Mould is a type of fungi which thrives in warm, humid environments. Mould emits spores into your indoor air that contain mycotoxins, which can cause respiratory reactions and are particular problematic for people with allergies or asthma.
Those black marks you see on the walls is mould waste and there is likely a much bigger problem hiding behind it. A severe infestation can be detrimental to your health and everybody has a right to live in a healthy environment.
Harmful effects of mould
Regularly breathing mould spores floating in the air can have harmful effects on your health particularly for the elderly, children, asthmatics and people with compromised immune systems.
Mould can cause throat, eye and nose irritations, breathing problems and allergic reactions for some people. Some forms of mould also produce ‘mycotoxins’, which can have serious health consequences in cases of prolonged exposure including neurological problems and even death.
Mould can also destroy clothing and household items such as mattresses and furniture and it can be difficult to eradicate if left unchecked.
Causes of mould in a strata unit
There can be a number of reasons for the occurrence of mould in a unit, with all of them involving water. Mould can arise due to
- A burst pipe or leak coming from outside the unit, such as from a unit above.
- The temperature difference between the heated interior and cold exterior of a building in winter, which can form condensation on walls and windows.
- Hot showers on cold mornings where further condensation can cause mould to form on bathroom walls and ceilings, particularly when an exhaust fan is not used.
- Windows being closed during the day while occupants are out.
- Units that don’t receive much sun during the day.
To survive, mould requires wet or damp conditions and temperatures between 10 and 40 degrees. Humidity, poor ventilation and condensation are all contribute to an environment where mould can thrive.
Who is responsible for damage caused by mould in a strata property?
In a strata title property responsibility can be difficult to determine and depends largely on where the mould is located and what the cause is.
If it’s caused by a plumbing leak and the plumbing is on common property or in plumbing shared with other owners, in both instances the body corporate is responsible.
If it’s part of the unit’s own internal plumbing it is the lot owner’s responsibility.
The common property boundaries of a lot are generally defined by the upper floor surface (not including carpet), the under surface of the ceiling and all external or boundary walls, including doors and windows.
If the cause of the mould is located outside any of these boundaries (including inside the boundary walls), the body corporate is responsible for repairs.
If the cause of the mould is within these boundaries, such as internal plumbing leaks or poor ventilation, then the lot owner is responsible for the damage and clean-up costs.
Tenants and Landlords
For tenants the landlord would normally be responsible for ensuring a healthy, mould-free environment unless the tenant’s own actions or inactions were the cause.
However, this situation is a matter for the rental agreement and is not a body corporate issue. For more information on tenant’s rights and responsibilities regarding mould visit the Residential Tenancies Authority’s website.
How to remove mould?
A simple, more gentle way to remove mould from your home is by using white distilled vinegar. To make your solution, pour it into a spray bottle without watering it down. Spray your vinegar onto the mouldy surface in your home and leave it for an hour before wiping it clean with water.
If you’d prefer to go down the chemical route, bleach will kill mould spores on the surface of your affected surfaces – but vinegar is strong enough that it will kill the mould at the roots.
Tips on preventing mould
Here is what you can do to prevent mould.
- Always run your exhaust fans and/or open windows while you are showering, cooking or using the dryer. Clean your exhaust fans regularly to ensure they don’t get clogged up.
- Leave the exhaust fan running for at least 10 minutes after your shower or bath to clear the steam out of the room. If you have a heat lamp, run this for 10 minutes as well especially on cooler nights and mornings.
- Open a window when you can and let in the natural light. Use Damp-Rid in smaller areas like cupboards.
- A dehumidifier is a great way to take moisture out of the air to bring the relative humidity below the level required for mould growth.
- You can clean smaller mould infestations with a solution of 1.1 white vinegar and water. The anti-fungal properties in the white vinegar will treat of all types of mould. Just spray onto the affected area, leave for at least 20 minutes and wipe down.