WIS Investigates: State law does not protect tenants from mold

WIS Investigates: State law does not protect tenants from mold

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's in every home in the country, but too much of it has been known to cause serious health problems, even death. It is mold and experts say it is very common in South Carolina.

But what about if you are renting an apartment? In South Carolina, there are no laws to protect you or force your landlord to clean it up. We met one viewer who ended up in court after months of trying to get her apartment complex to remove the mold growing in her apartment.

Navy veteran Lakisha Miles was impressed when she moved in to a two-bedroom apartment in Austin Woods Apartments.

"I came here and saw the crown molding," Miles said. "I fell in love with the apartment. It's a beautiful apartment on the outer shell, but what's going on between the walls?"

The questions started last summer when Miles' children started getting headaches.

"This is where they spent a lot of their time. This was the main restroom they used," she said. "That's when I got information. There was a flood next door, and it wasn't cleaned up properly."

Miles says numerous requests for clean up to the Austin Woods Apartment managers went unanswered, so she called in her own mold expert.

"Report came back, there were seven types of mold growing in this downstairs bathroom," Miles said.

After months of not getting anywhere and an emergency room visit for a respiratory infection, Miles stopped paying her rent and called us.

Now what's behind the walls and underneath the floors is what certified mold inspector Larry Harris examined. Harris said Miles' apartment is not safe to live in with seven different types of viable mold.

With two independent inspections now confirming mold has infested her apartment, we approached apartment managers to get their side of the story.

PJ: "The tenant submitted this mold report to the office, and basically her claim is that you will not clean up the mold, and we've heard from other tenants who say they have mold in their apartments and you will not clean it up."

Employee: "Um no..."

PJ: "Do you know what it would take to get the mold cleaned up?"

Employee: "She's handling all the issues with the property. I'm not giving any information out about the apartment, I'm not instructed to do so."

As we were leaving, an employee from the apartment office gave us a phone number for the corporate office. Despite several calls to that number, we received no response.

We did find a Mold Addendum that Miles signed when she moved in. However, it holds no value.

"In the state of South Carolina, there are no state laws governing mold inspection or mold remediation," Harris said.

Now, as Miles prepares to move out, her concerns turn to the next people who make her apartment their home.

"I'm going to fight Austin Woods on this," she said. "Because I don't want someone to move in here and unaware to them it has mold. What if they have small children?"

Miles did not have a mold expert to testify about the findings, and a magistrate judge ruled in favor of the apartment complex.

FAQs if you have mold in your rental home

  • If the landlord won't make repairs and I want to move, what should I do?
    Give your landlord written notice of the problems and warn him that if the problems are not fixed in 14 days or within a reasonable time, you will move. If the landlord still does not make repairs, you can move and will no longer owe him any more rent. He must still return your security deposit if there are no reasons to hold it.
  • If the landlord won't make repairs and I can't move, what should I do?
    You can take your landlord to court and ask a judge to order your landlord to make the needed repairs. You can talk with a lawyer about doing this for you.

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