Table of contents
 - featured image
By Leanne Jopson

The mould management minefield

Flash flooding and storms have ravaged Australia’s east coast over the past 12 months, and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicts we can expect the extreme wet weather to continue during the coming months as La Niña returns for what will be the third summer in a row.

It’s worrying news for property owners.

Because we’ve already had two wet summers, dam catchments are up and water tables are high, so flood events will be more likely this year.

House Mold2

And flooding is just one thing to be concerned about.

There’s another, a more sinister way that this damp weather is wreaking havoc….Mould.

It’s like an unwanted visitor, and unfortunately part and parcel of everyday life for many homeowners.

The good news is that although you can’t do anything to control the weather, you can control how it affects your property.

So what is mould?

Mould and mildew are living organisms known as fungi.

Mould thrives on moisture and can grow in homes when conditions are damp, dark and poorly ventilated.

Common places for mould include bathrooms, kitchens, cluttered storage areas, wall and roof spaces, under carpets, in ventilation/air-conditioner ducts or behind furniture.

Mould can spread from one surface to another by contact or it can be air-borne.

How do I know there is mould in my rental property?

Often it is obvious that mould is present.

Mould has a musty odour and presents as green, grey, brown or black spots and clusters.

You can usually spot the most visible type of mould, called mildew, which begins as tiny, usually black spots but often grows into larger colonies.

It’s the black stuff you see in the grout lines in your shower, on damp walls, and outdoors on the surfaces of decking boards and painted siding, especially in damp and shady areas.

Mould vs dirt: It can sometimes be hard to distinguish whether a surface has mould spores, or if it’s just dirty.

To test for mould and mildew, put a few drops of household bleach on the blackened area.

If it lightens after one to two minutes, you have mildew.

If the area remains dark, you probably have dirt.

Mould in a rental property: Who is responsible?

When determining who is responsible for fixing or paying to fix a problem with mould in a rental property, a lot comes down to who or what contributed to the problem.

In cases where mould is caused by condensation, whether that be as a result of heating, showering, clothes drying or the like, it is likely to be the responsibility of the property's occupants (the Renter/Tenant).

House Mold3

Where we find roof leaks and rising dampness, it is likely to be the property owner’s responsibility to make good the mould (the Residential Rental Provider/Landlord).

Like most things in life though, not everything is clear cut and in many cases, you will find that there are actually a number of contributors to mould development in a property.

Here I’ve put a list together of the steps both property owners and occupants can do to mitigate mould damage.

How to avoid mould build-up on your property

Here are six steps that a property owner can take to reduce the risk of mould damage in their property:

1. Maintain your roof

It makes sense that the first place to start would be with your roof, seeing as this is where most properties have an issue when the rain sweeps in.

You should regularly inspect the roof for any damage or leaks and repair any damage.

2. Clean gutters, downpipes and drains

Make sure that your property’s gutters are regularly cleared out and cleaned to prevent leaks.

This includes clearing debris, leaves and any blockages and checking the pipes for damage or holes.

3. Maintain windows and fly-screens

Water can easily get in through a damaged window or fly-screen so it's essential to keep on top of any repairs needed and to ensure they’re in good working order.

Windows Mold

4. Maintain the outside space around the house

From trees and shrubs to pergolas and fences, it’s as essential to maintain the outside of your property as it is the inside.

When heavy rain and wind come in, external structures and greenery could take flight and cause damage to the house.

Or sometimes an external structure could be encouraging water to flow into the property.

Make sure that trees, shrubs and garden beds are kept free and clear of the building itself to allow light and air in and around the building.

5. Make sure exhaust fans are working properly

Exhaust fans work wonders to remove moisture from the air, but only if they’re working effectively.

If the exhaust fans aren’t easily reached, you may want to engage a professional to clean them annually.

Likewise, you might want to install or supply a dehumidifier on the property.

6. Mould-resistant paint

When painting mould-prone areas, like bathrooms and laundries, invest in good quality mould-resistant paint.

bulb icon

Tips: If the mould persists, call in a professional.

House Mold4

Here are five steps that a property’s occupant can take to reduce the risk of mould damage:

1. Keep the exhaust fans clean

Make sure that you clean and use the exhaust fans; not just those in the bathrooms and toilets but also the fans in the kitchen and laundry as a lot of moisture actually comes from cooking and clothes drying!

2. Air the property as much as possible

Leave your windows, doors and curtains open when you can to ensure that you have sufficient natural light and airflow to dry out the water created by condensation.

