Lack of Heating and Insulation Leads to Mould

Section 45 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 outlines that a landlord must provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair and they are also required to comply with all requirements in respect of buildings, health and safety under any enactment so far as they apply to the premises.

As far as mould is concerned, this includes the Housing Improvement Regulations and the Healthy Homes Standards. If a landlord or property manager fails to maintain the property or comply with the Housing Improvement Regulations and/or Healthy Homes Standards, they can be liable for up to $7,200 in exemplary damages.

Housing Improvement Regulations 1947
Regulation 15 of the Housing Improvement Regulations 1947 states that every house will be free from dampness. If the premises have an inherent mould problem, the landlord has a responsibility to remedy the fault. Before the Healthy Homes Standards became law, Regulation 6 required that every living room shall be fitted with a fireplace and chimney or other approved form of heating. While Regulation 14 requires every property to have an efficient drainage system.

Healthy Homes Standards
The Healthy Homes Standards, which requires every new and renewed tenancy to comply with the regulations from July 2021, introduced further landlord measures to prevent mould. The heating standard, ventilation standard, insulation standard, draught stopping standard and drainage and moisture standard all combine to mitigate the spread of mould in rental properties.

Case Study

In a recent Tenancy Tribunal order, the tenants complained that the rental property was damp and mouldy from early in the tenancy. In evidence, the inspection reports noted that there was mould in the bathroom and on several occasions the landlord asked the tenant to clean the mould, run the bathroom’s extractor fan and open the windows after a shower.

The tenant presented evidence stating that despite following the landlord’s suggestions, the mould problem continued because there was no insulation, no ground moisture barrier, a water leak under the house and blocked gutters. After two years, the mould had spread to other rooms in the house and was particularly significant in the main bedroom. The tenant also provided evidence linking their two young children’s health issues to the mouldy and damp living conditions.

At this point the landlord, even though he wasn’t required to comply with the Healthy Homes Standards because the tenancy started in 2019, decided to upgrade the property to meet the regulations. The issue was that the property should have already met the requirements for insulation, under the Residential Tenancies (Smoke
Alarms and Insulation) Regulations 2016, and also have a heater in the living room and an efficient drainage system under the Housing Improvement Regulations 1947.

The Tenancy Tribunal found that the landlord had breached Section 45 by not providing insulation and heating and had failed in his duty to maintain the property because of the moisture and drainage issues.

The adjudicator said:
“The inaction by the landlord was intentional. The failure of the landlord to maintain the premises has had a significant impact on the tenants and their children.” “It is in the public interest for landlords to provide healthy homes for tenants to live in in exchange for the rent paid.”

As a result, the landlord was ordered to pay the tenant $1800 in exemplary damages, which is 25% of the maximum penalty.