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How to handle mould in a rental property

21 August 2017

Mould issues in rental properties can be a nightmare for property managers. So, what is the best way to deal with mould? 

REINSW spoke to three experienced property managers around NSW to get their advice.

Property managers’ advice

Sandra McGee, Property Manager at Starr Partners - Merrylands

Sandra explained that one of the worst cases of mould she ever had involved a property which flooded. The tenants didn’t want to move out and the landlord didn’t want to lose their tenants so a company was hired to dry out the concrete with industrial fans. 

A week later the fans were collected by the tradesperson, however within a few days the tenants went on holiday for three months and when they came back the property was full of mould

Sandra explained: “It turned out the tenants had turned the fans off because of the noise and so the concrete didn’t dry properly. 

“We lodged a case to NCAT against the tradesperson because we had a mould expert prove that the mould was caused because the concrete had not been dried properly causing mould to grow. 

“The tradesperson refused to admit fault or refund what he had been paid to do, which amounted to nearly $5,000 for drying the carpet and the cement slab.

“NCAT ruled in our favour because they said if the tradesperson could not do the work correctly with the tenants in occupation he should not have allowed the tenant to stay there with the fans, and he did not communicate any problems to us. 

“However we still ended up out of pocket as the tenants had to leave the property for one week whilst it was fixed and the landlord refused to pay for the accommodation as it was our tradesperson who caused the issue. We were lucky because the landlords insurance company paid for a new carpet which was full of mould.

“It was a big lesson for us and if we have a flood now, we always serve “notice of frustration” insisting to both landlord and tenant that the tenant has to leave so it can be repaired properly. It is also critical if there is any mould in a property to get a mould expert in to find out the cause.”

Gary Triganza, Property Manager - Mosman

“Every time we get a complaint from a tenant about mould, we always inspect the property ourselves first to try and locate the problem because sometimes a tenant can over or under exaggerate a problem.

“If it is serious and we can’t locate the cause, we will get a professional company to carry out a mould report. We will also speak to the owner about putting in a dehumidifier where necessary to mediate the problem and avoid claims further down the track.

“It is important to treat every complaint seriously and consider it as if it was your own home.”

Gary added that it is the owner’s and agent’s responsibly to make sure a property is fit and habitable to live in, but the law is unclear over ventilation.

He explained: “The grey area is whether it is a tenant’s responsibility to ensure proper air ventilation to avoid mould and if they accept the mould has been caused by a lack of ventilation.

“This is where getting a mould report done by a professional expert in this area helps to give it more weight.

“We hand out literature to our tenants about ensuring proper ventilation in the property to try and educate them about this issue and avoid mould occurring.”

Kellie Eagles, Director of Property Management at Elders - Queanbeyan/Jerrabomberra

“Mould issues in rental properties can be a nightmare for property managers and are often multifaceted. The cost of obtaining formal/qualified mould reports and the removal and treatment of areas affected by mould can be expensive and sometimes complicated.

“We experience mould issues in our area from time to time. However we don’t have a particularly humid climate, so unless there is a leak of some description, we usually only see mould issues in winter months when unventilated properties have high humidity levels caused by heaters. 

“If a tenant raises a mould issue, my advice would be to source a professional report which will determine what type of mould is present, determine the likely cause(s) and recommend treatment.

“We also discuss the importance of education around mould issues and in particular, the need for tenants to always ensure they maintain ventilation throughout the duration of the cold winter months.”

Kellie added that tenants can apply to the NSW Civil Administrative Tribunal for significant compensation if they are affected by mould, which makes it important that agents address issues promptly.
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