In mid-July the California State Assembly approved Senate Bill 732, which enacts the Mold Disclosure Act of 2001. The bill requires landlords and sellers of residential and commercial property to provide written disclosure to potential tenants and buyers about the existence of mold.
Mold is being taken so seriously as an indoor health hazard that the Environmental Protection Agency has just put up a Web page devoted to educating the public about mold and its effect on the lungs. Attorneys are also beginning to take mold seriously, with lawsuits.
A disclosure must identify the current presence or prior existence of mold. This new legislation adds another important disclosure to sales contracts, which have become increasingly complex over the years.
As an example, in a May 3 complaint, a California resident alleged her condo was contaminated with mold, which caused her to experience headaches, nosebleeds and other personal injuries (Rachel Lusted v. Hidden Canyon Homeowners Association et al., No. SC029480, Calif. Super., Ventura Co.).
The complaint was filed in the Ventura County Superior Court. Her claims include breach of fiduciary duties, breach of duty to be honest and truthful, strict products liability, negligence, negligence per se, negligent misrepresentation, failure to make written disclosures, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and declaratory relief.
According to the complaint, a drywall nail penetrated a drainpipe within the bathroom wall, causing moisture and mold. The door frames were separating, and the mold caused the padding and plywood to rot.
Mold is often a hidden danger; it fails to appear in seller disclosures because the sellers don't know it's there. Most problems such as mold are a direct result of a lack of required maintenance or defects in construction when the home was originally built.
Sellers should protect themselves by including some basic information about mold along with other information they provide a buyer. Local service specialists can perform indoor air quality tests (air quality tests should be added to the recommended list of pre-purchase inspections to be performed), looking for evidence of water leakage and paying attention to musty smells.
For more information from the EPA Web site logon to www.schs.state.nc.us/epi/oii/mold/related.html.
The California Department of Health Services has an informative fact sheet on mold in the home at www.dhs.ca.gov/ps/deodc/ehib/EHIB2/topics/Moldhome%20Eng.html.