Improved Rental Health

Navigating Legal Liabilities: The Importance of Habitability and Mold Remediation in Rental Properties

The legal concept of “habitability” in rental units is essential for property managers to understand, as neglect in any of the areas can lead to serious legal liabilities for owners and landlords, challenges for property managers, and severe health problems for tenants. Monica Gilroy, a real estate lawyer and founding principal of The Gilroy Firm in Atlanta, explains that habitability encompasses providing basic maintenance services on heating and plumbing systems, ensuring clean running water, and maintaining a sound structure that doesn’t pose unreasonable safety risks.

In recent news, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an update to its rule requiring property managers to hire a certified professional to deal with repair, renovation and remediation involving lead-based paint. If implemented, this proposed rule could require property managers be certified to deal with lead-based paint repair and remediation. A public comment period about the change ended in late 2023, and the agency was expected to release a final decision in Q1 2024. “The reality of that decision means that to be safe, potentially if they’re doing any renovation, property managers should be certified,” Gilroy advises. She suggests that a property management firm could appoint one person to become certified.

When it comes to mold issues in rental units or buildings, Gilroy advises prompt investigation. If tenants report mold or commission test results themselves, property managers must take action immediately. They should create written procedures and a checklist in response to any reports of mold. Instructions for tenants should also be developed outlining what they should do whenever they believe they have encountered mold. Property managers must prioritize addressing mold issues quickly before legal liabilities arise or harm is caused to tenants’ health.

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