Tenants & Mouldy Hardwood Floors
Recognising that mould is serious for both tenant and landlord, in 2009 the American National Standards Institute issued new legislation to protect tenants against mould, mildew and rot present in the hardwood floors of their rental premises. Inspired by the US’s lead, the UK is now drawing attention to this problem, with particular relevance to a landlord’s responsibility to ensure that a rented property is safe for occupancy.
Mould is much more than an eyesore, it is also extremely detrimental to the floor, furniture and of course to the health of those who live in the property. Tenants who suffer from breathing problems such as asthma or bronchitis find these conditions are considerably worsened when living in the presence of mould and mildew. The fungi present inside the mould spores can also cause serious infections, allergic reactions and sinusitis, for which the elderly and the very young are most susceptible. The toxins in mould spores can be extremely serious, causing severe reactions in both humans and animals.
Although mould is caused by many different factors, the recent increase in flooding across the UK has significantly added to the problem.
As a tenant what can you do?
The first thing you must do is protect yourself and your family as soon as mould is spotted. Mould is distinctive in appearance, and long-term mould will cause floor boards to crumble along the edges, making them brittle. Mould is usually smelled before it is discovered, and the nasty stale and damp odour is likely to be the first noticeable indication of mould present in your hardwood floor sanding.
Contact your landlord as soon as mould is discovered. If he/she recognises mould as the serious problem it is, it may be that they will remove part of the mould for analysing. Any porous materials such as soft furnishings, rugs any anything else which has been in contact with the mould should also be taken up and removed. Materials which are non-porous such as furniture and metal coat stands etc. can be rescued if they are thoroughly cleaned to remove the mouldy smell and stored in a separate room.
Ideally your landlord should remove the mould themselves or employ a specialist wood floor company to do so. If however you have to remove mould from your wood floor yourself always use protective gloves and a high filter dust mask, eye protectors and one-time wear overalls. Never eat or drink in the area where the mould spores are present.
If you have any health conditions that make breathing difficult then you should not attempt to remove any of the mould yourself. If you have elderly people or young children in the home you should insist your landlord provide alternative temporary accommodation.
UK landlords should be aware of the possibility and increased risk of hardwood flooring mould due to an increased in flooding risk and should take the appropriate steps to eliminate such problems in the future.
New tenants are quite within their rights to ask to see a copy of the latest damp proofing certificate before signing the lease. Hardwood floor sanding and polishing that is continually subject to condensation may mean that a damp proofing membrane is needed. Your landlord should also hold a current certificate for this and any other type of work carried out. It is always a good idea for new tenants to walk through the premises prior to taking on a lease to check for leaking tanks, boilers or pipes as these situations are prime for causing mould and wood rot.
Whilst the responsibility of mould treatment undoubtedly lies with the landlord, tenants should also recognise their own responsibility to themselves and their family by acting quickly should signs of mould be discovered and insist the landlord moves with haste to halt this most damaging process. Health is always the responsibility of the individual and as such you should never delay action when mould is uncovered in any part of your rental home.