Dealing with mould in your rental property
When your tenant gets in touch to tell you they’ve got mould growing on the wall, it’s time to take notice. Damp and mould in a rented property are very common, but they can cause extensive damage and endanger the health of your tenants, so they need to be dealt with promptly. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 specifically cites “freedom from damp” as one of the criteria for deciding whether a property is unfit for human habitation, and the law makes the landlord responsible for keeping the property in good repair.
The health risk can be serious. The NHS website states: “If you have damp and mould in your home you're more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma. Damp and mould can also affect the immune system.”
Who is responsible for mould in a rental property?
The first thing you need to do is determine the cause. Most of the time it is condensation – the result of the room not being properly ventilated, which is normally the tenant’s responsibility. The telltale sign is a cloud of little black dots spread over an area of wall that can be mistaken for dirt.
Calum MacInnes, who lets multiple properties to students through his company, Student Tribe, says: “In our experience, it often happens because the tenant has gone out and left the heating on and the windows closed. It is a learning process for young people; we will clean it up when this happens, but we try to educate them so it won’t happen again.”
Encourage your tenants to open windows after baths and showers, and discourage them from hanging out washing to dry inside the property. But don’t forget that, as the landlord, you do have a responsibility to ensure that good ventilation is possible, for example by installing extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, and ventilation panels in other rooms. Insulation is desirable for saving energy, but it’s important to get the balance right. Dehumidifiers can also be used as a last resort.
More seriously, the problem can be the result of a structural issue, such as the failure of the damp course, which allows rising damp from the earth below, or the ingress of rainwater, which could be due to gaps around window frames, overflowing gutters or cracks in the external render. In these cases, it is clearly the landlord’s responsibility, and repairs need to be undertaken to prevent the damp getting in.
How to deal with the mould
There are numerous anti-mould sprays and other treatments available from any hardware store, or you can make your own: one part bleach to four parts water is a common formula. Make sure that you – or whoever cleans up – wears rubber gloves, goggles and a dust mask, and that all cloths used are safely disposed of, as spores can spread very easily. Some moulds can cause skin and eye irritations and should never be handled directly. If redecoration is needed, use anti-mould paints by all means – but only once you’ve dealt with the root cause to ensure the mould doesn’t come back.