Mould and mildew in properties are serious concerns for landlords and housing associations. Failure to deal with mould can lead to serious health problems for tenants, can cause damage to a property and can leave a landlord open to legal action and a large bill if not dealt with.
What is mould?
Mould is a type of fungus and there are more than 100,000 known species, many of which are perfectly harmless to humans. Mould reproduces by producing microscopic spores that float on the air looking for a new host. In nature mould provides an important function, it helps to breakdown organic matter such as leaves and enriches the soil, however it’s not so helpful to humans when it appears in the home.
Mould grows on nearly any organic surface as long as it has moisture and oxygen. This includes surfaces commonly found inside housing, such as carpets, wood, furniture, plants, and materials used for insulation.
Rooms that suffer from an excess of moisture are particularly favourable to mould, so it is often found inside bathrooms and kitchens. It is also found near windows, mainly due to condensation and near any leaks in roofs or pipe work. Mould can be found in older properties that suffer from rising damp. This is when moisture beneath a building is soaked up into the bricks or concrete.
Human actions can also lead to a build-up of moisture in a property, especially if the there is poor ventilation and air flow. Everyday activities like cooking, showering, drying clothes and even breathing create moisture in a home which can lead to condensation.
Why is mould bad for health?
Mould in damp, poorly ventilated buildings can cause a number of health issues. It can trigger nasal congestion, cause sneezing and coughing, lead to respiratory infections and even lead to asthma attacks and allergic reactions.
This can be of particular concern to people who already have existing conditions such as:
- Weakened immune systems
- severe asthma
- chronic, obstructive, or allergic lung diseases.
Who is responsible for removing mould?
The responsibility for getting rid of mould largely depends on the cause. However, landlords and housing associations do have a legal responsibility and a duty of care to ensure that properties they own are free from mould and safe for people to live in.
When landlords are responsible for mould
Landlords are usually responsible for mould caused by damp when it is due to building defects or other maintenance issues. This includes:
- Leaky pipes
- structural defects
- damp proof course going wrong.
When tenants are responsible for mould
The tenant is responsible if the mould is caused by condensation because of lack of ventilation such as:
- Not opening windows
- inadequate heating
- drying clothes indoors.
Prevention is the best way to deal with mould
Instead of trying to get rid of mould after it has already formed – which could be extremely costly to any landlord or housing association – mould prevention is by far the safest and cost-effective option. It is possible to prevent mould by looking out for the conditions that can lead to its formation.
Using remote monitoring solutions to measure the conditions that can lead to mould growth in social housing and other rental properties – such as ambient temperature and humidity as well as air quality – can help housing associations act before mould forms. This can help prevent costly repairs or legal action and can help to keep your tenants safe in their homes.
There are also some actions tenants can take to help reduce the amount of moisture they release into their homes.
- Put lids on pans when cooking
- use extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms or open windows
- close doors when cooking or showering
- leave gaps between furniture and external walls
- dry clothes outdoors or use a vented tumble dryer
- increase air circulation – open bedroom windows for 5-10 minutes when you get up
- keep the property heated to at least 15 degrees in all rooms.
If you are responsible for social housing tenants and would like to discuss remote monitoring solutions to deal with the causes of mould before it forms, then get in touch with us today to see how Caption Data can help.