Mould is a problem in many homes across the UK, and the topic becomes even more complicated when it comes to rental properties. Who is responsible for solving mould in rental property – the landlord or the tenant? Read on…
What causes mould in a house?
Mould is a form of fungus that loves damp conditions, and the UK is a prime place for damp because it has some of the oldest housing stock in Europe. As a result older homes are more likely to have issues with dampness and mould.
When it comes to homes, mould needs moisture, warmth and food to grow. It also feeds on dust and wood, as well as carpets. You’ll find mould spores in many indoor environments, but they don’t become a problem until they start growing.
Some of the factors most consistent with mould in a home include the following:
- High humidity. Mould thrives in environments with high humidity. If the humidity in your home is consistently above 60%, it can lead to mould growth.
- Leaks. Leaks in the roof, walls or plumbing can provide the moisture that mould needs to grow.
- Poor ventilation. Poor ventilation in certain areas of the house, such as the bathroom or kitchen, can also lead to mould growth.
- Flooding. Flooding can introduce large amounts of moisture into a house, providing ideal conditions for mould to grow.
- Lack of maintenance. Failing to regularly clean and maintain your home leads to dust, dirt and other debris accumulating to provide a perfect breeding ground for mould.
Mould may also be caused by inadequate insulation, an improperly installed vapour barrier in the crawl space or attic, and condensation on windows, walls or pipes caused by temperature differences and poor insulation.
Where is mould most common?
Mould is most commonly found in areas of a house that are frequently damp, humid or lack ventilation.
Think bathrooms and kitchens, and you’re spot on. It can also be found in other areas like basements and attics, although this is less common in rental properties, which are usually apartments or smaller homes.
Some common locations where mould may be found include:
- Bathrooms. The high humidity levels generated by showers and baths make bathrooms a prime location for mould growth, especially if the extractor fan isn’t maintained or working correctly.
- Kitchens. The moisture generated by cooking can also lead to mould growth in the kitchen, especially if the ventilation is poor.
- Basements. Basements are often damp, dark and poorly ventilated. This makes them a common location for mould growth.
- Attics. Attics can become mouldy if not properly ventilated or if the roof has a problem that allows water to leak in.
- Laundry rooms. Laundry rooms can become mouldy if there is a problem with the plumbing or the room is not well-ventilated.
- Crawl spaces. Crawl spaces can be mouldy because of the high humidity level, poor ventilation, and if there is water leakage or high water table.
- Rooms on exterior walls. These can be susceptible to damp especially if belongings are stacked against them, preventing air circulation.
While these are the most common places for mould to grow in a house, it can develop anywhere if the conditions are right. Therefore, it’s essential to keep an eye out for mould in all areas of a property and raise any potential issues with your landlord or letting agent as soon as you spot them.
Different types of mould
When it comes to the different types of mould, the list is quite extensive. Mould can vary in colour, shape and size, meaning it doesn’t always look the same (although if you see black spotty marks on the wall, it’s probably mould).
Some different types of mould include:
- Aspergillus -Aspergillus is commonly found in homes and can cause respiratory problems if inhaled.
- Cladosporium –Cladosporium is a type of mould found both indoors and outdoors and can cause allergic reactions in some people.
- Penicillium – Penicillium is commonly found in damp areas of homes. It can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems.
- Stachybotrys chartarum (black mould) – A type of mould typically found in areas of high moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens, can cause health problems if left untreated.
- Alternaria – Alternaria is a common outdoor mould that may cause respiratory issues when found indoors.
- Fusarium – Fusarium thrives in damp, warm environments, such as those created by leaks or poor ventilation. It can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems.
- Trichoderma – Commonly found in wood and can cause allergic reactions.
Is mould dangerous?
Mould can be dangerous if it grows in a home or building. Exposure to it may cause several health problems, including allergic reactions, respiratory issues and skin irritation. People sensitive to mould, such as those with allergies or asthma, may be more susceptible to these health effects. Yet, it’s important to remember that while moulds can cause health effects, many types will be present in an indoor or outdoor environment without causing harm.
Mould can also cause structural damage to buildings, as it can grow on wood, drywall and other building materials. In addition to causing physical damage, mould may also give off musty odours.
Who is responsible for mould in rental property: the landlord or the tenant?
The responsibility for addressing mould in rental property tends to be split between the tenant and the landlord. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is used by local authorities to assess potential hazards in residential properties, including mould.
Landlords are required to address risks identified by the HHSRS, with failure to do so possibly leading to fines or other penalties.
However, It’s not always black and white when it comes to responsibility. It depends on the source of the mould: if it’s due to a leak from the roof or pipes, then the landlord is responsible for fixing it.
But if the mould is caused by those renting the property, such as not ventilating properly, having a lot of items in one room, then you, the tenant would be responsible.
What can tenants do to prevent mould?
For any good tenant, it is important to do your part to keep mould away in your rental property. Ventilating damp areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms by ensuring the extractor fans are switched on, keeping trickle vents on windows open and extractor fan vents clear of obstructions, and shutting doors during and after cooking and showering, to prevent steam from circulating inside the property.
If possible, you should also avoid hanging wet clothes out indoors and putting them over things like radiators. Doing so can cause condensation, which increases humidity levels and creates mould. Regularly cleaning the flat and ensuring there’s a good airflow also goes a long way to stopping mould growing.
Other tips for preventing mould in rental property
- Use an appropriate cleaning product at regular intervals
- Keep lids on pans & always use an extractor fan when cooking or showering
- Run a reasonable amount of heating in your home
- Ensure vents on UPC windows are open & leave them open
- Ensuring furniture isn’t preventing air flow – keep chairs and sofa’s away from walls and radiators
- Tell your landlord or letting agent as soon as you spot mould – this way you can work together to shift it.
If you feel your landlord or letting agent isn’t responding and you’re worried about mould, keep records of any mould issues you encounter, including photographs and written documentation of the problem. That way, you can establish responsibility and have a clearer idea about the next action.
It is in both the landlord’s and tenant’s best interest to address mould as soon as possible. In the worst-case scenario, mould can have serious health effects and damage the property if not handled quickly.
What can landlords do to prevent mould in rental property?
Landlords can take several steps to prevent mould from developing in rental properties, such as addressing leaks and water damage as soon as it occurs. They should also ensure the property has proper ventilation, as it helps prevent mould from occurring in the first place.
Doing so also helps stop condensation from building up on surfaces and lowers humidity levels. Therefore, it may also be worth insulating the property, which helps to keep it warm and dry.
A good landlord will be responsive to tenant concerns over mould and address issues as quickly as possible to avoid the problem worsening.
If you rent an older property, the likelihood of mould occurring at some stage increases. But by regularly maintaining the home and contacting the landlord as soon as any issues appear (especially if it’s not your own doing), you can minimise the impact of mould and keep the property in excellent living condition.
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Last Updated: November 22nd, 2023