Mould outbreaks are ravaging humid Australian homes and damaging contents – but who’s responsible for cleaning it up if you’re renting?

What are your rights when health-threatening mould takes over your property? The landlord, right? Well, it depends.

Constant rain and high humidity across Australia create the perfect conditions for mould to spread pretty rapidly across dampened homes.

But mould exposure can cause serious problems, and it must be removed with care while wearing protective equipment – and often by an expert.

The sight of mould anywhere in your home can prompt one of the most commonly asked questions about rental property maintenance in Australia: Who is responsible for mould?

Why is mould considered a health issue?

Mould is a fungal growth that thrives on moisture. It can grow in your home during the wetter months when conditions are damp, dark and poorly ventilated. Mould can grow in your bathroom, kitchen, cluttered storage areas, wall and roof spaces and behind furniture.

When mould dries out or is disturbed, it releases spores which can cause illness in some people. It can also exacerbate existing health issues. This can include asthma, respiratory infections, sinus problems, rashes and watery, itchy red eyes. Not super ideal, no matter how you look at it.

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Where is it coming from?

Mould thrives in wet or moist areas that lack adequate ventilation, including walls, ceilings, insulation, mattresses, carpets, tiles and wood.

A few common culprits of mould include:

  • Surface water leaking into your property
  • Rising damp
  • Rain leaking into your house through the roof or walls
  • Poor ventilation
  • Showering, cooking and boiling without proper ventilation
  • Using clothes dryers without adequate ventilation
  • Indoor plumbing leaks
  • Indoor liquid spills

Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to prevent mould from growing in your home. Use these handy tips to keep mould at bay – especially during the cooler months!

So who is responsible for mould?

The responsibility for fixing the problem largely depends on what caused the mould to grow in the first place. Whether or not your mould becomes the landlord’s responsibility hinges on whether a structural issue caused the mould.

Your landlord is responsible for maintaining your property within a reasonable state of habitation and a reasonable state of repair – this refers to the quality and structure of the building. So if the mould comes through because there’s a leak in the ceiling and it’s pooling in the ceiling cavity, in the walls or under the house, it’s their responsibility to fix.

But it’s a joint responsibility. As a tenant, you need to ensure adequate ventilation in areas prone to moisture, which of course is mostly bathrooms, kitchens, the laundry and other wet areas in the house.

RENTERS

Your key responsibilities as a renter:

– Keep your rental reasonably clean;
– Not intentionally cause damage; and
– Let your landlord know about any damage ASAP

You may be in breach of your rental agreement if mould develops because:

– You didn’t adequately aerate the bathroom by using exhaust fans or opening windows
– You got the carpet wet and failed to treat it or let it dry out properly
– You left pools of water on the tiles outside your shower and let scum build up
– You dried clothes indoors and didn’t air the room afterwards

So what should you do?

If you identify mould caused by a problem within the owner’s remit, report it as quickly as possible so that the owner can ultimately address the issue.

This is just like any other repair issue. You go through the same steps to inform the other party (your landlord/property manager). Ask them for the solution you’re looking for, and if they don’t come through with a solution, you can give them a notice to remedy breach or take them to the tribunal to get an order.

No matter what you think is causing it, if you’re renting, put it in writing and let the other person know as quickly as possible. If you don’t know the solution, ask them to come and have a look and fix it.

How do I raise the issue with my landlord?

Document and report a mould outbreak immediately with your rental agency or landlord. Mould can worsen very quickly and damage the structural integrity of your building – along with being damaging to your health!

Most landlords will be happy to work with you to ensure the problem is fixed. If your landlord doesn’t take action or refuses to acknowledge a structural issue, you can escalate the matter with your state’s fair trading or consumer affairs body.

To do this, document the mould growth as soon as you notice it. Keep a record of any report you lodge with your property manager/landlord and any action you’ve taken within your home, such as cleaning or moving your personal belongings away from the problem area.

