Toxic mold growth is a common problem in New York City, given the age of many buildings, issues with plumbing and drainage, etc. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to clean toxic mold when it appears and to repair any damage that occurs as a result. This begs a common question among NYC renters: “Do I have to pay rent on my NYC apartment if they find toxic mold on the premises?”
The short answer is, it’s complicated. Let us explain.
New York Laws Regarding Withholding Rent
Under New York law, renters have the right to live in a rental unit that is in good repair and meets basic health and safety standards. By extension, if the landlord fails to provide repairs to meet these standards in a timely manner, you technically have the right to withhold rent until those repairs are made—and that includes the removal of toxic mold. You may also opt for the “repair and deduct” option, meaning you pay to have the repairs made and deduct the cost from your rent. However, there are caveats to these policies, and if you don’t meet the criteria or follow procedures exactly, withholding the rent could come back to hurt you in other ways.
When Is It Appropriate to Withhold Rent Over Toxic Mold?
The most obvious scenario in which you would have fair legal grounds for withholding rent is if the property itself becomes uninhabitable. In other words, if the mold situation is such that it is making you or other occupants physically ill—to the point that you have to leave—you do not legally have to pay rent for a space you cannot inhabit. Barring that extreme situation, you might be within your rights to withhold rent under the following conditions:
· You have notified the landlord of the issue, and they have not resolved it in a reasonable amount of time.
· You have given the landlord proper notice of your intentions according to regulations.
· The mold situation meets the baseline criteria to justify the withholding of rent.
· You have not overused this remedy to solve other problems (i.e., you haven’t repeatedly withheld rent beyond the threshold of what is considered reasonable).
· The amount of rent you are withholding does not exceed the limits regarding what is appropriate in this situation.
Like we said—it’s complicated.
Bottom line: Before deciding on your own to withhold rent over a toxic mold problem, we highly recommend consulting with an experienced attorney to understand your rights and make sure your situation meets the legal criteria for doing so. Bear in mind that there are other ways to receive compensation for toxic mold problems, including suing the landlord for damages, where applicable.
At the Law Offices of Campson & Campson, we have extensive experience helping NYC tenants resolve toxic mold issues with their landlords. Call our office to learn more.