SGA pushes for safer housing laws
Published: Monday, February 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 6, 2012 23:02
The West Virginia University Student Government Association is pushing for a statewide bill to be passed that would protect tenants who face issues with mold growing in their homes.
There is currently no legislation that regulates what rights tenants have when mold makes residencies unlivable, said SGA Off-Campus Housing Director Earl Hewitt.
"Students can get sick and have to move out of their homes, but still have to pay rent because nothing is holding landlords liable," Hewitt said. "The bill encompasses a lot about mold and its effects on residential housing, which has been one of the biggest issues on campus in the past few years."
The bill would require landlords to offer alternative housing up to 10 days for tenants who suffer medical conditions due to inhalation of mold or force them to renegotiate the lease agreement, Hewitt said.
Less than nine square feet of mold would have to be cleaned with a disinfectant and moisture would be removed with humidifiers, according to the bill.
"There are about 30,000 students here, and a major portion of them are living off-campus. We depend on landlords to treat them justly through the whole process," he said. "We want to promote fair housing in Morgantown and keep good relationships between citizens and landlords."
Nancy Key, WVU environmental health and safety specialist, said students need to know the signs of mold infestation and report them to their landlords immediately to avoid medical problems.
"Just because it doesn't look bad, doesn't mean you're safe. Sometimes it's hard to recognize because it's been painted over," Key said.
Mold spores are constantly in the air in small numbers and grow well on building materials such as wood, especially when water intrusion occurs, making residential areas susceptible to infestation, Key said.
"Mold becomes a problem when a broken pipe isn't fixed properly or there's a leak in places like the roof that cover a large area of the room. It can go from nothing to something in just 48 hours," she said. "It's important for tenants to report issues promptly. When you have that level of moisture, you could get into a really unhealthy living environment."
Living around mold can lead to respiratory irritation and can become even more severe in individuals who are allergic to mold, Key said.
Key said the proposed bill would allow a fair playing field for both tenants and landlords and prevent any medical problems caused by mold inhalation.
"What we're trying to do with this legislation is give landlords and tenants a basis for their arguments. We want tenants to be forthcoming with problems and landlords to be up front about any issues," Key said. "This would give everyone better protection."
SGA plans to compile local complaints of mold infestation and present them to the state legislature.
Students who want to share their experiences can do so by contacting Student Advocates for Legislative Affairs at 304-462-9280 or email@example.com.