It’s tempting to close doors and rooms off to help heat your home efficiently but it’s important that you also open those doors during the day to allow air to circulate.

If you have a split system, you can also try running it on the dry cycle for the first or last hour of the day.

3. Remove excessive condensation

When the weather is exceptionally wet, even an exhaust fan or airing the property isn’t enough to keep the moisture at bay.

The next step would be to regularly wipe over window sills and skirting boards to remove excessive condensation.

There are also a number of moisture-absorbent products available from your supermarket, perfect for placing in wardrobes and cupboards.

House Mold5

4. Limit the number of indoor plants

It’s important to be mindful of the number of indoor houseplants you have, as they too will contribute to the amount of moisture in the air in your home!

5. Clean regularly

Regular vacuuming, dusting and cleaning in kitchens and bathrooms help prevent mould.

The earlier you find and remove mould, the easier it is to keep it under control.

It’s much harder to remove mould once it takes hold.

bulb icon

Tips: If the mould persists, call in a professional.

Does my insurance cover mould damage?

In most cases, home insurance won't cover any damage caused by mould or for mould removal or cleaning.

Damage caused by mould/mildew/fungus/algae is a standard exclusion in most building and contents policies in Australia.

This means that if there is an outbreak at the rental, neither landlord nor tenant is likely to be able to claim on their insurance for any damage.

That’s because some mould growth is almost unavoidable, especially in more tropical areas of Australia, and it doesn't usually cause any damage if taken care of quickly.

That means that whoever is responsible for the presence of mould at the rental is responsible for the cost of cleaning, repair or replacement.

But you should ensure you have insurance in place in case your rental property suffers from severe or unrepairable damage thanks to storm or wet weather damage.

Make sure you take the cover out well before the extreme weather event has happened, make sure the policy is up to date and sufficient to cover possible losses and that it covers loss in the event of weather events (there might be exclusions you’re not aware of).

House Mold6

I have mould, what do I do now?

Mould is unlikely to die out on its own – you need to have it cleaned away.

If the mould is widespread (over one square metre) or identified within structures, a specialist cleaner will need to be engaged to sort out the problem.

You or your tenant should only attempt to clean up minor outbreaks of surface mould, for example, if it is in a cupboard or wardrobe or a small patch on a wall or on bathroom tiles.

Mould can be removed using several products including bleach (only effective for surface mould), borax, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, detergent, baking soda, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, oil of cloves (though any essential oils may stain), anti-bacterial sprays that contain 60 per cent alcohol, anti-bacterial wipes treated with a disinfectant or white vinegar (one of the cheapest, safest and most effective cleaners).

Be sure to wear protective gear like gloves, a face mask and safety glasses/goggles.

Super-porous materials like clothing, bedding or other soft fabric articles like soft toys should be washed on a hot cycle.

Remember you have a duty of care when it comes to the health and safety of your tenants.

Breach that duty and you could be liable for their injuries or losses.

Be sure you or your agent do not ask tenants to undertake any cleaning that could pose health or safety risks, for example, that requires the use of a ladder or harsh chemicals (such as bleach).

This cleaning should be contracted out to professionals who are licensed/certified and insured.

If you do find mould, then we recommend that you:

  1. Remove all of your furniture and other items away from the area.
  2. Dispose of any items affected by mould immediately or carefully clean and dry them.
  3. Remove/clean mould from affected areas if reasonable for you to do so.

If you want to try to remove the mould without calling in the experts, visit the Health Department website, as most states have guidelines available.

For tips and tricks on removing mould please visit the following websites:

And remember if you are a tenant, and mould persists, contact your Property Manager.

Bad Weather

A final note

This summer’s triple-dip La Niña weather event should concern every property owner.

I suggest the best move people can make is to be financially storm-ready.

Make sure your insurance is up to date and that it delivers comprehensive coverage.

Most important of all is to confirm you have an updated insurance value estimate for your home that has been prepared by a qualified professional such as a quantity surveyor.

This is the only way to guarantee you have adequate coverage as a safety net against the weather.

About Leanne Jopson Leanne is National Director of Property Management at Metropole and a Property Professional in every sense of the word. With 20 years' experience in real estate, Leanne brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to maximise returns and minimise stress for their clients.

Water leaks and intrusion in a property are very serious for both owner and tenant. It creates sick building syndrome if not addressed quickly. A very serious cost to the asset and tenant. In my experience many are unaware of how serious the impa ...Read full version

1 reply


Copyright © 2024 Michael Yardney’s Property Investment Update Important Information
Content Marketing by GridConcepts