Mold is generally smelly and unsightly, but it can cause serious damage and illness when it is toxic. This infestation can lead to millions of dollars in lawsuits against contractors, owners or other businesses involved. The damage can be to the building structure or impact its’ market value for sale or rental. While it can cause illness among occupants, toxic mold (also known as black mold) is not toxic. However, it is harmful to humans, causing reactions in people with compromised immune systems, allergies or respiratory issues. The elderly and young children are most susceptible.
Who is liable?
Each case’s circumstances are different, but businesses can be held liable for damages or injury to employees, tenants, customers, or others. Those liable may include construction contractors, structural engineers or architects, as well as the owner or property management company.
While residential landlords are obligated to provide a habitable rental property, commercial landlords are less obligated to provide habitable conditions. Still, they will likely need to ensure that the space serves its intended use.
Mold is often a construction defect
Mold is generally considered a construction defect. The defect involves water leaking into the building. Mold then flourishes in wet or damp areas when it is warm, and there is minimal airflow.
The cause of mold in newer buildings includes:
- Increasing advances in airtight buildings preserve that dampness.
- Design flaws turn roofs, walls or interior areas into mold incubators.
- Building materials or HVAC did not perform as designed or promised.
- Increasingly complex designs create new trouble spots for mold issues.
- The contractor cut corners in some way or did not follow design specifications.
Employers may also be liable
Employers must provide a safe workplace for employees. The company could be liable if its owners or managers knew about the mold issue but opted not to do anything about it. Those looking for clarification regarding mold can turn OSHA. Generally, it is in the business’s best interest to address the matter or have the landlord do so. Businesses can also get a policy to protect themselves against mold claims.
What can be done?
Mold can seriously impact a building’s value, so it will need to be removed by experts. The building’s design will need to be updated to prevent mold from returning once removed. Who is obligated to pay for this work is the crucial question here. Those looking for answers will need to study their contracts. If the answer still is not clear to all involved, the parties may need to litigate the case.