What to do if you have a mold problem

WINSLOW TWP., N.J. - October 18, 2010

If you're a homeowner the problem falls primarily on you but if you're a renter or own a condo the situation can be much different. Joanne Wescott and her mother have a growing a problem in their South Jersey condo and that's mold. They discovered the issue in April 2004.

"Within no time at all the mold just continued to grow and grow and grow," Joanne explained.

The condo association says the leak started in a sunroom that the prior owners built without condo approval. They say it was Joanne's responsibility to discover and correct that problem.

Joanne admits she did not have the condo inspected before she bought it but says a contractor later told her the problem originated in the main roof.

According to the by-laws that roof is covered by the condo association.

The association repaired her unit's main roof several times but Joanne says it's still leaking, and mold is still growing.

"We've bailed out a total of 400 and some gallons of water in the past year and a half."

The condo association and Joanne hit a stalemate.

In June a court settlement arranged for repairs to be done. But the parties were still disputing what repairs to make and who should make them.

"We've tried the court twice, he was told twice to make repairs," said Joanne.

The attorney for the condo association says they are in compliance with all the court's orders and are working to amicably solve the situation.

Jim Landgraf is a real estate litigator who does not represent a client in this story. He says going to court is what you should do when you have a problem like this.

"You're going to be going to the court to have the court order the association to do the work that is necessary to stop the water from getting inside."

Even if you get a settlement, like Joanne, you might have to go back.

"And get another court order following your judgment to insist that they do that or to actually perhaps even let you go, using their money, get a contractor and fix the leak," said Landgraf.

If you're a renter court is also the choice.

"They can ask for a rent abatement which means they get to hold back some rent," he said.

Landgraf says where renters can pick up and move, condo owners have a bigger problem.

He says it's important to know your responsibilities as outlined in the condo association's by-laws or lease. Check your own homeowner's, or tenant's, policy to see if there may be some level of insurance coverage. If you do not have some form of mold coverage, speak with your broker to see if it can be obtained.

Also be sure to give notice to the association or landlord and get approval for any renovations or improvements to the home.

Make sure you get a thorough home inspection of not just the unit but of the common areas including roof, plumbing and mechanical systems and exterior coverings, windows and the like before buying.

And as soon as any problems arise alert your association and insurance carrier verbally and then confirm in writing before the problem gets out of hand.

As for Joanne, has since received a letter stating that a construction company has been hired to do repairs on her unit. We'll keep you updated.

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