Ask any property manager – a mould infestation is one of the trickier landlord/tenant issues to navigate.
The reasons for why the mould infestation began and why it may be spreading can be varied, so it can be difficult to pinpoint who’s responsible.
For a tenant, knowing your rights is the key to saving money and protecting your health in the long run.
What is Mould and Why Should It Be Treated Seriously?
Mould is a type of fungi which thrives in warm, humid environments. Those black marks you see on the walls is mould waste and there is likely a much bigger problem hiding behind it.
Mould emits spores into your indoor air that contain mycotoxins, which can cause respiratory reactions and are particular problematic for people with allergies or asthma.
A severe infestation can be detrimental to your health and everybody has a right to live in a healthy environment.
Who Is Responsible?
This helpful article from rent.com.au offers some great advice about what a landlord and tenant’s obligations are when it comes to mould.
It advises that in Australia, the tenant is responsible for:
- Keeping the property reasonably clean.
- Not intentionally or negligently causing damage.
- Advising the landlord or property manager of damage as soon as possible.
The tenant may breach their rental agreement in regard to mould if they:
- Got the carpet wet and didn’t treat it or dry it out.
- Did not properly ventilate the bathroom and/or laundry by using exhaust fans or opening windows.
- Let scum build up in and around the shower.
- Regularly dried clothes indoors without airing the room afterwards.
Tenancy law states that a landlord must:
- Keep the premises in a reasonable state of repair.
- Meet building, health and safety requirements.
- Ensure repairs are undertaken in a reasonable period of time.
A landlord may be breaching the rental agreement if mould develops because they did not attend to maintenance matters reported by the tenant, such as:
- Damp walls from plumbing issues.
- Broken exhaust fans or heating units.
- Leaky roof, broken pipe or flood damage.
Tips for Tenants
Ensure that you examine the property for visible mould before moving in, and if present, ensure it is noted in detail on the condition report.
Take plenty of photos of the mould problem and date them.
Keep receipts if you have lost or had to get professionally cleaned any personal items due to the mould.
So, what to do if you find mould or suspect mould?
- Advise the property manager in writing once you notice the mould.
- While you cannot make your landlord test for mould, you can take pictures and document the issue.
- It can be difficult to establish why mould is present. Experts like Electrodry can inspect properties for mould and moisture and assist in determining why the mould occurred. You will need to pay for the assessment, however expert documentation will be handy if the problem needs to be escalated.
Tips on preventing mould
Here is what you can do to prevent mould.
- Always run your exhaust fans and/or open windows while you are showering, cooking or using the dryer. Clean your exhaust fans regularly to ensure they don’t get clogged up.
- Leave the exhaust fan running for at least 10 minutes after your shower or bath to clear the steam out of the room. If you have a heat lamp, run this for 10 minutes as well especially on cooler nights and mornings.
- Open a window when you can and let in the natural light.Use Damp-Rid in smaller areas like cupboards.
- A dehumidifier is a great way to take moisture out of the air to bring the relative humidity below the level required for mould growth. Dehumidifiers typically cost from $350 and are a fantastic investment for your health and can be taken with you when you move out.
- You can clean smaller mould infestations with a solution of 1.1 white vinegar and water. The anti-fungal properties in the white vinegar will treat of all types of mould. Just spray onto the affected area, leave for at least 20 minutes and wipe down.