How To Make My Landlord Deal with Water Damage and Mold in Bathroom — Good Questions Apartment

How To Make My Landlord Deal with Water Damage and Mold in Bathroom — Good Questions Apartment

How To Make My Landlord Deal with Water Damage and Mold in Bathroom?

around the shower head, and dark speckles of what looks like mold. Its seems like there’s a leak. I called my landlord and told him about the problem. He did not believe that there was mold, and I’m worried that he might refuse to fix the problem (He DID paint over the stain, after all. He is aware of its existence.) Where to begin, what to do!

Regina Yunghans

42 Comments

Being the owner of several Victorians with plaster walls, I’ve seen this before, quite a few times. It doesn’t look like mold to me either. It looks like what happens when plaster gets wet. Use KILZ primer for bathrooms if you’re worried.

If this is water damage, you need to call the landlord and say, «the area behind the shower head is damaged. When can someone arrive to fix it?» Don’t wait for the landlord to present a solution because no one wants to have to spend money to fix water damage. But it needs to be done, and you’re the only one in a position to force the landlord to fix it.

You are entitled to withhold rent if there is something wrong with the unit, provided that you are able to prove that you do have the money to give him once the problem is fixed. To protect yourself, put it in writing. send him a letter stating clearly what the problem is, why you are concerned, and which date you expect it to be fixed by. If he does not fix it, or does not respond, send another letter stating that you will be withholding rent until he provides a solution. (if you can find the section of your landlord-tenant act citing this right, quote it in the letter). In most cases, this will put him to work. If he still does not fix the problem, contact the landlord-tenant board and have them get in touch with him to resolve. If possible, send all letters through fax or email so you have proof of date sent. As a minimum, keep copies for yourself. Good luck!

One passive aggressive option is to say that you have no problem painting over the stain yourself but before you do you’re going to have L&I come out and test for mold, just to be safe.

I agree with DESIGNADDICTBA. Also, send mail certified so there’s a record of it being delivered.

I don’t like passive aggressive options. It’s not just the stain that is the issue. If there is a leak in the faucet or existing water damage that hasn’t been fixed, you can’t just ignore it. If you’re the type who does not do well with confrontations of any kind, you need to have a friend or family member who can help you talk to the landlord.

@USERNAME26 — In retrospect, I only half agree with DESIGNADDICTBA. Honestly, withholding rent is one of those state/province issues that need to be researched. I only agreed that things put into writing need to be firm and include those pieces of information. Anytime a person wishes to pursue these things, they need to do their research — I kind of assumed that blindly going by the advice of anonymous internet commenters was a no-no.

In Ohio you would have to notify the landlord and put the rent in escrow (we had plumbing/landlord issues too). You can easily google the renters laws for your state. But I would print a photo to include with a letter that states how you want it handled. Perhaps suggesting you would buy the Kilz, deduct that amt. from the rent and paint it yourself would help. good luck.

For starters, just to be protective of your health. Spray the area once a day with a solution of 10% bleach. This will keep any mold/ mildew in check until it gets fixed.

Is it getting wetter each time you use the shower? Then you have a leak. Which you ought to ask your landlord to repair ASAP.

Its possible a leak was fixed and the paint job after was done without letting the wall dry properly? If so make sure the wall is dry (if you have to foregoe a shower for a few days) before repainting again.

Communication is key here. Best of luck!

Check your local landlord/tenant handbook

community.apartmenttherapy.com/users/50283 You’re clearly one of those greedy landlords who doesn’t take responsibility for anything. The ones I’d like to punch in the face if I actually spoke to you face to face.

They simply painted over existing paint that the landlord clearly used to cover a water leak.

How is the tenant responsible for the water damage that WAS ALREADY THERE. What difference does it make whether they removed the paint that was already peeling off the wall.

The short answer: Paint over it and move on with your life.

- You CANNOT withhold rent. You CAN put it in escrow if the landlord is not maintaining your apartment within you legal rights. But only IF they are denying you your legal rights.

- It doesn’t look like mold from the pictures (but that could only be determined in person). If your landlord is correct and it is just water damage you cannot force him to pay to fix it. Yes, we tenants all think it would make sense to fix the problem now before it becomes worse for you and the people below you with water leaking in the walls. Your landlord will not think that. If it’s not an immediate emergency he will just plaster/paint over it and leave it. And he can do that. Legally.

