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BREAKING THE (NEWS ABOUT) MOLD

Mold is a very serious issue.  It can cause significant health effects or damage to personal property.  As part of the obligation to provide and maintain habitable premises, North Carolina requires landlords to respond to complaints of mold in a reasonable period of time depending on the severity of the condition.  However, North Carolina takes a markedly different approach to the disclosure of the presence of mold by the landlord to the tenant.

No Affirmative Disclosure Obligation

Although a landlord may face potential liability, including rent abatement, for failing to respond in a reasonable period of time to complaints of mold, neither federal nor North Carolina statutes create an affirmative obligation for a residential landlord to disclose the existence of mold in a rental property.  This may seem surprising, but it falls in line with the approach of the vast majority of states. 

Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices

A residential landlord may, however, be liable under the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“UDTPA”) if s/he continues to charge rent on a property that is uninhabitable. A property can be deemed uninhabitable based solely on the presence of mold in extreme cases.  This statute could expose the landlord to treble damages (an award of damages amounting to three times the actual damages suffered) plus the attorney’s fees of the complaining tenant.  A fair reading of the statute could also mean that a landlord may be similarly liable if s/he knowingly conceals or denies the existence of mold when a tenant inquires.  From its application to landlord tenant disputes, the UDTPA clearly serves as a significant deterrent to landlords, and a significant method of recourse for tenants.

To speak with an experienced real estate litigation attorney about a residential or commercial lease dispute, please give us a call at (704) 457-1010 to schedule a consultation.  For more information regarding our firm, attorneys, and practice areas, please visit http://www.lindleylawoffice.com/.

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