Condensation & Black Mould could leave you with an unhappy tenant as well as a potential Landlord Insurance claim!
Condensation and black mould on walls and ceilings is a growing problem in buy-to-let properties (excuse the pun!).
Not only can it ruin your recently decorated investment, but it can also lead to issues around tenant retention or worse still image their health and an unwanted landlords property insurance claim.
What is “black” or “slime” mould?
Thousands of different types of mould exist, but the most common forms are Stachybotrys chartarum, known as “black mould” due to its dark colour or Aspergillus Niger.
Stachybotrys grows typically on wood, plaster or any other wet cellulose material. It is commonly found to manifest itself under ceilings or behind walls.
Niger is often confused with Stachybotrys as they are similarly dark in surface colour although Niger has a white or yellow base and is often present before Stachybotrys.
Mould spores are widely present in the atmosphere, but these are generally dormant.
However, given the right conditions, the spores will germinate, resulting in extensive disfiguring black mould.
Airborne spores can travel significant distances within your property, searching for a humid location whereby they will root themselves and begin the germination process.
Initially, you may only see a small presence of mould on part of a wall or ceiling; however, a more significant infestation will likely be present behind the wallpaper or plaster.
What causes mould to occur?
Over the last 20 years, product innovation to doors, windows and insulation has improved dramatically.
While this has had a positive impact on heating and energy bills, the lack of adequate ventilation and airflow has significantly increased the possibility of mould occurring within your property.
Steve Restall, Director of specialist treatment company, It Has 2 Be Done Ltd, confirmed: “ The factor that has changed is that we now live in sealed boxes, with double glazing, sealed doors and electric fires.”
“A lot of rented properties have been modernised by the present owners, and they do not realise that it has, in fact, changed the property into a sealed box.”
The ultimate cause of the mould growth is generally attributed to lack of air circulation, high humidity, water leaks or flooding which generates surface condensation as steam or moisture created in the property become trapped and cannot be extracted effectively.
Fix the root cause first!
There is no point in engaging a specialist contractor to remove the mould before you take adequate steps to rectify the root cause of the issue.
Obviously, if you’ve been unfortunate enough to suffer a flood, then this is clear. However, some other issues can be less obvious, and you may want to seek the advice of a professional contractor.
- In the Bathroom – Is the extraction adequate? A window is all well and good, but how likely is it that your tenants will always open it? You may need an extractor unit in addition to the window.
- Drying Clothes – Ever carried out your inspection and tripped over the clothes horse or found the radiators decorated with your tenant's smalls?!
o Unless you provide a simple and easy alternative, people will take the simple option and dry clothes within the property which generates significant moisture.
Convection tumble dryers now offer an excellent and cost-effective solution with no need to fit an extraction hose. If the property has outside space, also provide a simple washing line, to make things as easy as possible.
- Windows – When fitting new windows, think about ventilation and try to purchase models which will allow air to pass automatically without the tenant needing to adjust any settings
Once you have solved the mystery of the cause, a contractor can utilise specialist chemicals to safely treat and remove the mould before redecoration.
You can also obtain sprays or mould removal kits from DIY suppliers.
Remember, care needs to be taken as mould is a fungus and can cause an allergic reaction or health issues, as such, we would recommend employing the services of an expert.
In areas such as kitchens or bathrooms, it is also recommended to use specialist anti-mildew paint which offers increased resistance to moisture.
Health & Landlord Insurance
Heightened levels of airborne spores can significantly increase a tenants’ susceptibility to an allergic reaction, asthma attack or other breathing issues.
If a tenant suffers a health problem, you could find that they hold you responsible as the property owner and look to you for financial compensation.
Most Landlord Insurance policies will include Property Owners Liability which protects you against claims from the members of the public or tenants for injury, illness or damage.
While it could be argued that the tenant may have contributed to the issue, if it has been brought to your attention or is noted in an inspection report, you could be held liable if you have taken no action as you may be adjudged to have breached the duty of care owe to your tenant.
Further information can be found on the NHS website. They will be happy to discuss property surveys within their working catchment or to recommend an alternative contractor.
If you need advice, why not book a FREE Property Insurance review where one of our team can help you find the best deal. Alternatively, call 0330 124 0730 for more information, we would love to hear from you!