Q&A: Who is Responsible for Mold Removal?

Q I am a shareholder of a co-op apartment building. I have a mold problem, which stems from water damage coming through the outside bricks. I had a mold assessment company take air samples and material samples. It was determined that there is extensive mold growth and damage. I assume the management company is responsible for any and all cleaning and repairs to my unit?

—City Shareholder

A “Any infiltration of water into your apartment is not a good thing,” says Manhattan-based attorney C. Jaye Berger, who specializes in real estate law and construction-related litigation. “Water can be very destructive and spreads throughout the walls and ceilings of apartments in ways and in directions that you cannot even imagine. Water may seem to come in at one area and you can find water damage from it in a completely different area of your apartment. It can cause physical damage and can also result in mold, which can possibly cause health issues. It’s good that you had some testing done, but I would also recommend that you seek legal counsel. As an attorney who handles co-op and construction legal issues, I always ‘orchestrate’ these things along with my client. In other words, you have air samples showing mold, now what do you do with them ?

“A key element in dealing with mold issues is giving the property owner “notice” of the problem and the presence of the mold. Your letter does not make it clear whether the building super already knows about the water leak and the mold. I would find it hard to believe that he does not know about it. Nevertheless, it is important that you give the co-op and its managing agent written notice of the problem. Having that letter come from an attorney is the preferred way.

“The general rule is that actual knowledge of mold is needed and not just notice of water damage that may lead to mold. Also, understand that merely having tests that show the presence of mold does not necessarily mean that you and your family are in danger. There are harmful and non-harmful molds. So as legal counsel I would also question the testing company about what the findings really mean.

“Whether there is mold or not, there is definitely water damage, and the building is certainly required to find out the cause of it and to correct it. It could be that the building recently had some pointing done which caused it. It may also be because the building needs to have some pointing done which was postponed. You need to find out the status from the managing agent. In other words, the building may “want” to fix the problem, but fixing it is part of a much larger issue involving repointing of the entire building. It may also be need to be a remediation company called to address the mold issue while the water problem is being fixed.”

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Comments

  • I was an owner of a condo that was saturated with water from a leak in my unit which turned to mild. The leak was caused by a power washing done on the condo when they were replacing exterior gutters. It took 2 years for the condo board to respond properly to the issues. They responded only after FEMA was called in after Hurricane Irene when they were called in due to the fact my condo was in the path of Drainage from the Mid Hudson Bridge. It was during this time that walls were removed a small leak was discovered along with two years worth if mold everywhere. During this 2 year periuoid if time I has become quite sick. Thinking I was dying from my role as a first responder to 9/11. My Issues included cognitive deficiencies which kept me from responding to this situation effectively. The condo board never acted in my best interest or the interest of the oweres in general. In fact the treasurer of the association came to me and asked me not to sue as due to the economics of doing so would bring the condo down and he urged me to think of the other owners. At that time we discussed filing a claim on the Condo's insurance and the fact there was a $5000 deductible which I said would cost each unit approximately $158.00. This was never done. I was lead to believe that they were acting in my best interest. I was told to "HANG IN there! by the Treasurer of the Board. AS THE He AND the PRESIDENT of the Board sold their properties to a woman who's only interest was to beautiufy the association and take control of the board in order to achieve her fiancial goals. She went about acquiring all available units and bulling other owners off the board. Never once did they address my issues in fact I was told I was constantly made mockery of at board meetings when I was not in attendance. Needles to say this went on and on and through attempted trials to do a loan modification I list the condo as a direct result of the lack of action by this board. I sit here half asleep having gotten the idea to google 'Boards responsibility in Reporting mold within a unit to the board oif health.' To my knowledge this was never done The President and the Treasurer evidently never passed on the batton in this issue and I was made to look the foo! Not only did I loose my condo of 20 some years, but my financial status was taken from a fico score was destroyed with a bankruptcy with a foreclosure on My records at the age of 65. My health has definitely been effected and because of my 10 month exposure to Ground Zero I fear my claims there may be effected as well. I have been met with ignorance , ineffectiveness and incompetence in trying to resolve these issues. The frustration has been unbearable but I keep pursuing. I was wondering if you have any input on this situation. As I would surely appreciated them.