Mould outbreaks are ravaging Australian homes and damaging contents. But if you’re renting, who is responsible for cleaning it up?
What are your rights when health-threatening mould takes over your property? The landlord, right? Well, it depends.
In Australia, constant rain and high humidity provide the ideal environment for mould to spread rapidly, especially in damp homes.
However, mould exposure can pose serious health risks, requiring careful removal by experts wearing protective gear.
When mould appears in your rental property, it’s natural to wonder who is responsible for addressing it. The answer to this question depends on several factors.
Why is mould considered a health issue?
Did you know that mould can be a serious health concern? It’s a fungus that thrives in moist environments and can quickly grow in your home during the wetter months.
You might find mould in your bathroom, kitchen, cluttered storage spaces, and even behind furniture.
Unfortunately, when mould dries out or is disturbed, it can release spores that can make some people sick. It can even worsen existing health issues, causing problems like asthma, respiratory infections, sinus issues, rashes, and itchy red eyes. It’s not something you want to ignore!
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Where is it coming from?
Mould grows in damp areas with poor ventilation, such as 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?
Determining who is responsible for mould growth depends on what caused it in the first place. If a structural issue is to blame, it becomes the landlord’s responsibility to fix it.
Your landlord is responsible for maintaining the property in a habitable and reasonable state of repair. For instance, if mould growth occurs due to a leak in the ceiling, which accumulates water in the walls, ceiling cavity, or under the house, the landlord should take care of it.
However, it’s also the tenant’s responsibility to ensure proper ventilation in moisture-prone areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry areas, and other wet spots in the house. It’s a shared responsibility to prevent mould growth.
Your key responsibilities as a renter:
- Keep your rental reasonably clean;
- Not intentionally cause damage; and
- Let your landlord know about any damage ASAP
If you notice mould developing in your rental property, you may be violating your rental agreement.
This could be due to several reasons, such as
- inadequate bathroom ventilation caused by not using exhaust fans or opening windows
- failure to treat or dry out wet carpets
- allowing pools of water to accumulate on tiles outside the shower; or
- not airing out a room after drying clothes indoors.
So what should you do?
If you find mould caused by an issue the owner is responsible for, report it promptly so the owner can address it.
This is similar to any other repair issue, where you inform your landlord or property manager and ask for a solution. If they don’t provide a solution, you can issue a notice to remedy the breach or take legal action.
Regardless of the cause, if you’re a renter, it’s best to notify the other party in writing as soon as possible. If you’re unsure how to fix the problem, ask them to come and assess it.
How do I raise the issue with my landlord?
If you notice mould in your rented property, acting quickly is important. Contact your landlord or rental agency and report the issue immediately. Mould can spread rapidly and cause both damage to the building and health problems for those living in it.
Most landlords will be willing to work with you to resolve the issue. However, if your landlord fails to take action or denies that there is a problem, you can escalate the matter to your state’s fair trading or consumer affairs body.
To do this, document the mould growth by taking pictures as soon as you notice it. Keep a record of any reports you make to your landlord or rental agency and any actions you take within your home to address the issue, such as cleaning or moving your personal belongings away from the affected area.
Document your efforts to minimise any potential damage to your belongings. This can be an important part of seeking compensation for any losses. Once you have gathered all the necessary evidence, decide on the best way to push the issue with your rental agency or landlord.
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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 problems
- A malfunctioning exhaust fan or wall-mounted heater; or
- Damage from a leaky roof, broken pipe, or flood
What should you do?
If your property has a problem with its structural integrity, it is important to take action quickly. As the owner, you are responsible for ensuring that the property is maintained in a reasonable state of habitability and repair.
In the event of mould caused by a leak in the ceiling that accumulates in the ceiling cavity, walls, or beneath the house, it is your responsibility to fix the issue. Failure to take reasonable steps to address the problem may result in a tenant seeking compensation for damages to their personal property.
It is advisable to take this opportunity to inspect your rental properties, particularly with the current wet weather and humidity leading to mould outbreaks in many homes.
Here’s a helpful tip on how to remove mould from your home
One practical and safe method is by using white distilled vinegar. Simply pour it into a spray bottle without diluting it, then spray it onto the mouldy surface. Leave it for an hour before wiping it clean with water.
Alternatively, you can use bleach to kill mould spores on the surface, but vinegar is powerful enough to kill the mould at its roots.
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