Mold in Virginia Rental Housing Units: Rights and Responsibilities

Allegations that mold is present in rental housing units can easily become a point of contention between a landlord and tenant. The General Assembly attempted to clarify the rights and responsibilities of parties to a lease, with respect to mold, by statute, specifically in the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (the “VRLTA”), found in Sections 55.1-1200, et seq of the Code of Virginia of 1950, as amended.To better understand some of the key statutory provisions, continue reading as our Fairfax real estate attorneys explain.

The Initial Inspection

Section 55.1-1214 of the Code of Virginia of 1950, as amended, provides the VRLTA’s guidance regarding move-in inspections for residential rentals. In the next section, the VRLTA requires landlords to disclose the presence of visible mold in connection with the move-in inspection and gives the tenant five days to object to the landlord’s disclosure:

“As part of the written report of the move-in inspection required by Section 55.1-1214, the landlord shall disclose whether there is any visible evidence of mold in areas readily accessible within the interior of the dwelling unit. If the landlord's written disclosure states that there is no visible evidence of mold in the dwelling unit, this written statement shall be deemed correct unless the tenant objects to it in writing within five days after receiving the report.”

Id. at § 55.1-1215. If the landlord discloses visible mold or the tenant notes its presence, the tenant can either terminate the lease or take possession of the rental unit, subject to the landlord’s obligation to remediate the mold within five business days.

Keeping the Unit Mold-Free During the Tenancy

During the tenancy, both landlords and tenants have maintenance obligations. Among these responsibilities is the shared duty “to [m]aintain the premises in such a condition as to prevent the accumulation of moisture and the growth of mold….” See Va. Code §§ 55.1-1220; 55.1-1227. Additionally, tenants should promptly make complaints about conditions in the rental unit that affect their health and safety, potentially including the presence of mold, and landlords have a duty to address well-founded complaints within a reasonable period of time. See id. at § 55.1-1234.

During a residential tenancy, an assessment of the specific facts and circumstances related to the presence of mold and the relative degrees of responsibility for its growth will drive the analysis of who is responsible for remediation. Contact the attorneys at Keithley Law, PLLC at (703) 454-5147 to schedule an initial consultation today.

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