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Mold: Act Quickly or Else

Schneider Mitola
Marc H. Schneider, Managing Partner


The board of a co-op our firm represents was advised by a shareholder that there was mold in the apartment. The board (1) did not believe there was mold and (2) believed the responsibility to repair any such mold and the other damages in the apartment was not the responsibility of the co-op. Ultimately, since the co-op was not responsive to the shareholder, the water damage worsened and the mold continued to grow. The shareholder ultimately filed a lawsuit against the co-op due to the co-op’s nonresponsiveness. When the lawsuit started (many months after the board was initially notified of the problem), the board contacted our firm and advised us of the problem. We recommended and arranged for an immediate inspection of the apartment. An inspection was conducted. There was mold that needed to be remediated, along with other damage to the interior of the apartment. The cause of the mold was water infiltration from the exterior of the building. It was also apparent the water infiltration issue had existed for an extended period (although the source of the leak was finally repaired by the time of the inspection). We recommended the mold be properly remediated and the other repairs to the damage caused by the water infiltration be completed by the co-op at the building’s expense. That ultimately resolved the matter. Unfortunately, the delay resulted in expenses for legal fees and more significant damage, both of which could have been avoided by handling the matter as soon as notification of the problem was made.

Legal Lesson

When a shareholder complains about mold and water infiltration in an apartment, immediate attention should be given to the matter. Delay will only cause greater expense in both remediation costs and legal fees. Delay in inspecting the source of the water will cause mold to grow and/or spread. Certainly, if the water source can be corrected quickly, no mold will grow at all. If mold exists and spreads, the cost to remediate the mold properly will be significant. Additionally, any unreasonable delay in repairing the source of the leak (provided the source is in an area for which the co-op is responsible) will be considered negligence on the part of the co-op. That will result in the board being held liable to the shareholder for the damages caused by the unreasonable delay. Finally, the proper handling of these issues will avoid the legal expenses involved in defending the claim as well as ancillary claims stemming from any health-related effects to occupants caused by the failure to remediate the mold.

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