Mold growth is common in the Pacific Northwest and extremely troubling. Many tenants report respiratory problems resulting from mold and mold allergies. These are very real concerns, and unfortunately the law falls far short of adequately addressing renters’ concerns with mold growth in their homes. Mold is only addressed in state law as a requirement for landlords to provide written information to tenants about mold and its health impacts (RCW 59.18.060).
Mold issues are generally considered to be repair concerns. While landlords do not have specific legal mandates to take care of mold problems, they are legally required to fix the problems that cause mold growth – moisture control and lack of adequate ventilation. Tenants can document these problems like any other repair issue and begin the process by documenting their repair requests in writing. Tenants can also document any health concerns, and it may be helpful to get a doctor’s note especially if they have pre-existing conditions and are more prone to problems because of mold. Local Code Enforcement may be useful in helping you determine what repairs the landlord is responsible for. Mold testing can be informative but is often costly and will likely not ultimately influence your landlord to make the repairs necessary to make your unit livable.
Other factors such as smoking, chemical fumes and pesticides can impact renters’ health and aggravate asthma and allergies. There are currently not enough strong legal standards to regulate landlords’ use of chemicals in rental units, and it is up to individual landlords to determine whether or not they’ll allow smoking in buildings. Disabled tenants may be able to make reasonable accommodation requests to make the unit livable, and you may be able to negotiate with your landlord to solve other indoor air quality problems. Individuals or groups of tenants may be able to petition landlords to request nonsmoking policies and the enforcement of current lease terms. See Secondhand Smoke in Apartment Buildings for a general guide to addressing secondhand smoke.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.