A known health hazard, mould is a major bugbear for many landlords and housing associations. Managing and preventing mould is critical to ensure the ongoing health and safety of your tenants. Below you’ll find tips and strategies for reducing the chance of mould; spotting it early; and dealing with it effectively.
Preventing mould: structural issues or the human factor?
Once mould has taken hold it can be hard to shift, so it’s clearly better to prevent an infestation wherever possible. To reduce the risk of mould in housing association properties, it’s essential to recognise that there are both structural and human factors at play. Structural factors are physical aspects of the building which may encourage mould to grow, typically by creating a damp atmosphere and include poor ventilation; leaking roofs or pipes; and rising damp. Human factors are the ways humans create moisture inside buildings and/or fail to let it out. They include normal human activities such as breathing; showering and washing; laundry; and cooking.
As a landlord, housing associations often find it easiest to use structural solutions to mitigate human factors, such as installing automatic extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms; building in trickle vents or airflow bricks; installing central heating; and so on. To prevent mould and damp problems, its essential to consider new works and renovations for their ventilation properties – new windows, for example, can improve heating efficiency yet reducing drafts can limit ventilation if trickle vents are not used.
Encourage the reporting of even minor signs of mould as they often hint at more serious damage. Mould is often the first visible sign of a slow leak in a pipe or roof, and should always be taken seriously. Routine inspections of the property should include common mould risk areas, such as bathrooms, kitchens, basements and attics. It is well worth training everyone who enters your properties on your behalf to recognise the early signs of mould and damp as mould can take hold in as little as 24-48 hours after a damp problem begins. Tackling mould early is half the battle.
Small incursions can be treated as part of routine maintenance or by the tenants themselves. However, large patches of mould, particularly those over 1m (3 feet) square should be handled by professionals as moulds can release toxic spores which can have serious heath implications. Mould should be treated as rapidly as possible. That said, it is also essential to uncover the cause behind the mould as there may be hidden damage which needs repairing. Common culprits include: leaking pipes or roof tiles; damage or wear to the sealant around the bath, sink or shower; lack of ventilation, particularly in the kitchen or bathroom; lack of insulation; lack of heating or heating not used as too expensive; windows that don’t open or aren’t opened due to fear, lack of heating, or outdoor temperatures. Where severe water damage exists or damp has taken a strong hold, professional drying may be required to bring the property back to its normal levels of humidity and prevent mould recurring.