WAFF 48 Investigates: Mold Concerns - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

WAFF 48 Investigates: Mold Concerns

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Recent rainfall plus summertime humidity have hatched an ideal environment for mold growth in homes. 

It's a headache no homeowner wants to deal with, considering certain toxic species can cause serious health problems.

But tenants who rent from landlords face the dilemma of whose responsibility it is to remove mold should their home become infested with it.

Huntsville-based attorney Robert Shipman has handled several mold-related lawsuits in his practice.

He took up another case recently, where his client claimed leaky pipes caused mold growth at his Quail Pointe apartment unit in Huntsville.

"The owners, or the managers or both, were aware of it and nobody did anything, and the mold got really bad," Shipman said.

His client is now suing his apartment for negligence, claiming his unit is now uninhabitable.

"He went to the doctor, his little child went to the doctor, his wife went to the doctor, I believe on medical advice they left the apartment," Shipman said.

We reached out to the apartment company but reps never returned our calls, instead referring us to their lawyer who stated:

"Our policy is not to comment on pending litigation. We will refer to the answer we filed with the court that denies the allegations made in the complaint," said an attorney with Wilmer and Lee in Huntsville.

No resident wants to grapple with a mold situation at home but it has become a reality for many tenants thanks to higher humidity and in some cases, flooding.

Terrell Nixon owns and operates EnviroSafe, a mold removal company based in Madison. 

He said the most dangerous types of mold grow from microscopic spores that thrive in moist environments and could flourish inside walls and other places where mold growth may not be immediately apparent.  

"When you start seeing invisible mold on something else like your dry wall, your ceiling, carpet, that's a good time to call in somebody else," Terrell said.

Legal experts said tenants should report any suspicion of mold right away.

"A landlord has a general duty to maintain the property," said Michael Forton.

Forton is an attorney for Legal Services Alabama, a non-profit, federally funded group that provides free legal services for tenants who cannot afford to take legal action, including ones that involve mold.

"If there's an interior leak in the wall, in the ceiling, in the wall, underneath the sink, something like that, obviously those are problems with plumbing. Those are problems in the house. Those are problems they're supposed to fix themselves. They can't peg that on tenants," Forton said.

Forton and the Alabama Attorney General's Office said the state's Landlord-Tenant Act gives tenants some rights.

It states that if a landlord doesn't fix a problem in your home and your health and safety are at risk, you can give them notice -- ideally in writing -- to move out in 14 days.

If the landlord makes the repairs within that time, the lease will stay intact. 

If the repairs are not made in that time, then the landlord must return the tenant's security deposit and any prepaid rent.

"Although if you're poor, that may be very difficult. You don't have enough money for a security deposit and do all that stuff it takes to move," Forton said.

Forton added that it is important for tenants to continue paying rent while disputing a mold situation, or else there is a chance they'll get evicted and the point of fighting for tenant rights will be fruitless.

As of Thursday morning, the status of the litigation filed by Shipman was still pending. 

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