The D.C. Council unanimously passed a bill that would, for the first time ever, require landlords to address mold in rental housing. Legal Aid, and our partners who advocated for this bill, believe this is an important step towards helping many of our clients who live with mold in their homes.
In January, Lauren Godles and I testified before the City Council on a bill to require landlords to disclose information about mold in rental housing to their tenants and to give the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) authority to issue regulations for the inspection and citation of mold. In an earlier blog post, we talked about the struggles that our clients with mold in their homes face, because there is no law or regulation in the District that directly addresses mold in rental housing.
At the time this legislation was introduced, Legal Aid already was working with other housing advocates from the Children’s Law Center, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Bread for the City, Housing Counseling Services, LEDC, and the Office of the Tenant Advocate to draft a comprehensive legislative proposal. Since the Council hearing in January, we have continued to advocate with the Council and DDOE to strengthen the legislation and ensure its passage. The issue also got some attention from the press, with an article in the Washington Post Express and the Washington City Paper.
Today we are celebrating with our partners that an amended and strengthened bill, the Air Quality Amendment Act of 2014, unanimously passed second reading at the Council.
The new law will:
• Require landlords to remediate mold once tenants report it;
• Authorize DDOE to issue regulations establishing a threshold level of mold above which professional remediation will be required;
• Require companies performing mold assessment or remediation to be licensed by DDOE;
• Allow the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to issue housing code violation notices and allow tenants in lawsuits to argue that such violations exist based on a professional finding of mold above the DDOE threshold; and
• Allows tenants to seek rent abatement, reimbursement of costs, attorney’s fees, and, in some cases, treble damages when a landlord fails to remediate mold above the DDOE threshold after receiving notice.
While the new law does not include everything that we wanted, we are pleased with the progress that has been made towards helping tenants across the District struggling with mold in their homes.