he eventually opened the pantry to prepare his all-house move-in. He argued that it is a preexisting condition and he was not liable for any damage and wanted to have full deposit back, although he initially agreed to pay the rent for June.
According to the lease terms, "Tenant shall properly use, operate and safeguard Premises, including if applicable, any landscaping
, furniture, furnishings, and appliances, and all mechanical, electrical
, gas and plumbing fixtures
, and keep them clean and sanitary. Tenant shall immediately notify Landlord, in writing, of any problem, malfunction or damage. Tenant shall pay for all repairs or replacements caused by Tenant, or guests of Tenant, excluding ordinary wear and tear. Tenant shall pay for all damage to Premises as a result of failure to report a problem in a timely manner. Tenant shall pay for repair of drain blockages or stoppages, unless caused by defective plumbing parts or tree roots invading sewer lines."
Is this his liability on the water damage because of lack of safeguard and not timely notifying the leak problem? Do I have sufficient legal ground to hold his deposit for the damage? Do I have sufficient legal ground to sue him for the damage remediation and repair costs?
Moreover, when the house was just turned over, it is obvious that the connector itself has not been shut-off completely or capped properly when seller moved out. They also shut-down the water service completely so it was not possible to identify the leak at the time of their move-out until the tenant took over and turn on the water service. Yet the seller failed to disclose the condition in the purchase process nor did they disclose it in the transition. Can I also sue the seller for the negligence of not disclosing the condition?
Thank you so much!