Document it, take pictures and then decide how and when to push it with your agency. If your home contents are likely to be damaged, try to move them and document your efforts because an important part of compensation is your actions to minimise the loss.

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LANDLORDS

Your key responsibilities as a landlord/property owner

– Keep the rental premises in a reasonable state of repair;
– Meet building, health and safety requirements; and
– Ensure repairs are undertaken in a reasonable period

You could be facing a breach of the rental agreement if mould develops as a result of not attending to maintenance matters reported by the tenant, such as:

– Damp walls caused by plumbing issues
– A broken exhaust fan or wall-mounted heating unit; or
– A leaky roof, broken pipe or flood damage.

What should you do?

If you identify that your property has a structural integrity problem, you must act quickly. You’re responsible for maintaining the property within a reasonable state of habitation and a reasonable state of repair.

If mould comes through from a leak in the ceiling and pools in the ceiling cavity, in the walls or under the house, it’s your responsibility to fix. A tenant may be able to seek compensation from you if mould damages their personal property and you’ve failed to take reasonable steps.

Now is a great time to look at your rental properties, especially as wet weather and humidity are causing mould outbreaks in many homes.

How to remove mould from your home

A simple, gentler way to remove mould from your home is by using white distilled vinegar. To make your solution, pour it into a spray bottle without watering it down. Spray your vinegar onto the mouldy surface in your home and leave it for an hour before wiping it clean with water.

If you’d prefer to go down the chemical route, bleach will kill mould spores on the surface of your affected surfaces – but vinegar is strong enough that it will kill the mould at the roots.

Rent.com.au

Rent.com.au is Australia's largest company dedicated to renters and is owned and operated by ASX-listed Rent.com.au Limited (RNT:ASX). For over 15 years, Rent.com.au has exclusively focused on making renters' lives easier by making it easier to find a property, secure it, move in and pay rent.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for the informations, I have lived in this home for 10 years and 7 years I didn’t know with another owner I didn’t have this problem, and a new owner for the last 3 years hasn’t fix the plumbing problem in the home.I have been sick with bad infection and been in the hospital.I have breathing problem now as the hospital don’t know what wrong with me.Its a concern for me now because he never fix the problem and it has become a health issue for me.Theres mushrooms growing inside, bad oudor and I have to be outside to always breath fresh air.Im ask to vacate the property and want to know what I do.I have always maintain the property very well but I believe 3 years is too long for this.I have right too as a tenant.

  2. I have had a mould problem due to a broken roof tiles and has been that way since moving in to this property. After numerous emails and photos I have sent to the Real Estate Agent still no effort to treat the mould that was getting worse and as a result now suffer asthma and a deep bark like cough. My daughter cannot stay due to her cough being really bad. Finally the tribunal sent me a template for a Letter of Notice to have this mould treated, which now has been done. The mould is still here and I still send photos and report this. Because of this I have been treated poorly by real estate and tribunal refuse to help either. Now I am having to vacate the property because the owner wants to sell.

  3. We moved into our rental in June 2021 – carpeted dining area. Yesterday, when we moved our dining table and rug it was on, we discovered that the area of carpet directly below our table base was mouldy. We have never spilled anything and I strongly suspect that the carpet backing was damp when we moved in. Agent says it’s our responsibility. Anyone had similar issue?

  4. I’ve had this dry cough 7 months now and only realised it was from mold. The mold was here when i got here. It’s in the condition report. The agent refused to acknowledge it but I have photos. Apparently it’s my job to stop mold and dampness build up bit it’s literally everywhere and there are no fans in either bathrooms. It is impossible to stop this mold. Why should I have to pay for a professional to inspect it. The system seems very flawed to me and tired of the coldness of the real estate agents. They’re happy for single mums with babies to be in a mold ridden place and not do anything about it? Not even assess why it is happening, like a leak or something? Since the mold was here in the condition report won’t that be proof it was here before I came and they ought to compensate me for health damages? Seems like it’s too much of a fight to prove.

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