Indoor Air Quality in Rental Dwellings

State Laws Addressing Radon, Mold and Secondhand Smoke

 

District of Columbia

A 2014 District of Columbia law requires landlords to remediate mold contamination and to disclose previous mold contamination to prospective tenants. The law also directs the District Department of the Environment to establish a certification system for mold professionals, along with minimum mold work practice standards and guidelines. D.C. Code 8-241.01-.09 (D.C. Act 20-365).

Landlord Duty to Remediate. The law requires a residential property owner to inspect a property within seven days of receiving written or electronic notice from a tenant that mold exists or is suspected to exist within the dwelling unit or common area. The law also requires the owner to remediate the condition in accordance with the law within 30 days of the inspection, unless a shorter time period is ordered. The landlord must clean and remove the mold in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of the Environment, and the District has published this mold remediation guidance. However, if the mold contamination exceeds thresholds established by the Department, the work must be carried out by an indoor mold remediation professional certified and licensed by the District. D.C. Code 8-241.04 (D.C. Act 20-365, §305(a)-(c)).

Mold Assessment/Remediation Standards and Licensing/Certification Requirements. The law requires the Department to establish minimum work practices and guidelines for mold assessment and remediation and to set a threshold level of indoor mold contamination that requires professional remediation. The law prohibits anyone from engaging in the business of mold assessment or remediation without being certified or licensed pursuant to requirements established by the Department. D.C. Code 8-241.02-.03 (D.C. Act 20-365, §§303-304). The District adopted its licensing regulations in 2016. D.C. Mun. Regs. 20-3200.

Remedies/Enforcement. In a lawsuit brought under the District’s housing code or property maintenance code, the law establishes a rebuttable presumption of a violation of the property owner’s obligation to maintain the property free from defective surface conditions if a tenant demonstrates that the property owner received a professional indoor assessment that determined indoor mold exists within the dwelling. Upon a favorable ruling for the tenant, the court has discretion to reimburse indoor mold assessment costs, as well as to award attorney fees, court costs, and treble damages to the tenant.  The law also gives District officials discretion, when issuing a notice of violation to a property owner under the housing code or property maintenance code, to rely on a professional indoor mold assessment. D.C. Code 8-241.05 (D.C. Act 20-365, §306).

Creation of Fund. The Act provides for the creation of an Indoor Mold Assessment and Remediation Fund, consisting of mold licensing fees, to cover the costs of administering the certification and licensing program. The law provides that if there are excess funds available, they must be used to provide grants to low-income residents to cover the cost of an indoor mold assessment in the event that the owner fails to comply with the requirements of the law, or to low-income owners to assist in complying with the law. D.C. Code 8-241.07 (D.C. Act 20-365, §308).

Disclosure. A separate law requires landlords to provide to prospective tenants at the time of filing an application "information known or that should have been known about the presence of indoor mold contamination ... in the rental unit or common areas in the previous 3 years, unless the mold has been remediated by an indoor mold remediation professional certified and licensed by the District...." D.C. Code 42–3502.22.

In addition, public housing tenants must be given notice of their rights to receive an inspection and remediation of mold under this law through the Public Housing Resident Bill of Rights, mandated under separate legislation (D.C. Code 6-232).

 

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