All houses must be in a reasonable state of cleanliness before being rented out. This includes being free from mould and dampness. Tenants should try to keep their house in a condition that doesn’t encourage mould and damp. This includes keeping the house well aired, and removing mould as soon as it appears.
Check for signs of mould and damp before moving in
Before you move into the property, you and the landlord should inspect the property together and note any damage in a property inspection report (part of the tenancy agreement).
Dampness is often from external sources – check that gutters are clear, downpipes and drainage are working. Where the house has a suspended floor, check that the ground is dry and that there are no leaks.
Use the inspection to look for any signs of mould or damp, raise any concerns you have with the landlord, and agree when and how these will be addressed.
When you complete the tenancy agreement, you can write in any conditions that you both agree on (as long as they comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 1986). Your tenancy agreement may contain more information about your responsibilities.
Understand your responsibilities
Once you move in, it’s your responsibility to keep your place clean and tidy. This includes keeping your home in a condition that doesn’t encourage mould and damp.
Be aware that you’re most likely to have problems with damp and mould in autumn and winter.
Air your home to prevent mould
A dry, well-aired home is easier to heat and healthier for you and your family. To air your home, open windows and doors whenever you can. Make the most of the sun’s warmth by opening curtains early in the morning and closing them just before it gets dark.
If you’re creating steam or moisture, either by cooking, bathing or using a clothes dryer, open windows and use any extractor fans.
Other things you can do to prevent mould and damp are:
- keep lids on pots when cooking
- wipe condensation off walls and windows
- hang washing outside, and make sure everything’s dry before putting it away
- leave wardrobes slightly open and pull beds and furniture away from walls so they can breathe
- keep the shower curtain hanging inside the shower or bath so water doesn’t drip on the floor, and wash the curtain every few weeks
- use an electric heater rather than un-flued portable gas heaters (gas heaters expel water as the gas burns)
- keep only a few plants inside.
Remove mould as soon as it appears
To protect the health of everyone in your home, remove mould as soon as it appears. White vinegar is a cheap and effective option to kill or clean mould. On painted surfaces, thin down the vinegar half and half with water to avoid damaging the paint or other surfaces that might discolour. Leave it for a few days to take affect and then wipe off the dead mould with soap and water using a clean cloth.
You can also use diluted household bleach (1 part bleach with 3 parts water mixed together) in a bucket of water to dispose of excess water containing mopped up mould to a drain. Your supermarket will also have a range of eco-friendly cleaners.
Use a clean sponge or cloth when washing off mould and rinse it often to reduce the risk of it spreading. Remember to the wear the necessary safety equipment such as gloves, eye protection and an appropriate safety mask when handling cleaning chemicals and when washing the mould away.
Keep mattresses aired to prevent damp
If you or anyone in your family sleeps on a mattress on the floor, this will cause damp on the floor space covered by the mattress. Damp can cause health problems, as well as maybe causing damage to the mattress and the floor.
If it’s not possible to put the mattress on a proper bed frame off the floor, be sure to air the mattress every day – remove the blankets and sheets and lift the mattress onto its side.
If the dampness is no one’s fault
If the house is damp through no fault of you or the landlord, or you can’t find the source of the dampness, who’s responsible for fixing the problem is uncertain. If this is the case, talk to your landlord.
Hidden sources of dampness left undetected long enough may cause expensive damage to a home. If there is unexplained dampness a landlord could bring in a qualified building surveyor to determine if there is a less visible issue causing the damp.