Bedbugs and black mold. What do these to items have to do with each other? Well, first of all, they both are a scourge. I have a friend who is a cancer patient (actually, was a cancer patient, thank God) who told me that the infestation of bedbugs in her apartment was an affliction worse than her cancer. Once you get bedbugs you cannot get rid of them. They get into everything: your clothes, your furniture, even your body hair. Similarly for black mold: it, too, reaches all throughout your house as it grows, often inside your walls where you cannot see it. And it also causes significant health problems including difficulty breathing, redness in the eyes and skin irritation.
The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act provides a remedy for tenants who are subject to health and safety risks. A.R.S. 33-1361(A)(1) allows a tenant to terminate her lease upon a 5-day notice if there are conditions in her apartment that put her health and safety at risk. A.R.S. 33-1363 allows her to use up to half her rent money to correct the condition “as promptly as conditions require,” which we also take to mean a 5-day notice period. But there’s one feature common to bedbugs or mold issues that make it a little more complicated for tenants to effectuate these remedies. They require proof of the condition. This means that they must get a licensed exterminator or mold remediation expert to document the existence of bedbugs or mold before the tenant can take action. In the case of bedbugs, it is very difficult to actually get pictures of bedbugs. And even if you do, you need to prove that these little creatures from hell actually are bedbugs and not a benign insect. In the case of mold, there is no Arizona statute that directly relates to black mold. So you have to get an expert to document that the damage is, in fact, black mold and not mildew.
It is extremely important to understand that the inspection by the exterminator or the mold inspector must take place after the 5-day notice period has expired. Remember: the landlord/tenant act gives the landlord a chance to correct the violation. This can make it tricky — and expensive — for the tenant. Often she’ll call the expert out to initially diagnose that bedbugs exist, and then have to call him again to come out a second time to document that the problem still remains after the expiration of the five days. One way to get around this is to send the landlord the 5-day notice before you have formal confirmation of the problem. Give the landlord five days to cure, and then call out the expert. Also, we at Arizona Tenants Union have relationships with exterminators, mold remediators and other contractors who are on the tenants’ side. They will work with you to keep the cost down. It’s incredible (and really heartening) to see how far some of these guys will go to help our clients.
If you are having problems with bedbugs or black mold, or any lesser issue concerning repairs, call us. We are tenants rights in Arizona. Arizona Tenants Union is Arizona’s only nonprofit, 501(c)(3), membership-driven tenants’ rights organization. You can call us or email us at the addresses on the home page of the website or join the union. Membership dues are $60.00/year which can be paid in $5.00/month installments. If you would pay your landlord an extra five dollars a month at lease renewal time, join the only organization in Arizona that actively advocates for tenants, both individually and politically.