Cold, damp homes. It’s what the Healthy Homes Standards were developed to help put an end to. But is it working and what do we do about all the mould that is already existing in properties?
Mould enquiries are something we receive multiple times a day, generally from tenants who are fed up with the state of their property. The problem for both tenants and landlords is that tackling the mould issue is a murky business with many variable factors. Determining whether it is the fault of the tenant, the landlord or simply down to the location of the house must all be taken into account.
Certainly in some situations it is cut and dry. There’s been a pipe leaking in the bathroom for months, the landlord has been informed but chosen to do nothing, and mould occurs. That’s simple, the landlord has breached their requirement to provide the premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness.
But what about situations where no obviously water leaks can be found and tenants complain of mould on their belongings and curtains despite multiple attempts to remove it. Who is at fault then? And what can be done about it?
Conversations with HUD and the Tenancy Compliance team have confirmed that they are certainly aware of the contentious nature of the mould issue. They are also struggling to provide a concrete definition on what is a problem. The Tenancy Compliance team are accepting complaints regarding mould and investigating these. They are currently looking into issues where mould is ‘excessive’, however they do not have a definition on what is excessive so there is a degree of variability involved.
So, what should be done?
Well, lab testing can be undertaken to determine the type of mould that is present, whether it is a harmful, or non-harmful variety, but does this assist? Recent Tenancy Tribunal hearings have not required definition on the type of mould present to determine whether there is a breach of the RTA. The rulings to date are simply reliant on the presence of mould and then confirming who is at fault.
A landlord must provide a premises free from mould at the start of a tenancy. From that point on the tenant needs to maintain the premises free from mould. Section 40(1)(d) RTA states that the tenant must keep the premises reasonably clean.
If the mould persists despite the tenant cleaning the mould, then there is a chance that the premises suffers from a structural defect and it is at this point that professional assessment is needed.
We believe the key in any mould assessment is ascertaining the cause of the mould. Which, as mentioned previously can be very simple with moisture testing if the problem of a mouldy bathroom is in fact being caused by a leaking pipe behind the wall.
Lab testing may be beneficial in proving the case of an environment being the cause of mould via air monitoring, this can be done in the affected room of the property and outside the room to give a comparison of mould spores present in the air. If the numbers are similar then this would lead you to believe ongoing mould is going to be an issue that is simply down to the property location and will need constant monitoring and cleaning throughout the tenancy.
We are currently reformulating our Mould Assessment service to ensure it is helpful in solving the root of this ongoing issue for landlords and tenants alike. Watch this space for a re-launched service in early 2024