Mould in My Rental Home

Mould in Your Rental Home and What to do

Introduction: What is Mould?

Mould is a type of fungus that grows in moist, warm, and humid environments. Moulds are often found in damp basements and bathrooms, or any other place where there is moisture or standing water.

Moulds can cause health problems for people who are allergic to mould spores. Moulds can also produce toxic substances called mycotoxins which may make people sick if they are exposed to them.

Mould is a type of fungus that grows in moist, warm, and humid environments. It’s often found in damp basements and bathrooms, or any other place where there is moisture or standing water. Molds can cause health problems for people who are allergic to mould spores; moulds can also produce toxic substances called mycotoxins which may make people sick if they

The Tenant and Landlord Obligations

Mould is a type of fungi that grows in damp and humid environments. When it comes to mould, the law can be complicated and confusing. There are many rights and obligations that need to be taken into account when dealing with mould in the home.

This section will explore what your rights are as a tenant, what obligations your landlord has, and how you can take action if you believe there is mould in your home.

This is by no means considered as legal advice. Always engage your lawyer/solicitor for legal advice.

Tenants need to keep their rental property presentable and report any problems. They also have to take steps to avoid damages.

The landlord has to provide the premises in a reasonable condition, with indoor plumbing, enough ventilation and other features that would render it fit for habitation.

The landlord must ensure that the property is structurally sound, for example by preventing damp patches from appearing on walls and ceilings; and by stopping water entering through holes in the roof, through windows etc.

The landlord must maintain the premises reasonably and should mitigate the loss in any way possible.

Before Signing the Lease

Before even signing the rental contract, you should engage the services of a Building Biologist. An experienced Building Biologist can identify potential issues with the rental home and suggest further testing in the form of laboratory testing, but this becomes expensive. Yet, it may be invaluable before you even sign the lease. The last thing you want to avoid is ending up with health issues and looking for another home.

The problem with most open inspections is flawed for a mould and moisture assessment because the agent opens all windows and doors before prospective tenants arrive. This freshens up the air and removes any damp and musty smells in the home, which are often indicators of mould.

Be very skeptical of homes that are freshly painted. Often it masks or hides the problem.

A virtual assessment of the home can be conducted by the building biologist. It’s based on the internet advertisement and commentary can be provided on the photos provided. There are so many areas to consider, it’s hard to list it all in an article. Contact us for more information.

Condition Report

If you begin your tenancy with a landlord/agent, they are required to note on the condition report if there is any visible signs of mould and dampness.

You can add your own comments relating to any health issues associated with mould or dampness under “Additional comments on health issues”.

By this time, it may be too late to fix anything. The landlord may be very hesitant to fix anything as well.

Top 5 Things to Avoid in a Standalone Home

  1. Avoid homes that are below street level.

  2. Avoid homes on a slope or hill, especially at the bottom of a hill.

  3. Avoid homes on the south side where there is very little sun.

  4. Homes with a subfloor crawlspace.

  5. Garden beds built up against the building envelope / wall, which may block subfloor vents or peepholes.

Top 5 Things to Avoid in an Apartment or Unit

  1. White efflorescence on the exterior of the building

  2. Plants or vegetation growing on the walls or from peepholes. Weepholes are gaps in brickwork to allow water drainage.

  3. No ventilation fans in wet areas or kitchen

  4. Avoid apartments below street level or on the south side of the building.

  5. Avoid apartments where living areas are below external balconies (from the apartment above). Waterproofing often fails in balconies (often seen by white efflorescence on surfaces) and can cause water intrusion into the apartment.

Top 5 Things to Avoid in a Home for People with CIRS

  1. Carpet in a home should be avoided. Tiles or floorboards are ok. Carpets are dust reservoirs, therefore, collect all the mould spores and is an archaeological dig site.

  2. Homes with a subfloor crawlspace. Often, these are older homes and are quite “leaky” causing subfloor air to intrude into the living space. Subfloors have very little air flow and unless there are subfloor fans installed, it will become a problem.

  3. High levels of dust in a home or in the roof void/cavity can be problematic. Look behind curtains, furniture, beds etc.

  4. Avoid homes on a slope, hill, below street level or on the south side.

  5. Avoid apartments on the top or bottom of the building. Middle apartments are usually the best.

Top 5 Things to Look For as Indicators of Moisture Issues

  1. Damp musty or earthy smells in any part of the home. Sometimes, looking under the home or around the front or back yard may indicate muddy areas. Drainage around the home may cause problems within the home.

  2. Very dust roof cavities/voids – look into the man hole.

  3. Ventilation fans in wet areas that are venting into the roof cavity rather than externally. You may even smell a recently cooked meal upon walking into the home.

