Mold in Chicago, IL Apartments Renter and Landlord Rights
Mold isn’t just unsightly — it can be downright dangerous, not to mention costly.
Study after study tells us that mold should be removed immediately for the health and wellness of the people living close by. Without intervention, mold continues to grow day after day, creating problems for those with sensitivities and allergies to the spores. And mold doesn’t just hurt individuals and pets — it also destroys structural integrity.
Because moisture and mold go hand-in-hand, it’s likely that any mold-filled area is also suffering from exposure to water. As we all know, water is a culprit that can quickly cause wood to rot, vinyl flooring to peel, hardwood to warp and metals to rust.
From the viewpoint of a renter or a landlord, it just makes good sense to have a mold-free unit. Whether it’s a condo or a more traditional apartment, both parties should understand how Illinois rental laws treat mold issues and what tenants’ rights in Chicago say about mold conditions.
Tenant Mold Issue Protections in Chicago
Illinois landlord-tenant laws are written to protect both tenants and landlords. From the tenant’s perspective, the discovery of mold should initiate an immediate call to the landlord. However, if the landlord does not take action to contact a mold remediation specialist to determine what’s happening, the tenant does not have to feel helpless.
The laws state that a tenant living in an apartment or dwelling in Illinois can actually hold back from paying rent if a landlord has not taken care of mold issues. This is known as “rent withholding.” Not all states have this kind of protection, but Chicago renters do.
This doesn’t mean tenants can simply withhold a rental check for any reason. Obviously, their concerns have to be provable. Essentially, the apartment must be labeled as inhabitable, which usually means the mold problem is bad, perhaps causing obvious health risks for the people living in the structure.
Along with withholding rent, tenants may also file lawsuits if the situation continues to deteriorate. Such lawsuits are not uncommon and will leave it up to a court to decide if the landlord has not lived up to his or her promises. Even if a clause governing mold is not in the lease, the tenant still has the right to reside in a safe property.
One other possibility for tenants who are not able to move away from their apartment but want to rid themselves of mold can be to take a “repair and deduct” strategy. This would involve the tenant taking the step of calling a professional mold remediation company and paying to completely sanitize the area affected by mold spores. From that point, the tenant would be able to deduct the mold remediation costs from the monthly rental fees.
Landlord Mold Issue Protections in Chicago
Landlords have protections of their own when it comes to mold. After all, the presence of mold is not necessarily the fault of the landlord. For instance, the mold may have developed because of something the tenant did. If the landlord can prove this as the case, the landlord may be able to get monies from the tenant to pay for the mold remediation services.
The goal of the landlord, if this is the case, is to establish what caused the mold. That’s only possible by working with an expert who understands that mold is often more widespread than renters or landlords may realize. Although you may be able to see the mold on the surface of a wall, floor, window sill or ceiling, more mold is probably lurking behind walls.
It can be expensive to fix a mold problem, but it’s better for both the landlord and the tenant.
Taking the First Steps: Tenants and Landlords Working Together
Of course, communication is essential throughout the process regardless of the law. The more tenants and landlords talk to one another, the easier it is to quickly solve a mold situation.
Because a tenant is living in the apartment, he’s usually the first to notice a mold problem. Some of the characteristics of mold include:
- A mildew smell present in areas that have ample moisture. This could include bathrooms or kitchens. It’s also possible the mildew is coming from other areas of the condo or apartment, such as through the walls if the roof is leaking, or through the flooring, if sewer drains are regularly flooding or backing up.
- Mold growth that’s visible to the naked eye. Mold comes in a variety of colors. Sometimes it’s just a slightly yellowish tinge and other times it may be black. Although black mold is shocking, all mold needs to be taken just as seriously. Even if you can only spot a tiny bit of mold, you need to remember that there’s probably much more behind the scenes.
- Fuzzy growths or rough surfaces that seem to grow over time, occasionally popping up almost overnight. The fuzz or roughness is actually part of the mold spore. Not all moldy places grow fuzz or have texture, but many do. You can remove this growth, but know that it’s probably going to come back because the catalyst for the mold hasn’t been removed.
At the first sign of mold, tenants should contact landlords and landlords should contact mold remediation specialists. Concurrently, tenants should air out any locations that have a build-up of mold to reduce the spores they’re inhaling. If the situation is dire, tenants should seek other living arrangements until the mold can be completely removed and the building is healthy again.
Mold is a common occurrence in apartments across Chicagoland. By knowing the rights of tenants and landlords based on the law, it’s much easier to understand how to move forward if you detect mold’s distinctive presence.
As always, ServiceMaster of Lincoln Park is ready to assist you with mold cleanup, whether you rent or own your property. Our goal is always to eradicate any mold, leaving behind a dwelling that promotes wellness and security.