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Indoor Air Quality in Rental Dwellings:

State Laws Addressing Radon, Mold and Secondhand Smoke

 

Virginia

Virginia has enacted legislation amending the Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant (VRLT) Act (Virginia Code § 55.1-1200 et seq.) to address the problem of mold in rental housing. The VRLT Act applies to all single-family and multifamily residential dwelling units located in Virginia. The key provisions include a duty to maintain/repair and requirements relating to tenant notice and relocation.

Duty to maintain and repair: Under the VRLT Act, landlords must: "Maintain 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]. Where there is visible evidence of mold, the landlord shall promptly remediate the mold conditions . . . [in accordance with "professional standards" as described in separate state law, Virginia Code § 8.01-226.12] and reinspect the dwelling unit to confirm that there is no longer visible evidence of mold in the dwelling unit. The landlord shall provide a tenant with a copy of a summary of information related to mold remediation occurring during that tenancy and, upon request of the tenant, make available the full package of such information and reports not protected by attorney-client privilege.” Virginia Code §55.1-1220. 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 §55.1-1227.

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 §55.1-1215.

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 §§55.1-1215.

Relocation. If a mold condition “materially affects the health or 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, and the tenant must continue paying rent during the relocation. The landlord must pay these costs of relocation and the cost of the remediation unless the mold contamination is the result of tenant’s failure to comply with the provisions of the law. Va. Code §55.1-1231.

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 §55.1-1259. 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 §55.1-1220.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 §55.1-1234.


 

 

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