Successfully managing mould and damp

Whilst the initial formation and subsequent growth of mould throughout a residential property can appear unsightly, it can also cause potentially serious health problems for the individuals residing within it. Here Zac Hemming, Founding Director of ICE Cleaning, shares guidance on the remediation measures that should be implemented to successfully manage and remove all types of mould in accordance with The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985, The Housing Act of 2004, and the more recent Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.

The primary cause of mould in residential properties is excess moisture. This may occur due to damp, rain entering the building, flooding, heating and cooling ducts, water leaks, wet floors and condensation.

If left, this moisture will form mould spots, which may rapidly spread, damaging the materials they grow on. Due to the very nature of kitchens and bathrooms, these are the two main areas where mould can form, however, if there are high levels of humidity and damp, mould can develop and expand throughout an entire property.

Mould can cause serious health problems, with babies, the elderly and vulnerable individuals most at risk. If inhaled, it can cause rashes to the skin, irritation to the eyes, nose and throat and also create breathing difficulties that may lead to more severe health conditions, including asthma. It is therefore paramount that social housing providers address any potential formation of mould throughout their housing portfolio as quickly as possible.

It is the responsibility of the tenants to properly ventilate the property to avoid the build-up of damp. However, there are a range of additional factors that must be considered and managed by the provider. For example, it is the duty of the landlord to provide the correct ventilation equipment within the house from the beginning of the tenancy, whilst also ensuring there are no structural problems, such as cracks, that may lead to damp and the subsequent formation of mould.

The different types of mould that can be found within residential properties include:

Penetrating damp

The most common form of damp to grow in rental properties, penetrating damp occurs when rain penetrates the masonry. This type of damp is most often found in older properties, but can appear throughout any type of residential building.

If penetrating damp is present, potential damage to the exterior may occur, including destruction of the brick and masonry, with marks of dampness and moss growth also appearing. Inside, mould will form, whilst the plasterwork may also blister and floorboards may rot. Penetrating damp is accompanied by a unique smell that is easy to identify.

Rising damp

This type of mould is a result of groundwater rising up through the walls and floors of predominantly older properties. The mould spots travel upwards from the flooring and skirting boards, causing paint to flake and wallpaper to peel. The edges of carpets may also appear darker in colour.

Rising damp may contain salts that damages the wall from within, which means significant work will need to be done to repair the wall and surrounding areas before any cosmetic work, such as re-plastering, can be implemented.

Black mould

The presence of black mould within a residential property can cause serious health risks for individuals if they have experienced long periods of exposure. This is because the spores contain harmful toxins that can create or worsen breathing problems, infections, allergies and pre-existing health conditions.

Black mould is a fungus that spreads across materials including plaster, wallpaper and paint. It is also accompanied by a damp, musty smell and is caused by excessive moisture and or poor ventilation. It can be prevented by ensuring there is enough air circulating throughout each room.

The importance of reactive remediation

Under the recent Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, landlords are expected to resolve problems as quickly as possible. Landlord association guidelines state that if there is ‘significant risk of danger to the health, safety or security of a tenant’ the problem must be dealt with within 24 hours. If the issue could ‘materially affect the comfort of convenience’ of renters, this timeline is extended to three working days.

If any of the above types of mould are identified within a property, they must be treated as soon as possible. In order to ensure the problem is addressed successfully, social housing providers must first ascertain the cause of damp and then assess and implement a successful strategy for ensuring removal and long term protection against the mould returning.

This is due to mould thriving off moisture, as the fungus will continue to regrow if the initial cause of the spores is not discovered. Here social housing providers should partner with mould remediation experts that will successfully diagnose the root cause of the mould and ensure the fungus cannot return.

This is achieved through mould sample testing, which determines the level of mould within the property by collecting microorganisms from the air and surfaces, even those that cannot be seen by the naked eye. This provides vital information regarding the air quality of the property and the potential level of threat to the residents’ health posed by the mould.

Once the source has been identified, non-abrasive chemicals that are combined with industry-leading technologies should be used to remove both visual and airborne mould spores and prevent them from developing further. This will also ensure no damage to the walls, floor or other materials the mould has infected and is growing on. By appointing a mould remediation expert, providers can be assured that all types of mould have been removed and that the source has been eliminated.

Once the work has been completed, providers should also receive essential documentation and corresponding guarantees to create a trail of due diligence that evidences all necessary remedial steps that have been taken and that the residential dwelling is safe to live in.