We’re now officially into winter in Australia. (Yes – South East Queensland does have a spot of winter – at least two days per year!) So, you know what that means.
In fact, mould is not just a problem in our houses in winter in Brisbane. It’s also a problem in the thick of summer because of the humidity. The potential for mould issues and real estate just happen to go hand in hand.
But, all is not lost – working closely with your real estate agent and/or property manager, mould damage and associated issues can largely be avoided.
For those of us who are a landlord it means managing mould. And, like many challenges in life, managing it proactively is far preferable to reacting after there is a problem.
Not only in Brisbane
Mould and the potential associated health risks aren’t just local to us here in Queensland. Around the world, anywhere the climate is humid, such as tropical and subtropical areas, and especially in coastal areas, are regions that typically have a higher prevalence of mould issues.
Besides climate, building conditions and maintenance (or lack thereof) of dwellings are a big contributor to mould growing. We’ll discuss this in terms of the specific issue in a moment.
Is there more mould in 2023 than in previous years?
Does it seem to you that mould is becoming an increasing problem? Chances are there is a growing (sorry!) awareness and reporting of mould problems. This is likely because as a community we have become concerned about its impact on health and the fact of living in the presence of mould tending to exacerbate existing health issues.
So, we tend to spend more effort addressing mould issues and promoting preventive measures to minimize their impact on our indoor environments.
Why mould is a problem
At the risk of composing what will look like the script for a new horror movie, in brief, mould is likely to be problematic in these major ways:
- Causing allergic reactions
- Respiratory issues
- Toxic effects of mycotoxins (given off by some moulds)
- Other neurological or immune system problems
Found both in and out of doors, mould is a type of fungus. If you’ve ever checked out the compost bin, you’ll know that mould has a role in decomposing dead organic material, so it’s pretty important in the ecosystem. To reproduce, mould produces microscopic seeds known as spores. The mould releases spores, which float through the air and settle on surfaces. Here, the spores can grow, if the right conditions are met.
How does mould get into people?
The released spores (and their toxins) get into our body via:
- breathing it in – when airborne
- consuming it – when it’s landed on food or eating implements
- absorbing it through the skin – usually through broken skin, like cuts
It would be funny if it weren’t so awful.
The mould we see on decaying food (that long forgotten orange on the bottom of the fruit bowl) is generally a common household mould and is not generally inherently dangerous to most healthy individuals.
In general the serious problem is from the toxic black mould, which less common and has a distinctive black or dark greenish-black appearance, that may produce the mycotoxins that can pose potential health risks, especially with prolonged exposure.
Once again, though, even the presence of black mould does not guarantee the production of mycotoxins, because this depends the moisture levels, nutrient availability, and other environmental conditions, being just what it thrives on to reproduce, when it releases spores..
However, we’re not going to ‘pick nits’ with such serious health issues at stake, are we. Let’s simply address the issues that result in mould so risks to health are mitigated.
When is There a Risk of Mould Developing?
Poorly ventilated buildings and rooms, water ingress from leaks or floods, high levels of moisture and humidity as well as poor building maintenance contribute to mould growth.
If a building has a leaky roof (often from overflowing gutters, due to not having been cleared of leaves or cracked tiles), bathrooms do not have exhaust fans, bathroom tiles have missing grout, plumbing issues (such as a broken pipe) there is not adequate ventilation in ceiling cavities, then these and other structural issues can lead to a mould problem.
Whilst major structural damage can be caused by excessively wet weather or flood damage (both of which are not uncommon in Brisbane, unfortunately), everyday habits such as hot showers in the absence of an exhaust fan or leaving carpet wet after spills or mishaps are the common and ongoing types of causes from which mould develops.
Mould in Rental Property
It’s one thing to be particular (or laxidasial) about our own home, but for a landlord it is critical that any rental properties we have leased to tenants do not have any mould or damp problem or any underlying problem that may lead to a mould issue.
It matters little whether fungal growth is harmless common mould or black mould that could result in respiratory infections or other serious health problems – a rental agreement requires the landlord be held responsible for maintaining the building adequately.
Obligations on landlords
In Australia, it’s the landlord who is responsible for maintaining minimum standards of cleanliness and repair and ensuring that the homes they rent out are in a reasonable state and suitable for tenants to live in.
If mould growth is a result of issues such as a leaky roof, faulty pipes, malfunctioning gutters, structural defects, a broken exhaust fan or lack of proper ventilation, it becomes the landlord’s duty to rectify the structural or property problem in a reasonable time.
Obligations on tenants
It’s important that tenants inform their landlord or agent or property manager if there is any structural problam with the property. For example, if there is a leaky pipe or a window that doesn’t seal properly.
This is a reason why the Position One Property Property Management Team are disciplined when it comes to the residential tenancy agreement and condition report at entry and exit from the property. When landlords have their property managed by our Team, this is one of the many areas we assist with.
It’s not always the case, but tenants may be unknowingly contributing to a mould or damp problem – or even creating one – in their rental property. If they don’t regularly clean the property, or take reasonable steps to air it out to release water vapour from using a clothes dryer or drying out wet or moist areas – say due to hanging wet towels – they can be contributing to mould damage and the associated problems.
The source of or persistence of mould is ever a grey area. Ideally, both parties are vigilant in their responsibilities and keep such problems at bay.
Here is some sound advice for avoiding the onset of mould problems and for minimising the impact of it if it does develop.
Best Approach for Mould Free Property
Ultimately, the best approach for keeping a property mould free is to prevent mould and damp from forming in the first instance. Trusted Choice have the very best articles available for this information : Tips for Keeping Your House Mould Free and here is a summary:
Tenants: Tips for keeping your rental property mould-free
- Try not to let one room get much warmer or colder than the other – acknowledged this is not always easy.
- In cold weather, it is better to have small heaters spread throught the home than one large heater in one location.
- Choice also provides a handy article on the best heating options for renters.
- When showering, cooking or using a clothes dryer, always use the exhaust fan and have windows open if possible.
- If you notice condensation on any surface – walls or windows – wipe it off straight away.
- Similarly, if you see mould, clean it up immediately – don’t let it get established. “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine”
- To encourage light into the rooms and air to dry out as far as possible, open blinds and curtains during the daytime.
- And if you do notice a problem, tell your landlord or property manager straight away. They need to know so they can take action.
Good to Know: We’re fortunate that there are many choices of appliances these days that can help make moisture removal from the air easier.
Consider dehumidifiers, air conditioners, ceiling fans and portable pedestal fans because they can be useful to help prevent the spread of mould in your rental property or home.
Mould Has Set In – Now What?
To look at how we can remove mould that has appeared, we’ll continue this article in Part II.
Don’t go it solo when managing your rental properties. Great property investments are greater with a great team, so call Position One Property today and have them as part of your A-Team!