Damp and mould in a home can really affect a person’s health and decrease the value of a property so needless to say, it’s not something a landlord should take lightly. Plus, it’s legally a landlords obligation to keep this side of their property in working order. Caused by excess moisture, removing mould is usually a costly job carried out by professionals, so it’s important to take precautions and avoid it where possible.
Leaking pipes, faulty roofs and window frames and a lack of ventilation can all be the culprit of mould growth. It needs to be caught and dealt with early, which can be an issue if you’re not the one residing in the property day-to-day. So how can you make your rental property as mould-resistant as possible?
What actually is mould?
Mould is a fungus that generally grows in damp and poorly ventilated areas. For mould to grow, it needs a food source such as wood, drywall or cotton, darkness, warmth, oxygen and moisture. The problem is, most of these conditions are inevitably present within homes and the only one that can really be controlled is moisture.
A property with mould is likely to put prospective tenants off instantly. It’s the sign as an unhealthy house, possibly with a bad structure and most of all, it’s bad for our health. It’s particularly bad for babies and children, the elderly, those with an already weakened immune system and those with respiratory issues and allergies. Mould can not only worsen respiratory problems, but it can actually cause them and trigger asthma attacks. It also produces allergens (substances that can cause an allergic reaction), irritants and in worse cases, toxic substances. All in all, it’s not something you want to welcome into your property.
Most common causes of mould
There are a number of different things that can lead to mould. Condensation is essentially excess moisture, so can often be the cause. Condensation can collect on pipes, concrete floors and on walls, making these places prime hot spots for mould growth. Poor ventilation can also contribute as it creates pockets of stagnant moist air.
Leaks are of course the most obvious cause of mould – however they’re not always so obvious. The worst leaks are the ones that are hidden, such as inside walls. They’re usually discoverable by the mould that’s begun to visibly grow and by this point, the damage is done. The same can happen in roofs, so make sure you or your tenant checks the attic regularly for leaks.
It’s also inevitable that mould growth will occur if you’re unfortunate enough to experience any flooding. It only needs a suitable surface to be wet for 24 hours before it will do it’s thing, so flooding poses a pretty big risk. Not only this, but flooding creates the perfect, more extreme environment for some dangerous and toxic moulds that can cause bigger problems.
How can I prevent mould?
There’s a few things that a landlord can do to prevent mould before it becomes a problem. It all boils down to moisture control and maintenance. In terms of maintenance, the roof, guttering and drains all need to be in good working order, along with having tight and secure window frames to ensure that rain doesn’t seep in. You should make sure the property is as mould resistant as possible before a tenant moves in. Ensure that the house is equipped with extractor fans and vents for proper ventilation and conduct regular checks of the house, keeping an eye out for suspicious damp patches and areas where there’s frequent condensation.
Day to day, there’s a lot that your tenant can do to minimise the risk of mould as many of their regular living activities will create moisture, such as cooking, showering and boiling the kettle. It’s vital to educate them, if they aren’t already aware, of the little things they can do to help. Encourage them firstly to contact you as soon as they suspect any damp or mould in the property. Ask them to dry any wet areas immediately in the event of spills and make sure they keep the rooms well circulated by keeping adjoining doors open and opening windows for small periods each day. Make sure furniture sits away from the walls, letting fresh air in to reduce the moisture. If you’ve done everything you can to reduce the risk of mould, yet your tenant is doing all the wrong things and creating the problem, then this is going to cause tension and raise question marks when deciding who’ll be covering the repair costs…
The most important piece of advice we can give you is not to ignore a damp or mould issue. Your tenant could claim against you for compensation as it can affect their physical and mental health. If you do find you’re faced with a mould problem, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. If it’s only a small area, you could DIY a removal job but do your research and don’t do anything without goggles, long rubber gloves and a mask for your nose and mouth!