After the Storm: The Threat of Mold After Residential Flooding

As we write this post from our San Francisco tenants’ law firm, residents throughout the Bay Area are preparing for the arrival of a soaking and likely dangerous storm. By Wednesday afternoonn, Weather Channel reporters were predicting from three to five inches of rain in San Francisco and Sacramento with some areas slated to receive up to eight inches of rainfall. Forecasts suggest the storm could be one of the strongest wind and rain events to hit our region since 2009.

Weather events of this magnitude are a threat to safety and to property. We urge readers to use caution on the roads and remind drivers to never attempt to pass through flooded roadways. In addition to the immediate threats of severe weather, there can be long-term consequences of flooding that pose serious health threats. Mold is one of the most perilous (and sometimes sneaky) of these flood-related health hazards. While it is not the only way the dangerous spores make their way into residential dwellings, ignoring the link between flooding and mold can leave people sick and even contribute to early death.

Sick Buildings, Sick Tenants: A Brief Overview of the Danger of Mold After Floods flood.jpg
In the wake of East Coast storms Sandy and Isaac in 2012, the science-focused group The Why Files released an article discussing the dangers of mold in the wake of flooding. Referring to mold’s impact as a form of “biological warfare,” the article explains that mold can cause health problems in several ways. Mold releases spores that can irritate the lungs and the entire respiratory system, causing dangerous inflammation. Mold also creates mycotoxins, poisonous chemicals that can suppress the immune system, damage genes, and harm or kill other cells. Mold is particularly dangerous to people with other underlying health issues and is a trigger for allergies and asthma. Some researchers believe mold can also cause neurological damage.

After a flood, mold can grow rampant in indoor spaces contributing to a condition known as “sick building syndrome.” Water can become trapped in building materials and lead to mold growth that invades people’s bodies with every breath. One study found at least one mold-related toxin in 66 percent of building materials in flood-damaged buildings.

Mold and Landlord/Tenant Law
A guide produced by the San Francisco Chronicle provides a brief overview of the state and local landlord/tenant laws about mold in rental units. California Health and Safety Code Section 26167 requires landlords to provide a written disclosure to prospective tenants if the landlord knows (or should reasonably know) that mold levels in the unit exceed permissible level or pose a health threat. Additionally, a landlord who knows (or, again, should know with reasonable efforts) there is mold in a rental property must make a reasonable effort to remove the mold and, where appropriate, fix the problem that led to the mold growth. Mold growth may also violate the warranty of habitability and/or trigger duties under local laws.

If mold in your rental unit has left you or a family member ill, you may have legal recourse. While there are a number of steps you may be entitled to take, it is risky to do so with legal counsel. Attorney Brod has experience serving as a Northern California tenants’ lawyer, including representing renters sickened by mold. Call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Mold Infestation Basics
The Danger & The Law of Toxic Mold in Northern California

(Image by Keith Tyler)