Mould, often arising as a result of damp is a serious issue and can pose significant health risks to you and damage to properties.
What are the main causes of mould and damp in your rental home, and who is responsible - Tenant or Landlord?
How does mould develop?
Generally, mould is caused by excess moisture and humidity in a property. It's often more common in the winter when the inside temperature of a house is considerably higher than outside, and any moisture inside the property clings to the walls. Water can get in properties through several methods;
- Water leaking from a faulty roof
- Cracks in the walls
- Poor insulation
- Plumbing issues
- Rising damp
- Poor ventilation
- Damaged or blocked gutters and drains
Tell your Landlord or Managing Agent ASAP
The first five of these are something your landlord is responsible for, and if you notice any of these, you should notify them as soon as possible. They won't want the property suffering from damp any more than you do, so they'll likely be grateful if you tell them ASAP.
Again, damaged gutters are something your landlord needs to sort. Blocked gutters, however, are something that your local window cleaner can quickly resolve for a small extra fee. Most window cleaners are happy to remove blocked leaves from a gutter whilst they're already up a ladder cleaning your windows.
Have a chat with your landlord or managing agent about whether they'll be happy to pay for this cost. It may be part of your tenancy agreement that you are responsible for this, but if not, then they should bear the cost.
What can I do about mould?
Mould can be caused or exacerbated by people's lifestyles in the property. A poorly ventilated property creates the perfect environment for mould to thrive.
If you've ruled out anything serious with the property, often mould and damp are caused by poor ventilation. Older properties particularly suffer from poor ventilation. Think about whether you do anything that causes a large amount of moisture, for example, shower without adequate ventilation, cook without the extractor, and if so, make sure you open the window to allow any excess steam to escape and not linger in the room.
Drying clothes inside is also a major cause of excess moisture in the air, leading to damp. If you must do this, it's important to open windows to allow moisture to escape and air to flow through the room.
Ventilate and heat
As well as adequate ventilation, heating is vital. It may sound strange to advocate heating and having the windows open, particularly in the middle of winter, but this is a very important step to stopping damp in its tracks. Prevention is always better than cure.
It may also be a condition of your Tenancy Agreement to heat and ventilate the property adequately. If it is, and you fail to do so, you could be liable for any damage to the property.
If ventilating and heating aren't possible all of the time – for example, you live in a ground floor flat and can't leave your windows open during the day; your landlord might want to install dehumidifiers to give extra help removing moisture.
If you've already got mould, you'll want to remove it quickly.
Several quality cleaning products are specifically designed to tackle mould and kill it, which should slow down or stop it from coming back completely, for example, HG Mould Spray. When cleaning mould, you must make sure that you wear protective clothing and gloves and dispose of any items - cleaning or otherwise - which come into contact with the infected area.
If the area treated is particularly prone to damp, your landlord might want to invest in anti-mould paint to help stop the mould from returning.
What should landlords do if mould develops in their property?
When damp and mould problems arise, communication with your tenant is essential. Tackling the problem early and working out the cause is crucial. Then deciding what can be done by both parties to prevent mould from developing in the future could also prove invaluable to your tenants' health and investment.
The first step is to identify the cause of the mould to prevent any recurrence once it's cleaned. If you're particularly concerned about who is responsible for a mould problem, then you can get a professional to come in and assess what is causing it. If it is a severe structural problem, it could be expensive and potentially complicated to rectify.
When removing mould, it's essential to ensure it is completely eradicated. Otherwise, it will return, and the problem will remain. Alongside improving ventilation and installing dehumidifiers, anti-mould or mildew paint can be effective in stopping mould from reoccurring in a particular spot.
To prevent mould from developing in the future, tenants' general upkeep of the property and its ventilation and vigilance for the early signs of mould will help prevent damp and condensation issues.
If you're particularly concerned, set more regular inspections or if not already installed, look to install automated extractor fans for bathrooms and kitchens.
What are the implications of mould damage?
Most importantly, damp and mould can pose a health risk - particularly for people with respiratory problems or allergies. Mould can cause infections and exacerbate asthma or allergies. It also produces irritants and toxins, which can be dangerous to humans.
Damp and mould could cause long-standing damage to a property, so it's important to take them seriously and deal with them immediately. Evidence of mould could also uncover a more serious structural problem with the property or something fundamentally wrong with the plumbing or drainage system.