Damp and mould is a common problem for landlords and tenants, especially during colder winter months. It is important that both parties understand the causes in order to reduce its impact on properties and their living conditions. Taking reasonable steps to tackle damp and mould is not only about looking after your health, it is your responsibility as a tenant.
This article aims to inform and serve as a useful guide for both tenants and landlords with regards to preventing and treating damp, condensation, and mould within the home.
What is Mould and What Causes it?
First and foremost, we must understand mould and its causes to be able to prevent and treat it. Mould is a form of fungus that is usually produced in damp and humid conditions. Our homes offer warm air, moisture, and materials to feed on, such as wallpaper, wood and carpet. Here, mould will unfortunately continue to develop unless cleaned and removed.
Humidity is one of the most common causes of mould in the home. This can arise from any number of simple everyday activities that produce steam, such as showering or cooking. This is why mould is primarily found in kitchens and bathrooms, rather than in other less humid locations.
Condensation is another major cause of mould in the home. Condensation occurs when warm moist air, produced by a number of everyday activities (namely showering, cooking, drying clothes indoors, or sleeping) meets a cold surface such as an external wall or window. Moisture also naturally occurs in the air. When air temperatures drop, water is released in droplet form. This temperature is known as the ‘dew point’.
This moisture-filled air will then remain internally if not properly ventilated or manually removed. If this moisture is left untreated and unable to escape, it will result in mould. You may tend to notice mould appearing on hard and cold surfaces, such as windows and tiles.
3. Poor Ventilation
Mould develops if ventilation is inadequate. This is due to the build-up of condensation produced from everyday activities, such as those discussed above, adding moisture to the air. Mould also forms in microclimatic areas where there is little movement; for example, behind a cupboard.
What Mould can do to your Health
Living in a home where mould is present can have detrimental effects on both your physical and mental health. It can trigger a variety of health issues, such as respiratory infections, intensified asthma, depression, allergic reactions, wheezing, sneezing and coughing. These symptoms tend to be worse for people in higher risk categories, such as elderly people, children, or those with a weakened immune system.
Landlord and Tenant Responsibilities:
Both landlord and tenant have their own responsibilities in preventing the growth of mould within the home.
Regularly clean the appropriate areas.
Put lids on pots & use an extractor fan while cooking or showering.
Dry clothes outdoors where possible.
Run a reasonable amount of heating in the home to ensure regulated room temperatures.
Ensure that furniture is not preventing airflow by being placed against walls or obstructing radiators.
Keep vents on UPC windows open.
Landlords should use anti-mould paint when decorating their properties.
Regularly inspect the condition of the property, and respond promptly to any concerns raised by the tenant.
Ensure appropriate insulation and adequate draught-proofing.
Ensure that all fans and vents in the home are in working order.
Ensure that tenants know how to use the heating system.
Promptly repair any leaks or plumbing issues.
Methods of Preventing Mould from Occurring in the Home
1. Allow Light to Enter the Home:
Mould thrives in dark and moist conditions. Tenants should therefore open their curtains throughout the day in order to allow in daylight and allow fresh air to circulate.
2. Keep Air Moisture to a Minimum:
The ultimate key to preventing mould is to keep air moisture to a minimum. Tenants should regularly dry any condensation that may have gathered on the walls or windows. Dehumidifiers can also be a useful tool in removing excess moisture from the air. These devices pull moisture from the air, thereby reducing dampness.
3. Regular Cleaning of the Property
Regular cleaning throughout your property is essential for keeping mould away. Mould feeds on organic materials such as wood, cotton, and cardboard so extra regard should be given towards cleaning and replacing these materials.
Additionally, tenants should regularly replace shower curtains in order to help eliminate dormant spores and reduce the chances of mould recurring.
4. Ensure your Home is Well-Ventilated
Ventilation will be your saviour when it comes to tackling damp in the home. Air must circulate, even during spells of cold weather. Modern measures such as double glazing and insulation trap moisture in the house, that would previously have been released naturally. External windows and vents must be opened regularly to allow this fresh air to disperse, otherwise moisture will build up, causing mould.
5. Throw Away Mouldy Belongings
If mould cannot be removed from materials such as carpet, drywall, and wood, then the material should be thrown away.
6. Keep your Home Well-Insulated
During the winter months it is especially important that you keep your home sufficiently insulated. The World Health Organisation Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould1 recommends keeping rooms between 18c – 20c. This step will keep air humidity and condensation levels to a minimum, and in turn avoid mould from appearing.
7. Add Plants to Lower Humidity
The addition of plants to the home has been known to reduce humidity levels. Several groups of houseplants have characteristics that help to reduce humidity levels including the peace lily, ferns, orchids, palms and spider plants.
8. Check Home for Evidence of Penetrating Damp
Mould can often be triggered by damaged brickwork or leaking pipes within your internal walls. If you think your property might be suffering from penetrating damp, tenants should contact their landlord who will commission an experienced professional to fix the problem.
Methods of Removing Mould in the Home
Even after the best precautionary measures, mould may still occur. It is therefore important for tenants to know the best methods of safe removal in the home. Tenants should dry any wet surfaces regularly, and treat signs of mould with mould and mildew specific cleaning products.
During removal, it is best practice to wear a face mask to prevent the inhalation of harmful spores. Additionally, tenants should ensure proper ventilation in the room, protect their skin, and follow manufacturers’ instructions for any commercial cleaning products.
Your letting agent is there to provide reasonable advice and support with any issues that arise from your tenancy and will listen to any concerns that you may have.
Interlet’s management team is at hand to answer any queries you have regarding keeping your home mould free. You can contact them at email@example.com | 0207 795 6525
1 WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: who.int/publications/i/ item/9789289041683