Unfortunately, mould is a year-round problem in humid climates. And, if not treated quickly, it can grow to have an impact on a tenant’s health and a landlord’s wealth.
Let’s start by looking at what mould actually is… Mould is a fungus that can grow in homes when conditions are damp, dark and poorly ventilated. Common places for mould include bathrooms, kitchens and cluttered storage areas, and it can spread from one surface to another by contact or it can be air-borne.
More than being unsightly, mould can cause serious problems. When it dries out or is disturbed, it releases spores, which can cause illness in some people or exacerbate existing health issues like asthma or respiratory infections. Mould can also cause odours and damage to building materials, contents and structures. If left untreated, it can grow into plaster, ceiling cavities, behind walls, in and behind gyprock and under carpets and floorboards – potentially causing structural damage.
The cause of mould and mildew in a rental could stem from maintenance issues or from the action or inaction of tenants – which means responsibility for fixing the problem could rest with either the landlord, their agent or with the tenants.
So, when is it the landlord’s responsibility?
It is the landlord’s responsibility to remedy mould caused by structural issues, or stemming from a lack of maintenance or repair such as:
- a leak in the roof
- a faulty pipe
- malfunctioning gutters causing overflow into the property
- surface water leaking into the building
- wet building foundations such as rising damp
- indoor plumbing leaks
Nip it in the spore: Keeping on top of maintenance and repairs can help reduce mould outbreaks. Landlords and agents should keep an eye out for potential problems during inspections and encourage tenants to immediately report any dampness, windows that don’t close properly or leaks.
What about the tenant?
A tenant could be responsible for cleaning up outbreaks if their actions resulted in mould forming. For example:
- by showering without switching on the exhaust fan or opening a window
- leaving pools of water on tiles
- cooking without turning on the extractor fan
- using a drier without ventilation or drying clothes indoors and not airing the room afterwards
- failing to properly clean up indoor liquid spills
- getting the carpet wet and neglecting to properly dry it out
- not cleaning the home properly
Nip it in the spore: Landlords and agents should remind tenants of the need to adequately ventilate the property – air the home by opening doors and windows, use exhaust fans in bathrooms when showering and for 30 minutes afterwards, open a window when the clothes drier is on and use the extractor fan over the stove.
Insurance and mould
At EBM RentCover we add value by being open, honest and transparent. As mould growth is frequently unavoidable, and because it usually doesn’t cause any damage if it is taken care of quickly, our RentCover range of policies do not cover mould damage.
Damage caused by mould/mildew/fungus/algae is a standard exclusion in most building and contents policies in Australia. This means that if there is an outbreak at the rental, neither landlord or tenant is likely to be able to claim on their insurance for any damage caused.
Ultimately, the cost for cleaning, repair or replacement will usually rest with the landlord or tenant responsible for the presence of mould at the property. Therefore, it pays for landlords, agents and tenants to keep on top of maintenance, repairs, cleaning and ventilation to stop the formation and spread of mould at the property.
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