What does the term “necessary” imply when referring to cleaning ducts on a rental property, when 2 companies have found “dust and containmination?”

UPDATED: Aug 22, 2012

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What does the term “necessary” imply when referring to cleaning ducts on a rental property, when 2 companies have found “dust and containmination?”

We are having dust and mold issues on a rental property. 2 companies have inspected the ducts and found “dust and contamination,” one saying that the ducts haven’t been cleaned in well over 15 years. Mold is now growing in our bathroom due to lack of ventilation, mainly due to the dust in the vents. The landlord does not want to clean the ducts (priced by both companies at around $1100) but was willing to split the cost. We feel, as tenants, that this is an upkeep cost for the owners. My state’s renter’s law is flimsy at best but we still feel this is necessary due to health issues with dust.

Asked on August 22, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Louisiana


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The duct cleaning is necessary due to potential health issues from the dust and mold.  It is the landlord's responsibility to pay for the duct cleaning.

In every lease there is an implied warranty of habitability which requires the landlord to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability as in your case since the mold is a health issue, the tenant notifies the landlord as you have done and the landlord is required to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs.  When the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time, the tenant has the following options:  The tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant stays on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  Another alternative is to sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  You can also contact your local housing code inspector, who can bring an enforcement action against the landlord for housing code violations.

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