Like most states in the country, Florida does not have any specific laws that protect people from toxic mold exposure. The good news is that there are current laws on the books that you can use to help your situation such as the existing laws for renters that govern real estate and tenancy under Florida’s Landlord-Tenant Laws and for homeowners under seller non-disclosure laws and construction defect laws.

Homeowners

For people that own their home, there is very little protection in the state of Florida in regards to water damage and toxic mold. If you found water damage and mold in your older home that was not disclosed to you by the seller, you may have legal recourse against the seller for non-disclosure of the property’s condition and history.

Under Florida law, the seller of any real estate property must disclose any facts or conditions about your property that have a substantial impact on its value or desirability, and that others cannot easily see for themselves. (Johnson v. Davis, 480 So.2d 625 (Fla. 1985)).

Your only remedies are to try and work it out through the real estate broker and seller to reach some sort of out of court settlement through arbitration or you can bring legal action in civil court and let the courts decide if the seller was negligent.

If you bought a new home with water damage and mold, you may be protected under Florida’s construction defect law under statute 558. “Construction defect” means a deficiency in, or a deficiency arising out of, the design, specifications, surveying, planning, supervision, observation of construction, or construction, repair, alteration, or remodeling of real property.

Here is what the Florida Bar says:

“With the recent enactment of Florida’s new construction defect statute (“statute”),1 the aggrieved homeowner now is required to provide contractors and other responsible parties with prior written notice of the alleged construction defects and an opportunity to resolve claims and/or correct construction defects before filing suit. This new law applies to damage claims arising from defects associated with residential construction and excludes claims for personal injury and specific performance.”

Renters (tenants)

If you are a renter and your property has experienced water damage and mold, there are a couple ways that you can seek a remedy for your situation.

Under the current Florida statute 83.51 – A landlord’s obligation to maintain premises are:

(1) The landlord at all times during the tenancy shall:

(a) Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes; or

(b) Where there are no applicable building, housing, or health codes, maintain the roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and the plumbing in reasonable working condition.

So, if you have experienced roof or plumbing leaks that have resulted in mold growth and the landlord has not maintained them or fixed them properly, you are somewhat protected. However, your legal remedy is limited to either withholding rent, terminating the lease without legal recourse on the landlord’s behalf and or going to civil court.

This is covered under Florida statutes 83.201 and 83.63.

83.201 Notice to landlord of failure to maintain or repair, rendering premises wholly untenantable; right to withhold rent.—When the lease is silent on the procedure to be followed to effect repair or maintenance and the payment of rent relating thereto, yet affirmatively and expressly places the obligation for same upon the landlord, and the landlord has failed or refused to do so, rendering the leased premises wholly untenantable, the tenant may withhold rent after notice to the landlord.

The tenant shall serve the landlord, in the manner prescribed by s. 83.20(3), with a written notice declaring the premises to be wholly untenantable, giving the landlord at least 20 days to make the specifically described repair or maintenance, and stating that the tenant will withhold the rent for the next rental period and thereafter until the repair or maintenance has been performed. The lease may provide for a longer period of time for repair or maintenance.

Once the landlord has completed the repair or maintenance, the tenant shall pay the landlord the amounts of rent withheld. If the landlord does not complete the repair or maintenance in the allotted time, the parties may extend the time by written agreement or the tenant may abandon the premises, retain the amounts of rent withheld, terminate the lease, and avoid any liability for future rent or charges under the lease. This section is cumulative to other existing remedies, and this section does not prevent any tenant from exercising his or her other remedies. History.—s. 2, ch. 93-70; s. 438, ch. 95-147.

83.63 Casualty damage.—If the premises are damaged or destroyed other than by the wrongful or negligent acts of the tenant so that the enjoyment of the premises is substantially impaired, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and immediately vacate the premises. The tenant may vacate the part of the premises rendered unusable by the casualty, in which case the tenant’s liability for rent shall be reduced by the fair rental value of that part of the premises damaged or destroyed. If the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord shall comply with s. 83.49(3).

Mold Safe Solutions Conclusion

Please keep in mind that there are only two reasons that justify the withholding of rent in the state of Florida, The landlord must keep your housing in conformity with all building, housing, and health codes and if no codes apply, the landlord must maintain the structural components and plumbing in good repair.

If all else fails and your landlord will not repair the damage so you can have quiet enjoyment and or has evicted you, you will then have to decide if you want to withhold rent, terminate the lease or take them to court. All landlord-tenant disputes that cannot be worked out amicably, must be resolved in a civil court.

If you decide to go down this path, it is best that you have a professional mold inspection so that you have documentation substantiating your claims. I also recommend that you consult with a lawyer who is well-versed in real estate law and toxic mold.

SOURCES:

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0083/0083.html

Florida Bar