Virginia has enacted legislation amending the state’s landlord-tenant laws to address the problem of mold in rental housing. The key provisions include a duty to maintain/repair and requirements relating to tenant notice and relocation.
Duty to maintain and repair: Under the Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant (VRLT) Act, landlords must maintain premises in a fit and habitable condition and must maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances. Legislation amended this provision to add a requirement that the landlord: “[m]aintain the premises in such a condition as to prevent the accumulation of moisture and the growth of mold, and to promptly respond to any notices from a tenant.” Virginia Code §55-248.13. The law directs tenants to use reasonable efforts to maintain the dwelling so as to prevent moisture and mold and to “promptly notify the landlord of any moisture accumulation that occurs or of any visible evidence of mold discovered by the tenant.” Va. Code §55-248.16
A separate provision of the VRLT Act requires landlords to remediate within five days any mold disclosed upon initial move-in. The landlord must re-inspect to confirm that there is no visible mold. Va. Code §55-248.11:2. See also Va. Code §§ 8.01-226.12 (A),(E).
Disclosure: Under the VRLT Act, landlords must give tenants a move-in report within five days of occupancy. Legislation amended the law to require that the report include disclosure of “whether there is any visible evidence of mold in areas readily accessible within the interior of the dwelling unit." If the report discloses the presence of mold, the tenant may choose to either terminate the tenancy or remain in possession of the unit. If the tenant chooses to remain in possession, the landlord must remediate the mold, as noted above. Va. Code §§55-248.11:2, 55-225.7.
Relocation. If a mold condition “materially affects the health and safety” of occupants, a landlord may require a tenant to vacate the unit for up to 30 days while the landlord undertakes mold remediation consistent with professional standards. The landlord must provide to the tenant, at the landlord’s cost, a comparable dwelling unit or a hotel room. Va. Code §55-248.18:2. The landlord must pay the costs of the remediation unless the mold contamination is the result of tenant’s failure to “use reasonable efforts to maintain the dwelling unit . . . in such a condition as to prevent accumulation of moisture and the growth of mold.” Va. Code §§55-248.16, 55-225.9.
Remedies/Enforcement. The VRLT Act establishes remedies for landlords and tenants in the event of noncompliance with the Act. Any person adversely affected by a violation may file a civil lawsuit for injunction and damages. Va. Code §55-248.40. A landlord who violates the Act’s requirements for maintaining the premises is liable for “the tenant’s actual damages proximately caused by the landlord’s failure to exercise ordinary care." Va. Code §55-248.13. Tenants may terminate the rental agreement following a landlord’s noncompliance “materially affecting health and safety,” after giving the landlord written notice of the breach and an opportunity to remedy. Va. Code §55-248.21.