by Ben Luxon October 23, 2019 5 min read

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Mold. Nobody likes it and nobody wants it in their house. Unfortunately, it’s quite a common problem. And, to top it off, there isn’t really any clear set of legal directives to determine who's at fault and who is responsible. 

This naturally can lead to a bit of tension between landlords and tenants, as tenants demand their landlords fix a problem that isn’t necessarily theirs to fix and vice-a-versa.

This can have serious health implications for those that are more sensitive to mold and it's not unheard of for these scenarios to turn ugly and be taken to the courtrooms, which whilst renters don’t always win, any legal battle is expensive, unpleasant and worth avoiding.

So, when it comes to mold it is a good idea to know who’s responsibility it is and have a plan of action in place if a tenant complains about mold in their rental.

mould in .a rental property

When is it the landlord's responsibility?

In certain scenarios, mold is a landlord's responsibility. The general rule is that if the mold is caused by any form of structural issue, whether that’s a leaking pipe, cracked foundations, the walls need repointing, or there’s a leaky roof, then it is the landlords responsibility to fix the issue promptly and resolve the issue of the mold.

The problem here is that it can often be incredibly hard to determine what the root cause of the mold is. For example, a wall that needs repointing and is allowing damp to seep through isn’t an easy thing to spot, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. 

Here’s a quick table of examples of situations that a landlord should resolve. 

Situation

Responsibility

Why

Mold on the ceiling due to leaky roof

Landlord

The landlord is responsible for roof leaks.

Mold seeping through basement walls

Landlord

The landlord is responsible for cracks in the foundation.

Mold caused by a leaky pipe

Landlord

Leaky pipes are usually always the landlord's responsibility.

Any mold present at move-in

Landlord

The landlord must provide a clean, safe unit

When is it the tenant's responsibility?

Some 90% of cases of mold are caused by a tenant improperly ventilating and heating a property. This is, for obvious reasons very common during the colder winter months.

It is also more common in older properties which might not have great insulation or ventilation which can be frustrating for tenants.

Prevention in these cases is the best way forward, and if you know you’re property is liable to get mold because of the climate then it’s worth taking a little time to outline the best practice for tenants after they move in.

1. Keep the windows open. 
    • This is especially true for bathrooms which can be damp, and if the tenant ever hangs clothes up inside to dry.
    2. Heat the property adequately.
    • Keeping the property warm will help prevent a build-up of moisture in the property which will in turn help prevent mold. However, this can lead to high energy bills - especially if the property isn’t insulated well which compounds the issue.

    Here is a table outlining a few scenarios where the tenant is responsible.

    Situation

    Responsibility

    Why

    Surface mold on furniture

    Tenant

    The tenant must ensure the house is being ventilated regularly.

    Mold on shower tiles or bathtub

    Tenant

    Tenant is responsible for regular cleanings, which will prevent this.

    Mold on window sills

    Tenant

    This is generally caused by condensation and lack of ventilation.

    Mold on drywall where wet clothes are typically dried.

    Tenant

    The moisture from drying clothes is the likely cause.

     

    mould in a rental

    What do you do if there is mold?

    As a landlord, if you find mold in your property between tenancies then you need to properly clean it off before the next tenant moves in as you are legally required to provide a safe and habitable living space.

    If a tenant complains about mold during their tenancy you should take the issue seriously. The first step you take is to outline the measures they need to take to get rid of and prevent further mold.

    1. Clean it off with bleach.
    2. Keep windows open and the property well ventilated.
    3. Keep heating on to keep the property dry and warm.
    4. As an extra step I often offer to get them a dehumidifier - this is an inexpensive gesture of goodwill and often goes a long way to solving the issue.

    If they continue to complain that there is mold taking over their home, despite taking the measures laid out then you will need to do an inspection and you may need to get a surveyor in to judge whether or not this issue is a structural one. 

    If it is structural then you as the landlord will need to organize repairs to fix the problem.

    How do you get rid of mold?

    Mold needs to be dealt with promptly. It can be hazardous to tenants' health. Unless obviously caused by structural issues, for example, a leaky pipe or rising damp, then the tenant should make an effort to get rid of the mold themselves. 

    To get rid of mold you will want to use bleach and a scrubby brush to remove and disinfect the area.

    Always wear the appropriate protective gear, googles mask, rubber gloves and always make sure that the property is properly ventilated before, during, and after the removal process.

    To stop the mold from returning keep the windows open and/or the heating on.

    If you do notice mold as a tenant, make sure to document it (with pictures) and mention it to the landlord. As we said before, most cases of mold are caused by improper heating and ventilation. And it can be a challenge to prove that mold is being caused by a structural issue. 

    If the mold keeps returning in a particular place, no matter what you do then there could be another cause and it is always worth asking the landlord to investigate the issue further.

    Conclusion

    Mold affects a lot of people and it needs to be dealt with promptly by the responsible party. Unfortunately, determining who is the responsible party is often a challenge. It’s always best to work with the tenants to find a solution than against them, and show that you are taking action and taking the situation seriously.

    Thanks for reading and we hope you found this blog interesting! However, do note that the purposes of this article is for general information. We are not licensed financial or legal professionals and as such nothing in this article should be understood to be financial or legal advice. If you are in need of financial or legal assistance please seek the help of a competent professional.

    Ben Luxon

    "Ben is a co-founder, author and real estate enthusiast. His interest in all things entrepreneurial has led him to work with real estate professionals all over the world, distilling their knowledge into articles and Ebooks. His love of travelling has taken him to over 10 countries in the last year, where he has sampled the craft beer of them all."



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