There’s Mold in My Apartment: What Do I Do?

Written by JustFix.nyc
Updated 07/07/2020

Mold isn’t just ugly to look at—it’s dangerous to be around, especially for older adults, children, and people with certain health problems, like asthma. While there are some things you can do on your own, your landlord is legally required to fix the problem, whether you’re in public or private housing. Use the steps below as a guide for getting your mold problem under control.

1. Ask your landlord to clean the mold and take steps to make sure it doesn’t come back

If you live in a building with 3 or more units—or if someone in your home has asthma—your landlord is legally required to keep your apartment free of mold. If you live in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments, it is also your right to live in a mold-free home. That means they are responsible for cleaning the mold and fixing what’s causing it, like leaky pipes. You already know that just because the law requires your landlord to do something doesn’t mean they’ll do it. You can make sure they get a formal request to fix the issues by sending them a Letter of Complaint, a free tool developed by JustFix.nyc that allows you to customize and send a letter to your landlord without ever having to go to the post office.

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2. Document the problem—and keep track of your communication with your landlord about it

Take photos of the mold and any other sources of moisture. You should also save copies of any communication you have with your landlord about the issue, in addition to the Letter of Complaint. Save copies of any emails, and take screenshots of your call log and text messages. For phone calls, write down the date, time, and what was said. This documentation can help later if you have a problem getting repairs made, and need to go to housing court with proof of the requests you’ve already made.

Make sure you are also calling 311 to submit formal complaints to the city if you live in private housing, or call the NYCHA Customer Complaint Center if you live in public housing. NYCHA residents also have the option to call the court-appointed Ombudsperson to add more pressure to your request at  1-888-341-7152. Additionally, any tenant can call the NYC Department of Health (DOH) at 311, or the DOH’s Office of Environmental Investigations at 212-442-3372.

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3. Safely clean small patches of mold and seal off what you can’t clean

While you wait for repairs, you can clean small patches of mold with a mild solution of bleach and water. If you’re sensitive to mold, ask someone else to do the cleaning.

If the mold has spread to other household items, like curtains or rugs, it’s best to throw those items away. If you have receipts for anything you have to throw out due to the mold, save them. And if you need to buy anything for the clean up, save those receipts too. You may be able to get your costs reimbursed by going to small claims court.

Whatever you can’t clean should get sealed off with plastic bags, or tarps, and duct tape—this can help prevent mold from circulating in the air. Mold in your apartment is actually a symptom of a bigger problem: extra moisture, caused by things like leaky pipes and poor ventilation. If the moisture doesn’t get addressed properly, mold will keep coming back.

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4. Get your money back

You may want to use your right to get your rent reduced or seek reimbursement from your landlord for any costs or hardship associated with the mold issues. You can start a case in small claims court if you have spent money on mold remediation that your landlord should have handled. If you live in rent regulated housing (rent stabilized or rent controlled), you can also apply online for a rent reduction through the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR).

Do your part to get a head start on your mold problem by trying to keep your home dry, using a fan or dehumidifier, and taking all the steps laid out here. Remember, it’s your landlord’s responsibility, not yours, to completely fix the source of moisture. They should be held accountable for the source of the problem, not just clean up the appearance of mold.

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