Business tenant complains of mold, but who is responsible?

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A local business owner is upset that her landlord was unwilling to pay for mold damage in bathrooms of her perspective location.

Eyewitness News has learned that Bakersfield Code Enforcement does not have a standard for what is considered toxic versus nontoxic mold.

Last month, Deborah McCormack believed she had found a perfect location for her business at Panorama and River in northeast Bakersfield.

"I thought this would be a great place for an arts cafe, a yoga studio," McCormack said.

She said touring the space, there were a few things that surfaced that could use a little attention.

"The restroom ceiling had fallen in," McCormack described.

She said the landlord explained that was a previous issue that had been fixed.

A week later, she made an unpleasant discovery in the bathroom.

"I started to notice the smell and was coming from and it looked like mold underneath the sink," she said.

She claimed the landlord's fix was a mere cover-up.

"He let himself in on the Monday, painted over it, and told me he had taken care of it," she said.

She and a friend would open the walls and discover the wall covered in some sort of dark substance that stretched from floor to ceiling.

The pair claims to have called the landlord and was told that she accepted the building and that any changes needed would be her responsibility.

Monday afternoon, Eyewitness News spoke with the landlord via phone. He claims that the stains came from a previously leaky roof that has been fixed.

We wanted to find out whose responsibility it is to fix the issue.

Code enforcement officer Dave Paquette said with commercial rentals, deciding who pays for repairs is a civil matter.

"When it comes to code compliance, it's going to come down to how the lease it written up." Paquette said.

But, defining what is toxic mold versus nontoxic mold for enforcement officers has become a really murky situation.

"Mold effects one population more severely than others. There is not one situation that fits every situation," he said.