Condensation and mould issues present a real problem for Housing Associations, especially as they have a duty of care to their tenants. The resident’s health must come first, and disrepair cases must be prevented. Andrew Cowlin from Airtech offers expert advice on how to both avoid and deal with this ever present problem.
Condensation and mould is an every-day problem for many social housing landlords. Not only does it wreak havoc with housing stock leading to costly redecoration but more importantly there are associated health risks for tenants.
In recent years a growing body of evidence has identified the dangerous impact poor air quality is having on our health. With mould on surfaces, comes mould spores in the air, which have been identified as a key cause of respiratory problems. In fact, some have described mould as the asbestos of the 21st century. This may sound extreme, however, there is research which illustrates a link to its effect on health in the home. The most recent is a major study from researchers at the University of Otago, Wellington (UOW) New Zealand, this has shown that leaking and mouldy homes may lead to the development of a first attack of asthma in young children living in them
Causes and Prevention
So with condensation and mould posing a real health risk to tenants what can be done? There are many variables that contribute to condensation and mould in a property. For instance, tenant lifestyle, such as drying wet clothes on radiators, can raise the moisture levels in the air. Add to this a lack of effective ventilation and this can result in high humidity levels. So a good place to start in prevention is with tenant education. At Airtech we can supply our mould information leaflets free of charge when working with a social housing provider so that tenants understand why they shouldn’t dry washing indoors or pile clothes or other items against an external wall.
Insufficient ventilation can also be caused by windows and trickle vents being kept shut, blocked Passive Vents or extractor fans being turned off due to noise or the perceived cost of running them. To ensure a property has effective ventilation, we advise installing fans with a dynamic anticipatory controlled humidistat which provide a balance of extraction and ventilation and reduce nuisance noise and unnecessary running costs. In addition, installing a non-switched spur means tenants cannot turn off the fan.
Another contributor to condensation and mould is lack of heating since warm air holds more moisture. However, the appropriate heating of a property by social housing tenants can be thwarted due to fuel poverty. Approximately 2.3 million families, 10% of households, live in fuel poverty which means heating can become a luxury in some instances.
Ideally it is better to heat a property for longer periods at 15-21 degrees rather than switching heating on and off, since boost heating is more costly and allows moisture to settle on cold external walls as a property cools. Poor insulation also adds to the problem since heat can be lost through internal walls which means it can be difficult to keep the air temperature above dew point allowing the water in the air to condense and increasing the risk of mould. Managing the temperature this way, as well as reducing elevated moisture levels will help in the fight against condensation and mould.
Many social housing landlords find condensation and mould a recurring problem, causing recurring costs. However, experts are on hand to offer simple steps that can guarantee that once mould has been removed it won’t return. At Airtech we run training courses to help landlords understand the causes of condensation and mould and to offer solutions. We can then provide free surveys to identify individual issues in tenants’ homes.
Meanwhile, if landlords have high profile cases to deal with such as disrepair claims we can offer peace of mind by providing a full mould treatment service with redecoration. This is a four-stage process covering everything in the affected room and comes with a full 3 year warranty against the reappearance of mould, when 15-month data logging fans are installed in the property. Airtech’s unique control+ data logging will record humidity and temperature levels in the home and can detect gaps in operation. This ensures the resident keeps the optimimum environment in the home to avoid condensation forming.
For less serious cases landlords can be supplied Mould Eradication Kits that can be used by the tenants to clean off the mould and are covered by COSHH. Mould eradication is very important if it is present in tenant homes. Mould cannot just be treated with household products or bleach since this just spreads the spores and masks the problem which will then come back quickly. It is important to treat it with a COSHH certified Mould removing solution.
Although for many landlords condensation and mould is a recurring problem, it is possible to break the cycle. With expert advice social housing landlords can avoid the blight of condensation and mould.