- I get it, I do. But YOU chose to mess with the paint job (without your landlord’s consent?!) So YOU will just have to remedy it/paint over it to your cosmetic liking. You cannot make repairs/do demolition to your apartment if it is rented. And, again, I get it..if there is water in the walls we all know it will just bubble up again and look gross and you may have to do this again in a year or so. And what’s what you will do.Why? Because you do not own your apartment. So you do not get to decide what is best for it or how much money it is worth pouring into it. When water finally starts pouring out of your wall or your neighbors ceiling THEN you can make the landlord pay to fix it. Until then. you’re on your own.

@WMJR

Really? They noticed a problem with their bathroom and discovered that it was a bigger problem than they thought. Do you often paint over potential mold issues? I’m sorry. But saying «oh, well you shouldn’t be painting anyway» is not a solution — some people are allowed to paint their rentals.

And besides, the paint was bubbling and peeling off and there seems to be something mold-esque underneath it. I would investigate this too.

You sound like a landlord I wouldn’t want to have.

To the people advising her to withhold rent — withhold rent for THAT? Are you kidding me? I don’t think some alleged water damage (the problem hasn’t been diagnosed yet) makes the unit uninhabitable. Especially since you haven’t even notified your landlord yet. Why don’t you ask your landlord to fix it BEFORE you ask strangers on the internet?

We are a mold remediation company out of St. Louis, MO. We’ve seen this situation many times. Our suggestion is to #1, talk to your landlord about the possible problem. There is a good chance this is simply mildew, and not mold. However, if it is indeed mold, your health is at risk, and by law, mold must be remediated or the space can be deemed uninhabitable. Call your local mold remediation company, and have them come out. Most will come out and give a free consult. However, do keep your landlord in the loop with everything, as the only way to determine if mold is present is by a mold/air test, which can range between $200-$500. Good luck!

I’ve had to deal with this issue before. This is what I would do. First spray the area with a bleach water solution. If this doesn’t help the problem. Take close-up shots and ask the landlord to remove the mold. They red rusty spots don’t need to be removed. It can either be scraped off or if you think it’s from the other side, removed completely and plastered. This method takes some dry time between phases, and may take a few days (a) for the plaster to be removed (b) dusted (c)spackled or plaster applied (d) dried (e) sanded (f) painted. If you want to do the nice card you can even supply the Killz paint. I had such a bad tenant/repair person relation that I quoted the law by chapter for my city, (NYC) for removing paint. I found it over the internet and that scared them enough to do it! All the best to you!

@WMJR, You sound like a landlord that I would not want to rent from because your automatic assumption is that the tenant caused the situation. I know that a lot of people can be irresponsible renters, and I’m sure you are constantly dealing with that frustrating reality. However, Mary’s problem seems like one that could only be caused by leaky plumbing, not neglectfulness on her part. From a renter’s perspective, it’s a common frustration to move into an apartment only to find that problems like mold or water damage, which weren’t apparent at first viewing, have been repeatedly painted over and ignored for years. And that frustration is compounded by a feeling of helplessness, being at the mercy of one’s landlord. So from there, it seems that one only has two choices: to be forceful in making requests of your landlord, or to take matters into your own hands. Despite our requests to replace a leaky old shower head that constantly spews water from a crack in its neck, our landlord does not feel that the problem has gotten bad enough to warrant fixing. As a result, my husband has used electrical tape to try and seal the leak, which is only a temporary fix. If we had the money to fix this on our own, we would not be renting. The person who DOES have the money to fix this problem chooses not to. Therefore, it is our landlord’s neglect that causes his own property to become damaged.

My advice would be to talk this over with your landlord. It’s a bit hasty to withhold rent at this point since he didn’t even see the damage. And I think that an expert would be better placed to tell you if it’s a problem with the pipes or not. I had a pretty nice landlord when I used to live in Montreal. We had a damaged roof and our ceiling was leaking in the bathroom. The whole area became black and sagging. We just invited the landlord over to check it out and he repaired it as soon as he could. I don’t see the need to involve the justice system at this point.

