Do you live in a rental property with mold growth that is affecting your health? Are you an owner of a rental property facing moldy rental claims from tenants? If you answered yes to either of these questions, obtaining knowledgeable counsel to assist you is very important as these claims can lead to extensive potential liability. The attorneys at Chenoweth Law Group have the moldy rental and environmental litigation experience necessary to help you understand and assert your legal rights in these kinds of cases.
Recently, Chenoweth Law Group won over $103,000 in damages, plus attorney fees, in a moldy rental jury trial on behalf of a Portland tenant. In Cohen v. Fox Management, Inc. et al., Multnomah County Cir. Ct. No. 1010-1453 (Dec. 9, 2011), the landlords allowed a roof leak in the rental to go unchecked. This leak caused mold to grow, which then sickened the tenant (plaintiff). The tenant, a Portland radiologist, had lived in the single family house in Southwest Portland for 16 years. After the original landlord died, his widow hired a series of property management companies to manage the rental. In 2008, Fox Property Management, Inc. (the defendant) assumed management responsibilities. The tenant informed the new property management company of the ongoing leak in the stairwell of the house, but the management company refused to address the problem.
The leak only grew worse and a strong musty odor developed. The tenant, an avid marathon runner, began to experience difficulty breathing and competing in marathons. In addition, she suffered from eye irritation, headaches, and allergy-like symptoms. Eventually, the tenant hired indoor air quality experts to look into the situation. The experts confirmed that the roof leak and other building defects, such as drain spouts discharging directly at the building foundation, had resulted in excessive indoor humidity. This excessive humidity led to amplified levels of mold and other harmful bio-organisms in the building.
Although the landlords finally fixed the leak after receiving one of the expert’s reports, they refused to repair much of the water damage, or to address other issues with the house. The tenant then vacated the premises, but had to discard or professionally clean many of her personal possessions because high levels of mold spores had settled on them. She also sought treatment with a certified allergist who confirmed that her decreased pulmonary functioning and allergic responses were caused by exposure to the mold.
The tenant then hired Chenoweth Law Group attorney Ken Dobson to pursue claims against the landlords. In October 2010, Mr. Dobson filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court against the management company and the building owner. The suit alleged violations of the habitability provisions of Oregon’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (“RLTA”), and common law claims of negligence. The lawsuit sought recovery of back rent and compensation for loss of personal property, various out-of-pocket expenses, and compensation for personal injuries caused by the mold.
After the landlord refused to make any significant settlement offer, the case went to trial before a 12-person jury. At trial, doctors and indoor air quality specialists offered conflicting opinions on the extent of the mold problem and whether the mold was the cause of the tenant’s health problems. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the tenant on all counts and awarded her $24,270 for damaged and destroyed personal property, moving expenses, and alternative lodging; $70,000 for personal injuries; and $8,797 in reduced rental value. Under the RLTA, the tenant is also entitled to an award of attorney fees and costs.
Although Chenoweth Law Group cannot guarantee similar results in your case, our attorneys do have significant expertise and trial experience in the field of environmental litigation. Thus, if you are facing moldy rental claims from a tenant, or you have found mold or believe there is mold growing in your rental property, please call Chenoweth Law Group at 253-200-5991 to schedule a consultation.