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Tenants and Landlords: Beware Hazard of Damp and Mould

BY Solenco Reporter

Bricks and mortar provide us with protection from an increasingly harsh environment. But what if your haven of safety, your home, could unknowingly be causing you harm? 


Although a patch of mould may seem harmless as it first spreads into view, it can invade far more than the musty corners of a room. In fact, it poses a real threat to human health.


In 2009, a celebrity couple died only months apart, both from pneumonia and anaemia which were reported to be a result of the extensive mould found in their Los Angeles mansion.

Older Properties are at Risk

Michelle Dickens, managing director of TPN Credit Bureau, describes a serious case of mould that TPN attorneys dealt with in 2011. She says it was a stately home built in the late 1970s, with the quintessential wooden floors and pressed ceilings.


Although the family renting the property loved all the old features, something was amiss from the beginning. Their concerns were confirmed when the mother suddenly became ill.


No matter how many doctors were consulted, Dickens says no one could treat the seemingly incurable ailment that plagued her. It was only during the second biopsy that her doctors discovered mould spores in her lungs.


The family immediately moved out of the rental property and a team equipped with hazchem suits, breathing apparatus and testing equipment was sent in to investigate. What they found was disturbing to say the least.


With older, water-damaged properties, mould can flourish almost everywhere. While most cases are harmless to humans, in instances where the spores are inhaled, it can cause major illness.

The Dangers of Mould

Dickens says some types of mould are so dangerous they can cause irreparable harm and even death. Studies have shown mould or spore exposure to be more dangerous than intense exposure to heavy metals.


In this instance, as the property was inhabitable, Dickens says the tenants were released from their agreement without penalty or fault.  


The extent to which mould affects someone’s health is dependent on the type of mould, the amount of mould present together with the individual’s sensitivity to it and their existing state of health. 


Studies in 2003 of more than 1 600 patients who suffered from health issues as a result of exposure to mould showed that the patients experienced a range of symptoms including muscle and joint pain, headaches, anxiety, memory loss and visual disturbances, immune system disruptions, fatigue, digestive issues and shortness of breath. 

What Types of Moulds are there? 

Mould is a type of fungus which causes the breakdown of various natural materials. Not all mould is bad however, as it is beneficial in the production of antibiotics. The mould Penicillium, naturally produces penicillin which has saved an estimated 200 million lives. 


It can also cause disease due to one of three reasons: an allergic reaction to mould spores, the growth of pathogenic moulds in the body or toxic mould compounds called mycotoxins being ingested or inhaled. 


Allergenic moulds produce life-threatening effects and are problematic if you are allergic or asthmatic. 


Pathogenic moulds produce an infection if someone has a compromised immune system. The mould can grow in the lungs of an immune-compromised person and cause an acute response similar to bacterial pneumonia. 


Toxigenic moulds can have serious health effects. Mycotoxins are the chemical toxins found on the surface of the mould spore which is inhaled, touched or ingested. It can cause a suppression of the immune system and even cancer. 

Signs of a Mould Problem

Landlords who suspect but are not sure if they have a mould problem should look out  for a musty smell, buckled floorboards, water stains on walls, black and white blotches or discoloration on carpeting. 

What Causes Mould to Grow in the First Place? 

Mould requires moisture and warmth to grow and is often found in damp, warm areas. It can enter a home through windows, vents, doorways and air-conditioning systems. 


The most common place to look for mould in your home is in the bathroom and kitchen, especially around leaking taps and under sinks. Mould loves to grow behind appliances such as the dishwasher or fridge and in areas where condensation and humidity is high. 

How can I Protect my Property? 

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the following to avoid a mould problem… 
- Use a dehumidifier, no more than 50% humidity is recommended. - Ensure your home is properly ventilated. - Mix mould inhibitors into paint used on surfaces. - Clean the bathroom and kitchen using products that kill mould and mould spores. - Keep your kitchen and any dark, damp room carpet-free. - Replace or remove upholstery that has been exposed to moisture. 


Naturally, besides preventative measures it is imperative to ensure that a property is well-maintained at all times. One of the most important aspects is the early detection and rectification of any underlying sources of damp like floods or leaks. 


Dickens says landlords need to consider a few legal aspects in this instance. He says it is essential that their lease agreement stipulates that it is the tenant’s responsibility to timeously complete any repair work for which they are responsible. For example, where a tenant erects a washing line in the bathroom without proper ventilation and the resulting continuous damp causes a growing mould problem. 


Added to that, should the tenant discover maintenance or repair work that needs to be done for which they are not responsible, the tenant must inform the landlord in writing as soon as is reasonably possible. 


An example of this would be where the growth of mould is the result of fair wear and tear. If the tenant fails to do so, the landlord is entitled to claim damages for the repairs from the tenant. In this way, the landlord is protected from discovering that a massive mould issue has sprouted before it develops into a serious health risk. 

5 Common Indoor Moulds:

- Alternaria is a common allergen in humans, grows indoors and causes hay fever or hypersensitivity reactions that sometimes lead to asthma.  
- Aspergillus is found in warm, damp climates. It produces mycotoxins and can cause lung infections. 
- Cladosporium is mostly found outdoors but it can find its way indoors onto tiles, wood and damp materials. It causes hay fever and asthma. 
- Penicillium is found on wallpaper, fabrics, carpets and fibreglass insulation. It causes allergies and asthma, and some species produce mycotoxins such as penicillin. 
- Stachybotrys is often referred to as ‘black mould’ and produces mycotoxins that cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs. It is found on wood or paper products but not on concrete or tiles.

 

(Source: www.property24.com)

 July 10, 2017
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