Mold in living space - reason for rent reduction?

Landlords often argue that the mold was caused by incorrect use or ventilation behavior. The tenant side usually holds that there are construction defects or structural damage. Clear evidence of one side or the other is difficult.

The Supreme Court has issued a clear legal opinion here: The landlord is responsible for ensuring that an apartment can and is usable for residential purposes in the manner customary in the location. The tenant does not have to expect mold growth either at the beginning of the lease or over time. The fact that the formation of moisture can be traced back to "internal damp sources" (washing, cooking, showering, etc.) says nothing about misconduct on the part of the tenant who is entitled to normal use.

A tenant can therefore expect that an average ventilation behavior is sufficient. If the formation of mold cannot be prevented with normal ventilation, this is the responsibility of the landlord and not of the tenant.

Effect on rent
If the existing property becomes so defective during the life of the property through no fault of the transferee that it is unsuitable for the stipulated use, the lessee is exempt from paying interest for the duration and to the extent that the property is unusable. There is no rent reduction if the lessee is responsible for the impairment of use if he caused the defect himself. *

The tenants' association recommends consulting a lawyer before reducing the rent, because: If you pay less rent than required, you run the risk of a rent and eviction lawsuit. However, there is the option of sending a registered letter to the landlord or property manager, listing the impairments and declaring that the rent will only be paid subject to a rent reduction. According to the tenants' association, it is important to continue paying the rent in full. The declaration that the rent will only be paid under reserve makes it possible to go to court later and claim part of the rent as a rent reduction. An agreement with the landlord may be possible before this step.

Our tip for the landlord:
Before handing over an apartment for rent, check that the apartment is free from mold. This makes sense not only by visual inspection but also by measuring the room air, since the mold can be hidden in the masonry, behind cladding, etc.

And after mold remediation has been carried out, ask for proof of measurement that the mold has actually been completely removed.

Our tip for the tenant:
If you suspect mold growth (visible or hidden), report this immediately - preferably in writing - to the property management or the landlord. Cover it with photos and possibly a mold measurement. Unfortunately, the mold is all too often hidden and not visible (behind built-in cupboards, cladding, etc.), but still releases the spore load into the room air. Signs of this can be a musty smell - similar to a cellar. Or if residents in certain rooms show allergic reactions.

Mold is a hygienic problem and can lead to health problems and should therefore not be tolerated in living spaces.

If you have any questions, please contact us with your concerns: office@aqa.at

* Source: OGH