Dispute with landlord over mould in an apartment

127 posts in this topic

Posted

Hi everyone,

 

My girlfriend and I are quite stressed out at the moment, and we hope some of you have some advice.

 

Last Saturday we were meant to sign a proper lease for the apartment (1-Zimmer Wohnung) we are currently sub-leasing, the girl who is sub-letting it to us is moving out. When the landlord and sub-landlord came around to sign the lease, we showed them a mould problem that we had mentioned to them about a week before (as soon as we saw it - most of it hidden behind a bookshelf which hadn't been moved for years) . When we mentioned it, it didn't seem like a problem, but once they saw it they freaked out and the owner wouldn't sign us up to the lease.

 

Now, we have just heard back from them tonight, and we have been told we have about a week to move out, and we are responsible for fixing the mould - apparently it is our fault for not opening the windows enough. We still believe we did open the windows often enough (not the twice a day like she said we should have been, but we think enough for any other house we've ever lived in) and actually in the bathroom (different obviously to the bookshelf mould) there was already mould there, which we didn't think twice about because it was already there when we moved in. Annoyingly, they have had someone come in to look at it while we were at work and this expert has supposedly said that it is our fault for not airing enough - we still disagree and feel the apartment is susceptible to mould because of poor ventilation...

 

We are not sure what to do next - they want us to fix the problem, but we don't feel responsible (and can't afford it), does anyone think there is any way we can prove that this isn't our fault or dispute their claim that we have to pay?

 

We are also concerned that the costs of fixing it will be more than the kaution (600 euros), can they make us pay more than the kaution? I am tempted just to let them have the kaution and not organise the fixing of the mould, but i don't want to end up in court and being forced to pay the whole amount plus legal fees...

 

Any help would be appreciated, we are already struggling with trying to find a new place in a week...!

 

We've been in Berlin for a year, but still struggle with the language which is obviously making things difficult...

 

Thanks!

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Posted

 

they have had someone come in to look at it while we were at work

This is a definite no-no (unless you specifically authorised the landlord to access the flat in your absence, which doesn't seem to be the case). There were a couple of threads recently on that very problem, try doing a search (upper right corner) with keywords like 'landlord', 'permission', 'enter', etc. Knowing he's in the wrong won't help you with the mould problem but it strenghtens your hand in dealing with him.

 

Edit: Here you are: Permission (results 1 and 3).

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Posted

The problem could be that the bookcase was too close to the wal so no air could get inbetween.However the behaviour of your landlord is illegal.Actually i have been in contact with my landlord this week about entering the flat below us.The tenant is not there and the drains make a blubbing sound.I think the drains need to be cleared but we cannot get into the tenants apartment.the landord said that only in the most important emergency can he enter the apartment without the tenants permission.the only thing you can do to your landlord is threaten him with a Bau Sachverständiger.This si a proffessional that will come around and look at the thing, then tell you what is at fault.If you are moving how ever try this.Buy some Schimmel Vernichter from any bau market i.e. OBI.Wipe off the mould with a damp cloth, then rub it dry with a cloth.Spary on the schimmel vernichter and rub it in with a stiff brush.Paint over the place and bobs your uncle.

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Posted

Thanks very much for the wise words so far, guys. I just wanted to clarify at this point that the landlord did have our permission to enter the flat, so we can't hold that against her. We're still processing everything and gathering opinions, so any and all comments are much appreciated. Getting someone in to look at things ourselves in definitely something to consider, for one thing.

 

Edit: Also, hoare-spitall - yes, it is an external wall. Your idea certainly seems to make a lot of sense, in that case.

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Posted

Also, in the interest of providing the clearest possible picture, we should acknowledge that the mould that was in the bathroom before we moved in has spread somewhat. Also, since we discovered the mould behind the bookshelf, that has moved further along the wall, out from behind them (we're wondering if this is because we disturbed it where it had been lying hidden?). So we do acknowledge a spread since we moved in, but, again, we question whether we could have done anything about this.

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Posted

 

can they make us pay more than the kaution?

Of course, if you damage an apartment you have to pay for it. I guess it depends on what you signed when moving in, do you have a "übergabeprotokoll" where the mold is noted? If you don't it might get hard to proof it was already there when you moved in.

Best thing would have been to remove the mold before the landlord sees it ;)

 

I wouldn't want to live in a flat with that much mold anyways ... not really that healty.

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Posted

I moved out of two different houses that had mold and my attorney said it was not my responsibility it was the owners problem. I got all my security deposit back on both occasions as well. When I moved out the owner had to take out the entire wall and replace it to remove the mold. Perhaps the mold was already there and was just painted over and during your tenancy it begin to grow and spread again. And it could even be a problem with the structural integrity causing this problem.

 

I would take pics and go to the mietverein with your issue, I think your landlord is trying to screw you.

 

I'd like to suggest ALL correspondents between you and the landlord at this point should be in writing, as oral history is sometimes conveniently forgotten. So I would ask her (in writing and send it certified post) to write up her expectations (request) so you can take it to a lawyer to better determine your legal recourse.

 

Btw, how does she know how many times you opened the windows? Get my point, she doesn't and she doesn't have a leg to stand on to use this against you.

 

Be careful and good luck.

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Posted

"most of it hidden behind a bookshelf which hadn't been moved for "

Did you see the mold when you moved in?