  4. Peeling paint, bubbling paint or discolourations on surfaces. These are often signs of water or moisture issues. Take a torch and inspect walls and ceilings carefully.

  5. Look under the cover of the toilet cistern. Sometimes, when a home is mouldy, the cistern cover may have mould growing on it.

Conclusion

If your intuition is telling you the home is not right, then trust it. It’s probably correct. The home may look nice and beautifully presented, but there may be those niggling issues that just doesn’t sit right with you. If any of the top 5 issues mentioned above are found in the home you’re inspecting, then avoid renting the home.

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Mould in my Rental Home

Mould and Residential Tenancies: Everything You Need to Know

surface sample of mould growth on further

What is Mould?

Mould is a type of fungus that can be found in damp environments. It is a problematic substance for buildings and homes because it can spread quickly and cause a lot of damage.

Mould is also often associated with the smell of earthy, musty odours which are noticeable from a few meters away from the building or home.

It is important to be able to identify mould so you know what you are dealing with and how to get rid of it. There are different types of mould, all requiring different treatment methods.

Some molds may not seem very dangerous but still have an effect on our health or on our homes’ structure if left untreated for too long.

How Does Mould Spread and How Do You Recognise It?

Did you know that one (1) in three (3) homes in Australia has mould growth? The key to preventing the spread of mould is to act on the early signs.

Mould spreads by producing microscopic spores, which can travel through air and settle in places where they find the right conditions to grow.

Mould looks like different colours, depending on what it is made of. There are many kinds of moulds, but most are black or greenish-black.

Mould creates volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which create smells and odours. Typical smells are musty or earthy. When left untreated, mould may also cause respiratory problems, allergies and other issues.

mould sampling on ceiling

Tenants Rights and Obligations

Tenants have certain rights and obligations which are defined by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. This law ensures that tenants have a safe and secure place to live.

The Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 defines what a tenant’s obligations are in regards to what they can do or not do in the property. It also defines the required standard of cleanliness and maintenance for rental properties.

The landlord is also required to provide a home that is fit for habitation, structurally sound and kept in reasonable repair.

For more information, here’s a mould factsheet from Tenants.org.au

Minimum Standards Checklist

The Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 has a minimum standards checklist for you to use before signing the tenancy agreement.

The landlord must indicate whether the following apply to the residential premises:

  1. signs of mould

  2. signs of dampness

  3. if there is a pests/vermin problem

  4. If there is loose-filled asbestos or rubbish is left on premises

Make sure you check out the checklist. It starts on Page 49.

Should I hire a building biologist to assess the rental home for mould?

One of the best decisions is to hire a building biologist.

Building biologists assess the condition of an entire home, rather than one room or area. They assess the entire home for mould and they determine the root cause.

Hire a building biologist for a mould & moisture assessment:

  • Pre-lease / pre-rental inspections – find out before you move in.

  • Post-rental inspections – You may not have noticed a problem until you moved in.

An experienced company such as Balanced Building Biology can assess your entire home for mould and they will provide an expert report on the current condition of the rental for you to consider.

If there is significant issues you can engage the landlord or real estate agent for action.

The Building Biologist’s Report

Once you get the mould report from the building biologist, you can show just the summary to the landlord to see what they propose doing about fixing the problem. If they still refuse to act, you may want to consider whether you should break the lease and move out of the property or take legal action.

Legal action may mean, taking your issue to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). However, it is always best to try and resolve this with the real estate agent and/or the landlord.

The building biologist will need to be made aware ahead of time if you require a report for NCAT.

Fixing the Source of the Problem

When it comes to fixing a mould issue, focus on fixing the source of the problem, which is usually water leaks, humidity or condensation. Sometimes, a damp and wet subfloor / crawl space can be the culprit for your indoor air quality issues.

The real estate agent or landlord will need to address cause of the mould growth.

What if there is significant mould damage to my belongings?

The building biologist is not a mould remediator. Mould remediation needs to occur by a properly trained and IICRCcertified expert. The building biologist report should be used by the mould remediator to determine the scope of works and provide a quote for remediation.

This remediation quote may be the basis of a claim for loss or damage during the NCAT hearing, but ensure that the building biologist has sampled the potentially damaged items and had them laboratory-tested.

The Cost of Living with a Mouldy Home

If there is mould in your rented home and the landlord refuses to do anything about it, you might want to consider your options.

At this point, if you have been living in a mouldy home for a significant period of time, your health may be at risk and you definitely need to take action. This is usually the case for most of my clients. If you are looking for a new rental home, consider getting a pre-lease inspection before signing a rental agreement.

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