This looks less like a leak and more like a moisture/ventilation issue. water collecting as steam during the shower and remaining on the wall or splashing. A water leak is generally more contained (smaller). The area in the pix above is wider than 16in and there would be studs inside the wall likely blocking (or partially hindering) the spread of an internal water leak. or, at least, you’d see where the studs were by the water pattern if the water was coming from within. This looks like moisture approaching from the outside, not inside.

That said, given the style of the rest of the bathroom, this looks like a late-80s renovation, so plaster walls are unlikely. especially with a shower-head at 80in. Most older baths (the type with plaster walls) have showerheads at the 72in mark or lower.

What is does look like, however, is that plain drywall was used as a tile backer in the shower — typical in a low-end renovation. This is against code as (1) it’s not treated to resist mold and (2) it’s structurally inappropriate as when it gets wet (grout lets water through) it weakens (aside from the mold thing). At the very least, we should see «greenboard» (drywall with mold resistant paper) or tile backer board (which this isn’t).

So, what are you going to do about it? You can’t demo (or expect the landlord to demo) the entire bathroom. Nor is that really a reason to withhold rent unless the mold gets very bad (this looks like surface mold). If you really love your apartment, you should speak to your landlord immediately. The paint peeled. you didn’t strip it, but not letting him know ASAP is a mistake.

Likely what will happen is that he’ll repaint with a high-quality mold-resistant primer (like Kilz — perhaps with a shot of mold resistor available in the paint department). Coupled with a high-quality semi-gloss paint (head to a paint-store, not a home-center or hardware store) — it should be less than $100 in materials and take less than an hour to do (drying time between primer and paint will be a few hours, though.). Make sure to use a high-quality caulk, too, to seal the join between the wall and the tile here, maybe even shaping it for easier run-off. I suspect water gathers at this lip when it drips.

Going FWD, make sure you have lots of air movement. If you have a fan, install a timer that you can leave on for an extended period of time. If the fan doesn’t work well, petition the landlord to replace it with a better model (which will be cheaper than more eventual water damage). If there’s a window, get in the habit of cracking it.

MsJenkins, could you point me in the direction of where you found that removing paint (NYC) info?

Agreed with DESIGNADDICTBA. The first step in taking any legal action like this is sending a certified, dated letter about the problem. Any landlord will recognize this and immediately take you more seriously. In addition to thoroughly describing the problem, state what action you want the landlord to take (presumably, bringing in a pro to examine the wall) and include photos.

Talk to a tenants’ rights organization in your area about the laws in your state and city. I know that in Chicago, you have a right to withhold a certain portion of rent (depending on the problem) — but not ALL of your rent — if your landlord has taken no action for 2 weeks after you first alerted him to the problem.

I’m an attorney. At this stage, this is a landlord/tenant repair issue. As some posters have said, you need to find out what the landlord/tenant law is in your state and follow the information regarding repairs. Landlords and tenants have duties that are specified by law. Some states have specific statutes regarding mold (CA is one). Whatever your LLT act says, I suggest putting your repair request in writing and sending it certified mail to your landlord. Then, the landlord has X number of days to repair it. Generally, there are different deadlines for beginning work on different types of problems. In my state, it’s 24 hours for emergencies (heat, water, plumbing), 3 days for serious problems (large appliances), and 10 days for everything else.

If there is a tenant’s union in your area, or a free legal hotline, that is also a good place to start. The American Lung Association does free inspections for this kind of thing, in some areas. (You can google American Lung Home Health Assessment.) Mold is a tricky issue, and, depending on what you want, you may need an attorney.

If there is no mold information in your LLT law, one approach is to focus on the moisture/ventilation issue. Landlords generally have a duty of providing a safe and healthy environment. Moisture/ventilation issues may violate that part of the code. Also, if the ventilation is not up to code, you may contact building code enforcement for information and an inspection. If there is a plumbing leak, a repair is clearly needed, which would include repair of the wall.

Note that repair of the wall will likely require replacement of drywall, and possibly removal of the tile to check for moisture behind it. Painting over it with KILZ does not repair the moisture already inside the drywall, which is a source of mold until the wet drywall is removed. Once an area is thoroughly dry, and there is no danger of further moisture issues, KILZ can cover an old water stain. It can’t solve a moisture problem or «un-moisture» wet drywall.

