Because of its high humidity climate, North Carolina is a major source of mold problems.

Definition: Mold is a type of fungus that grows indoors and outdoors often with a fuzzy looking appearance but can be various colors. To reproduce, mold produces tiny spores that are continually dispersed through the air. Molds grow on damp spots on a variety of surfaces including wood, paper, fabrics, carpet, and foods. The key to controlling indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

Health Problems from Indoor Mold

When humans are exposed to large amounts of mold, health problems may result.  Allergic illness, asthma, respiratory infections and other toxic effects may result from mold.

About 10% of people have an allergic reaction to mold when the mold cells are inhaled.  This causes symptoms such as runny nose, scratchy throat and sneezing.

Molds can also trigger asthma attacks in people that have asthma.  Asthma is a lung disease in which the oxygen airways partially close, causing breathing difficulties.  They can be mild breathing difficulties like coughing or life-threatening like the inability to breathe.

Respiratory infections may result from mold exposure in individuals with severely weakened immune systems.  These may occur when the live mold invades lung tissue or respiratory tract.

Cleaning up Mold

All mold growth in a building should be cleaned up as soon as possible to prevent any health problems from occurring.

Mold cannot be removed by spraying the surface with products like disinfectants or cleaners because even if the products kill the mold cells, once they get into the air, they still present a health risk to humans.

Materials that are very porous like carpeting, wallboard, ceiling tile, wallpaper, fabric, furniture, and mattresses should be discarded since they absorb and hold moisture and they cannot be completely cleaned and dried.  Materials that are not as porous such as wood, concrete, metals, glass and hard plastics can usually be cleaned of the mold and reused.

During mold removal and cleaning, mold counts can be much higher than normal so it is advisable to contact a mold consultant or contractor.  If doing it yourself, be sure to wear a mask, protective clothing to discard after the project, gloves and eye protection.

Tenants’ Rights

In North Carolina, the Residential Rental Agreements Act states that the landlord must “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.”  If the mold is coming from moisture that is caused by a flaw in the building such as a leaky roof or broken water pipe, the landlord must fix the problem.  Tenants must notify landlords in writing and unless it is an emergency situation, landlords have 30 days to fix the problem before the tenant can break his or her lease. 

Tenants are responsible for mold that is a result of their own negligence.  For example, if a tenant’s fish tank leaks, the tenant is responsible for any mold that occurs as a result. 

Tenants may not, however, withhold rent payments because the landlord does not repair in time unless the landlord consents in writing or the court orders the tenant may do so.

It Is important to contact an attorney if a landlord fails to take action on a mold problem.

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