What Can Be Done About Mold in My Apartment?

what to do about mold in my apartment

The presence of mold can strike fear into the hearts of anyone. Depending on the species, mold exposure can cause a variety of health problems ranging from mild cold-like symptoms to severe reactions in people with compromised immune symptoms.

This is especially problematic for people living in residential rental units. Hidden patches of mold growing within large apartment buildings can affect a large number of people, with many occupants either unaware there’s a problem or afraid of repercussions if they do report it.

What should you do If you suspect that mold is growing in your apartment? Why and how do these types of infestations happen, anyway? Is it something for which your landlord is responsible?

Let’s take a look at what you need to know if you are concerned about a mold issue in your apartment.

What to do if You Have (or Suspect) Mold in Your Apartment

Why Mold Problems Happen

Mold is a type of fungus that relies on a certain set of conditions in order to grow. It’s estimated that there are as many as 300,000 species, and each one has its own unique characteristics.

In general, though, most varieties need the following factors to thrive:

  • Moisture
  • High humidity
  • A hot or warm environment
  • An optimal growth medium
  • Low air movement

When you put these conditions together, you’re likely to end up with mold. It can grow either indoors or outdoors, in all types of climates. It will usually do well in a porous growth medium – clothing, beds, floors – as well as tile grout or caulking. That’s why mold loves to grow in bathrooms, which typically provide all of these growth factors.

But bathroom mold is usually easy to spot; what makes mold contamination a problem is when mold spores take root in areas you can’t see, such as behind walls and ceiling.

There’s no clear consensus on the effects of mold exposure. Whether a particular mold that you discover is toxic or not depends on the species, along with the types of mycotoxins which may be present. Some varieties such as aspergillus may not cause any symptoms in healthy individuals, while others may cause serious health problems.

In fact, some studies have been unable to prove any link between mold exposure and illness whatsoever, while others suggest it can cause memory loss, lethargy, and other serious conditions.

Ultimately, you won’t be able to know with certainty whether the presence of mold will be harmful to your health. And even though some unscrupulous mold removal companies may try to scare you into taking unnecessarily costly action, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.

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How to Know if Mold is Present in Your Apartment

Even though you won’t always have visible signs of mold, you don’t need an indoor air quality test to conclude that you have a problem.

Even when it’s hidden, there are usually telltale signs that conditions are optimal for mold growth:

  • Water spots on ceilings and walls
  • Water collecting on the floor
  • Stains on walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Persistent musty or bad odours for which you can’t pinpoint the source
  • Other evidence of water leaks, flooding, or condensation

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they have a mold problem until they start getting sick. Some common symptoms include:

  • Allergy symptoms: sneezing, sore throat, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose
  • Asthma attacks
  • General respiratory issues
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Memory and concentration problems

What to do If You Suspect the Presence of Mold in Your Apartment

Your liabilities and responsibilities will differ depending on whether you rent or own your unit. If you are a condo owner, you will generally be responsible for handling it yourself, although there could be shared liability if the mold issue affects common areas.

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Notify Your Landlord

If you are a renter, notifying the landlord should be your first step. Doing so promptly allows your landlord to investigate and fix the problem quickly. It also helps to reduce any potential liability on your end if it’s determined that your actions or inactions led to the mold’s appearance.

Disrupt Mold Growth

If it’s within your control, try to remove the mold growth factors. Removing and preventing excessive water or moisture from accumulating, or using a dehumidifier to bring down the humidity levels will help disrupt the growth by starving it of what it needs to survive.

What if Your Landlord Refuses to Take Action About the Mold?

Ideally, if your landlord understands their legal obligations and has a desire to preserve their property value, they should be eager to handle it. But what if they refuse?

Unfortunately, some property managers may decide to hold the tenant responsible, while others may simply not wish to spend the money remove the mold.

Fortunately, there are several avenues to take should your landlord refuse to deal with the mold issue.

Most municipalities have departments you can contact for assistance. Your local public health department can log the case and put pressure on your landlord to deal with the problem. As well, the municipal property standards office is responsible for enforcing all by-laws pertaining to rental units, and they can arrange an inspection of the premises and, potentially, force the landlord to take action.

If all else fails, you may need to take legal action against your landlord. In Ontario, the Landlord Tenant Board of Ontario is responsible for conducting hearings and issuing rulings for or against landlords and tenants when there is a dispute.

If you’re successful, the tribunal can issue a judgment ordering your landlord to fix the mold problem within a certain timeframe.

You can also speak to your insurance company if you have renter’s insurance. If you own a condo, consult with your condo board. But regardless –  if you do pursue these avenues, make sure you get proper legal advice so that you can protect your rights.

Identify and Prevent Mold Growth Problems in Your Apartment

Understanding how and why mold can grow in your apartment, as well as knowing how to identify a potential problem is critical to avoiding the negative health effects of mold exposure.

If you do suspect a problem, contact your landlord as soon as possible and inform them of your concerns. The earlier you identify a mold infestation, the easier it will likely be to deal with. And if your landlord refuses to take action, consider contacting your municipal health department, property standards office, and legal action to get a fast resolution.

Ferro Canada is a leading environmental services company specializing in mold testing and removal. If you have mold growing in your commercial or residential building, contact our C.R.A.S.H Team and speak to an expert today.