Bottom line is that you have a right to a safe, healthy environment. Conditions that allow for mold growth are not safe/healthy. You also have a duty, as a tenant, to bring these issues to your landlord’s attention immediately. Good luck.

Addendum: When I said, «what you want,» I meant that you may want to do anything from asking for a complete repair to getting out of your lease. The more serious options may require an attorney. I don’t handle these types of cases, so I’m not suggesting myself. Also, this is not legal advice, but preliminary legal information to get you started in the right direction. Very recently, I experienced a very similar situation in my own apartment, so I did a lot of research on the issues.

It’s not a huge repair. one piece of leftover drywall, and bit of mud, prime and paint and she’s done. There is no mold. It just won’t take paint.

That doesn’t really look like mold, just a water stain. Ask the landlord to come look at it, and he’ll probably fix it. If you don’t like his solution, then you can figure out how to respond. Seriously, chill out! If you freak out and create this much drama over every little thing, you may not get your lease renewed.

As a landlord myself, I whole-heartedly agree with Geckotoes1. Don’t post something asking for «advice» until you have actually asked your landlord to fix the issue. Chances are, he will get it fixed. And I agree, that does not look like mold. If the landlord refuses to fix the issue, then you have a right to complain and worry.

It doesn’t look like mold. It looks like water damage from a leak in the wall. (Which of course could bring about mold.) Ask him to send someone to fix the leak and repair the wall. We had this exact same situation last year, twice actually, because it wasn’t repaired the right way the first time.

MsScrabble, I am not a lawyer and can offer nothing official. What I was referring to was regarding mold removal not paint removal. I cannot find exactly what I found at that time.

It seems there are guidelines (recommendations) by NYC. I think if you phrase it that the «New york City guideline says. «www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/epi/moldrpt1.shtml.

There is also the New York Multiple Dwelling Law § 78. You may google it but I hope there is no need to quote it. From what I gather it says that repairs must be made, esp if it would affect health.

In many concerns there is no need to get litigious first.

To handle the situation, It kind of depends on what kind of landlord you have. Mine was careless. They had several buildings and mine was in foreclosure. They just didn’t care. I was dealing with their office manager who never visited the building and a series of repairmen. When the repairman wanted to paint over it I insisted they remove the porous moldy plaster first. I knew the ceiling mold was coming from the other side of the plaster because the source of the leak and therefore mold was coming from the apt overhead.

I am a landlord in another state. Immediate problems I try do deal with in an asap fashion. With large investments I usually am a little more conservative. I know what it’s like to be at the mercy of a landlord. Dialogue and persistence in communication are key! Good luck!

Ditto on the certified mail. It proves they have received your complaint.

Mary, don’t worry so much. It says that you are worried that he may not repair it. It says that you called but it doesn’t mention that he’s seen it in person. I would ask him to visit and see it himself. Written followup request via. certified will help you. If he doesn’t do it you have made the first steps. If you want to build a relationship with this apartment and your landlord start the conversation now. I hope that you by no means have to go through his continued refusal.

If it’s water damage (which it looks like to my totally untrained eye), the whole section of wall could rot. The long-term solution could be to replace the drywall and extend the tile up past the showerhead.

Say something like, «I think you should take a look at this. I’m concerned the problem could become more expensive to fix if it’s not addressed promptly.» You’ll look like a good tenant who’s just looking out for the suite.

Home Body — Good idea. I had similar never-before-experienced symptoms, was prescribed an inhaler for the first time ever and ended up with pneumonia twice this last winter (again, never before). Mold is nothing to mess around with. I’m feeling much better in my new place, though I still have some symptoms.

Dearmisha – that’s the tone I use with my landlady. «By the way, I noticed the window sill is cracked. It might be a good idea to look into getting it fixed – otherwise it might leak into the wall and cause more damage with these winter rains going on now». Casual, unaccusatory. It’s not anybody’s fault when something like this happens. Things break.

That being said, my landlady has fixed the water heater (it broke, had rusted all the way through), several plumbing fixes (clogs, bad pressure, heating issues), gas line fixes, electrical fixes, changed out light fixtures for prettier ones, and most recently, upgraded old leaky windows. The only thing she hasn’t agreed to, was my request for a bathroom fan (we have a window, but on a foggy san francisco day, opening the window doesn’t help with getting rid of moisture I say!).