Book shelves are fairly open so ventilation close to the wall should not be a problem.

As a rule of thumb: if the temperature in your room is 20°C and the humidity 60%

then no part of the wall/window must be cooler than 13°C, the dew point of water.

If the temperature of wall would be 6°C you would have a problem to reduce the

humidity by ventilation. Water would condense even if the air outside would be very dry.

I think your room has new windows and the walls have not been isolated accordingly?

You wrote "we still disagree and feel the apartment is susceptible to mould because of poor ventilation"

Here you confessed that you should have opened the window more often.

Good luck!

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Posted

I think we can assume that the "bookshelf" has a back to it, which is why mould formed behind it on the exterior wall. If you place furniture up against a damp wall then mould is almost inevitable because insufficient air circulates there, regardless of how frequently you open the windows or what the temperature of the room is.

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Posted

Does anyone know of the legal implications here though. The real question is "Who is responsible?". We are currently having a disagreement with our last landlord over mould that formed in window frames and on walls in a shitty old furnished apartment we rented from him while he was away. He seems to think that we are at fault even though we aired the place regularly, notified him whenever new mould formed and cleaned mould off whenever it cropped up. i.e. did everything that we should have.

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Posted

Can I hop on this post? I am not sure how to put up a new one. I have a similar problem. We moved in in April of this year. I noticed the mould recently. My landlord says it is my fault and I must take care of it. I spoke with a German lawyer and was told I should get an expert in to take a look and decipher whether it is my fault or was already here and the landlord's responsibility. The thing is, just for this expert to come out to my house and check, is 350Euro. Has anyone else been in a similar situation? Anyone know of another expert? It just seems like a lot of money to have someone tell me it is or is not my fault. That does not include clean up or anything. Please help!

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Posted

Yes, it is generally the same all around. You must prove he is at fault. That means shelling out the dough to get an expert to say that and then possibly taking him to court over it. Not cheap.

 

We found it easier just to tackle the mold ourselves, but again that does not work in all cases and not with invasive black molds for sure.

 

But no landlord will ever just say ok I will fix it. I know people who have fought for years and in the end just move.

 

What amazes me is that mold is such a widespread issue here, never once in the states did an apartment of mine have mold or pests.

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Posted

Ugh!! I have three small children and pets, so I am worried it's a bad mold. Is it possible to know if it's the black mold without an expert?

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Posted

I dunno, if it is the kind taking over a whole wall = bad.

 

I have friends who have mold that looks gnarly and they just live with it, move th furniture away or continually paint and spray it.

 

Ours was the landlords fault, though he never admitted it. There was a hole in the wall next to the window in our living room. Once that was repaired the issue went away. After I got ice on my walls and windows from outside I said enough and he did fix it. But if you do not know the source its another issue.

 

He also as times screwed us over. When he fixed the window he said he would paint the bathroom since they were painting elsewhere as well. He then charged us 130. (issue was mildew and his own maintenance man said it was his fault because he did not use bathroom paint, he still footed around the bill)

 

Yes we could kick and scream but it just was not worth it for us.

 

Some tips that worked for us. Anytime you see mold spray it with a chemical and wipe away. Paint over with pain (you can even add an anti mold protector to it). We also invested in a dehumidifier (160 euro, but works great). As well as keeping the room heated in winter and making sure fresh air gets in, which I still don't buy (never had too in america) but I do it. Also no furniture directly on the walls.

 

Since then I have only found a few spots which may have just been missed before, but nothing like the issue we had before. I just stay very proactive and get on it as soon as I see it. But I will never again take a basement apartment. Are you in a basement apartment?

 

You might try some of those.

 

But in order to know if the mold is the bad kind or even the source, you have to bring in the expert. I knew the source in my case and was able to demand it repaired, even though he still denies that was the cause. He claims we did not heat enough.

 

Good luck.

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Posted

We had a terrible mould problem that the landlord took responsibility for, then changed her mind and blamed us (Lucky the emails made a nice chain of evidence).

 

We found one wall was badly insulated and experts came and checked at her expense, then the results never got posted to us mysteriously! We also knew the previous tenants caused water damage. However then because we dry the washing in our apartment they tried to blame us.

 

Make sure you keep the humidity low as the previous poster suggested, also keep the temperature warm in winter. We got a humidity sensor for 20 euro on amazon and it beeps if the humidity passes 65%.

 

I do worry if this is happening in summer you might be in bigger trouble in winter as that is when it was worse for us as the windows are open less often to lower the humidity.

 

The final option is to bite the bullet and move out now before the risk of long term damage to the house or yourself. This sounds like a whole lot of work, but we regretted not doing it straight away after months of cleaning behind heaters, repainting, and new side boards.

 

Good luck!

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Posted

 

What amazes me is that mold is such a widespread issue here, never once in the states did an apartment of mine have mold or pests.

 

The air in central Europe contains a lot more moisture than the generally dry air of much of North America.

 

 

I do worry if this is happening in summer you might be in bigger trouble in winter as that is when it was worse for us as the windows are open less often to lower the humidity.

 

It should be better in winter because the cold air contains less moisture. You only need to open the window for 90 seconds to get a good exchange of air. As the items in the room will retain their latent heat, the room will quickly warm up again to its previous temperature.

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