Mould can appear, of course, in any type of property, regardless of whether you own it or you’re renting it. It’s unsightly, it can be dangerous to your health, it requires immediate actions. Full stop. But things get more complicated if you’re a tenant and unsure if it is your job to address the mould-related problem or it’s the responsibility of your landlord.
So, let’s explore a bit more what can cause mould to appear in your home, how best to clean it and whose obligation it is to eliminate the reasons behind the issue.
Or in other words, you’ll find our post helpful if you:
We all know what mould is – fast-growing fungi that come in all colours, from black, grey and off-white to green and even orange, depending on its type. Mould can be harmful to your health, with the black type being the most dangerous. It can aggravate existing conditions like asthma and cause severe respiratory problems in healthy people. Mould spores can give you also a headache, as well as cause flu-like symptoms.
How and where does mould appear most commonly?
The unpleasant fungal growth can be seen on a variety of surfaces and items in a property. It develops over time in poorly ventilated areas, in dark and damp places, or in buildings that suffer from structural issues or plumbing problems.
Kitchens – Poor ventilation during cooking (especially if on gas) can cause mould to develop on parts of the ceiling, walls, behind appliances and so on. A leak can prompt the dangerous fungi to appear in the under-the-sink cupboard, as well.
Bathrooms – Again, leaks and lack of proper ventilation or cleaning maintenance can cause mould to grow on walls and around fixtures in the bathroom.
Other rooms – Mould can appear anywhere, really, around your place. Do you tend to dry your clothes inside during the cold months? Or a general plumbing issue in the house can also affect a wall in a room that is adjacent to, say, a leaking pipe next door. There could be other structural reasons, too.
Storage rooms/units – Wardrobes with linen and blankets, cupboards with books (fast absorbers of moisture), laundry rooms, or basically anything enclosed and dark that doesn’t get fresh air circulating on a regular basis can bring about mould issues in a space of a few weeks.
Carpeting – Rising damp; flooding problems; poor sub-floor ventilation; wet carpet cleaning techniques, done poorly and without proper subsequent drying; spillages that have not been addressed straight away – all these can cause mould growing on the underlay of your carpet and the floor underneath.
Ceilings and walls – As mentioned above, walls and ceilings can be affected by mould for various reasons (plumbing issues, cooking and bad air circulation). But also there could be more “sinister” culprits, such as a leaking roof, guttering in need of repairs, structural issues with the property, damaged window frames and more.
Basements, attics and garages – These spaces are a “natural habitat” for mould. They are usually dark and damp; infrequently cleaned, aired and maintained; often full of junk and items that soak up moisture, resulting in mould development.
So, you can see now that as a tenant, some of these issues are kind of beyond your control, whereas others are obviously related to lifestyle, negligence and lack of using common sense. Still, let’s get into more detail about what your responsibility is when it comes to avoiding mould occurring in your rental place.
Rights and responsibilities regarding mould in a rental property
Naturally, both parties (the landlord and the tenant) have joint responsibility to keep the property in a good condition. And both can be liable to cover the cost of mould damage, depending on the particular situation.
Tenants’ rights and obligations
So, when it comes to mould in a house and tenants’ rights, the general rule is that you cannot be held responsible for mould damage that is caused by plumbing issues, structural problems with the property, a damaged ventilation system or natural flooding. You’ll be absolutely in your right to apply for an order of repairs, rent reduction or some sort of compensation with your local Civil and Administrative Tribunal should your landlord fail to take notice of your letter to them about the need for their prompt actions, in order to resolve any repair issues.
You will be breaching your rental agreement, however, if the mould damage has been caused by your negligence and poor upkeep of the property, in terms of cleaning it properly on a regular basis and airing it, as well as drying wet areas and items well after use.
Landlords’ rights and responsibilities
Well, the law and regulations in Australia can be slightly different across states when talking about landlords and “mould” responsibility. Still, their obligations, in general, include meeting building, health and safety requirements, and keeping their property in a good state of repair. This means that when plumbing, roofing, guttering, insulation and ventilation system issues arise, they should make sure that those are fixed sooner rather than later.
As mentioned above, landlords would expect from their tenants to keep their property clean and ventilated. Some rental agreements may even stipulate that small plumbing repairs, like a faulty tap, is the responsibility of the tenant, as well.
To sum up, the landlord can refuse to return part of the security deposit at the end of the lease if mould damage has been caused by actions or inactions of the renter.
How to get rid of mould
Removing mould is often not that difficult, especially if the problem has been caught at the start. Also, how successful you will be at getting rid of the mould will depend on where it has developed. People go for various solutions. Some prefer to go chemical and use bleach or another store-bought mould removing product. Others prefer more natural and often far more effective substances like vinegar, tea tree oil and baking soda.
Either way, what you need to know is that if the mould has grown on a porous or semi-porous surface, it may be impossible to remove it completely.
Let’s see what does or doesn’t do the job, depending on the type of surface, where the mould is, and the type of cleaning solution.
Hard non-porous surfaces, such as tiles and plastic. You can safely remove mould with distilled vinegar and soda. You can also use bleach or a bleach-based mould remover from your local store.
Semi-porous surfaces like plaster walls, wood or silicone (in the bathroom). Bleach won’t completely get rid of the mould from such surfaces but just mask the problem. Why? Bleach doesn’t reach the roots of the fungi that have penetrated deep into the surface. Use strong vinegar and repeatedly wipe the damaged area. Replace mouldy silicone with new.
Carpeting, soft furniture and curtains. If the problem is severe, it would be probably best to discard the damaged item and replace it with new. With items that are slightly affected by mould or mildew, you can try using baking soda, lemon, salt, hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. Note that some of those agents have slight bleaching properties, so you may remove the mould but be left with a discoloured carpet in places. Often, washable curtains can be saved if washed on a high setting.
Our strong advice is to call in a professional to clean your rented house or flat, especially if you’re approaching the end of your rental agreement and you intend to move out soon. This way, you’ll get every chance of retrieving your bond back in full.
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How to prevent mould damage
You can do quite a lot, in order to control mould, as part of your rental property maintenance duties. So, read on and check our tips below:
Air regularly rooms, prone to developing mould when using them, be it after showering or cooking, or turn on the exhaust fans;
Avoid drying clothes inside your home unless the room is well-ventilated;
Don’t create avoidable high-moisture conditions (ex: steam cleaning mattresses, carpets and soft furniture without drying them properly);
Place dehumidifiers in key rooms if necessary;
Air storage areas and units on a regular basis;
Inspect for and clean up mould spots in susceptible areas straight away;
Contact your landlord as soon as you discover a repair issue, be it structural or related to the plumbing works, ventilation system or insulation of the property.