I’ve also helped her with upgrades, like with the windows, I painted the trim, so she could save a bit on the installation cost. I’ve sanded and stained the counter tops. Basically, I treat the place almost like it were my own. (if it were mine, I’d spend money on some upgrades!)

Good luck.

And I don’t know much about mold, but that doesn’t look bad. Surface-mildew.

The paint peeling can be a combo of too much moisture, and wrong kind of paint painted on a different kind of paint.

Hope it’s nothing serious!

And boo to people dissing you for asking «strangers on the internet» – I would totally trust the AT community and ask for an opinion. Before bugging my landlady – just to make sure I had a point, before making the claim to her.

Mary, if the area is dry, this is a non issue. The plaster looks smooth and dry and not black. It looks like old water stains, caused by the minerals in the water. It’s a cosmetic issue. You removed the paint so why is this suddenly a landlord issue? Put the paint back and move on. Just make sure you use the appropriate bathroom primer and paint.

P.S. If the plaster is wet, this is a plumbing issue but it still doesn’t mean it’s a mold issue. If the plaster is wet, the landlord should fix the cause of the wetness and the plaster should be dried out. If it’s dried out, mold doesn’t grow.

@wmjr — Wow. Rude, much? I’d love to know how your tenants feel about you.

WMJR, I agree. I do a lot of landlord tenant relations in my job and it constantly amazes me how tenants wreck apartments. Sometimes it’s unintentional. One landlord gave permission to a tenant to ‘add some color’ to the living room wall in his beige apartment. Upon the walk-through at the end of his lease, we discovered he had painted a gigantic deep red Nike woosh (Nike’s logo) across the living room wall approximately 14 feet long. He balked at returning the room back to it’s original state and was adamant he shouldn’t have to pay for it’s removal as the landlord had given him permission to paint.

I actually had a bad mold problem—I moved into a basement apartment and found out the adjacent laundry room had mold. When I talked to the landlady, who lived above me, about doing something about it, she told me that she couldn’t afford to. That’s when I call the building inspector. The thing about building inspectors is that they will look for code violations throughout the property. So not only did my landlady have to treat the mold, but she had to repair her cracked front steps. I moved out at the end of the month, losing my deposit because my landlady was so pissed at me, it became unbearable to stay, even though the mold was dealt with.

So calling the building inspector should be your last resort. Withholding rent.is a last resort. As others have said you need to notify your landlord, nicely but clearly—make sure he comes over to see what the problems is and decide how he would like to deal with it.

I’ve been both a landlord and a tenant—had generally good tenants and some crazy landlords. Even so, you need to give your landlord the opportunity to fix the problem before you take some kind of legal action or get the local governmental agencies involved.

Finding out what your legal rights are as a tenant and what your landlord’s rights are is also a good idea—just keep everything in perspective.

I recently had a water leak in an apartment and needed to get help from a emergency plumbing services in Bakersfield California. luckily the plumber got there quick and my land lord was able to take care of the bill.

I believe there is a law which obliges landlords to fix mold problems in the properties they rent. it’s possible that Housing Maintenance Code violation is only issued to landlords in cases where toxic mold is discovered and i don’t think this looks like it either. If not certain, you can always call in professionals, most of them give advice and do inspection for free. Not sure where you are, but if in NYC, you can contact ecceservices.com. A close friend of mine was rather content with their service.

I have been living in this apartment with my children for bout 9 months now. We have been having allergy problems my hair won’t grow getting itch y skin and getting sick and I am diabetic having chest congestion and it’s very hot in apartment and hallway of apartment been to doc they keep saying viral my kids have nose bleeds sneezing loud and red eyes. five year old taking allergy meds prescribed by doctor..Doctor wrote letter ot landlord stating that we either need to move or apartment black mold had to be addressed! to minimize allergies my five year old is having. Didn’t know sicknesses had to do with black mold in bathroom and hidden under the molding in hallway. The landlord’s boss came and witnessed the mold and made excuses said she would have specialist come to check air and to see if that is mold no one came yet they only came to install a new door as if that will make it better.


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