New California Mold Law of 2016

California’s mold law of 2016, SB 655, applies to hotels, motels, apartment houses, and dwellings (including houses and homes) regardless of date of construction. Non-homes are excluded from SB 655.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has determined that the presence of moisture in water, visible mold, or a musty odor in schools, workplaces, residences, and other settings is unhealthy. Recommends addressing water damage, moisture, visible mold, and musty odor by (a) identifying and correcting the source of water that may allow microbial growth or contribute to other problems, (b) rapid drying or removal of wet materials, and (c) cleaning or removal of mold and mildew materials as quickly and safely as possible. These guidelines are similar to the EPA and CDC guidelines regarding mold conditions and corrections. Using bleach to clean mold or simply painting over the problem are not solutions for visible mold conditions in an indoor environment.

SB 655 provides guidance to local code enforcers and other public health officials that mold growth is a health and safety concern when it endangers life, limb, health, property, safety or the welfare of the public or building occupants. HAS The health officer or code enforcement officer must make this determination.. Such ‘qualified’ mold is illegal under State Housing Law. Local agencies are mandated to enforce the State Housing Law and have the authority to issue notices to landlords to reduce qualified mold growth as a routine application of the housing code.

The presence of mold that is minor and found on surfaces that may accumulate moisture as part of its proper function and intended use is exempt from enforcement under SB 655. Such mold is a ‘clean-up’ task that is the responsibility of the occupant.

Landlords are required to keep their units safe and habitable, and free from violations of the State Housing Law. This obligation cannot be waived or eluded by any agreement to the contrary. SB 655 amends the landlord-tenant law so that landlords are not required to remediate mold unless they have a mold notice or the tenant is violating specific affirmative obligations.

Regardless of this Civil Code provision, under SB 655, substandard buildings remain subject to code enforcement by local agencies under the State Housing Law, which requires enforcement agencies to notify owners. Housing with illegal mold may be deemed uninhabitable and may need to be vacated and/or be subject to other remedies, including fines and penalties.

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