Tenant Law May Not Protect People From Moldy Homes - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Tenant Law May Not Protect People From Moldy Homes

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There's a house in Monongalia County which a professional report claims is full of hazardous mold, and nothing to compel landlords to fix toxic homes before renting them and endangering its tenants.

On Monday, we met Nathan and Tammy Earle. They rented a house in Sabraton after landlord Fred Snider assured them it was safe.

Snider said over the phone last week there is nothing wrong with the house.

Nathan and Tammy said their asthma and allergies made it impossible to even move in, and a mold removal expert said problems like this are not a quick fix.

"I joked with my wife that it's like a buffet in there," Nathan Earle said. "You get a Petri dish and just go down the line and get whatever you want. That's how bad it is."

A professional report painted that picture of a mold buffet and states no one should live in this house in its current condition.

State law says landlords must maintain properties in habitable condition. That means the Earles can go to court and argue habitability to get their money back and free them of their lease, but there's a loophole in the law.

There are no specific regulations to stop a landlord from renting homes full of dangerous, toxic mold to an unsuspecting tenant.

The attorneys at West Virginia University's legal services defend students in cases like this one all too often and claim it's difficult to protect future tenants from any property outside the city where code enforcement ends.

"It's tough when you're outside of city limits," Carrie Showalter, managing attorney at WVU Student Legal Services said. "When you're in city limits, we can get places condemned."

Out in the county, the rules are muddy.

Showalter said there are no stipulations in the state law that create enforcement for situations like this, and no one to compel a landlord to repair the home before accepting another tenant.

Showalter said the burden of ensuring habitability often sits on the tenant.

"Walk through the unit and make sure they actually visibly see the unit, talk to the tenants who are there, and ask those questions," she said.

Otherwise, the consequences could be deadly.

"The next people who move into that house aren't going to be told about none of this," Nathan Earle said. "And if the right person moves in there, it could kill them."