Condensation may not seem like the scariest of all potential intruders, but it could do damage to your property and your tenant. SARAH JUBB from Little Real Estate explains…
Consistently having tenants occupying your investment property is crucial to getting the best return on your investment, but there’s one tenant that you shouldn’t want residing in your property – condensation.
Condensation may not seem like the scariest of all potential intruders, but it could end up doing damage to your asset and your tenants – and you could be responsible for the harm caused.
What is condensation and why does it occur?
Condensation occurs when vapour turns into liquid. It’s most often associated with the moisture on your shower screen, or your windows.
It’s the result of the everyday activities of your tenants, and the result of external environmental factors.
Cooking, washing, bathing, and breathing cause moisture to be released into the air.
The air can only hold a certain amount of water vapour – and the warmer the atmosphere, the more moisture can be held in the air. So, if the air becomes cooled by approaching a cold surface, such as a mirror or window, the vapour turns into droplets of water – forming condensation.
How is condensation harmful?
Every property experiences condensation sometimes, but when your property seems to consistently experience this phenomenon, and it can lead to mould growth – and then you’ve got a problem.
Mould is fungal growth, and in addition to simply being an unpleasant presence in the home, mould can be damaging to the health of your tenants – and it can be detrimental to your property.
Your responsibility to protect your tenants
You must maintain the premises in a healthy condition. If mould is the result of a landlord’s failure to properly maintain the premises, the landlord can be in breach of their duties. The landlord is obliged to repair the problem, and could also be liable to pay compensation to the tenant for loss of use of the property and damage to the tenant’s goods.
When it comes to the health risks, not all people are impacted by the presence of mould in their living areas, but it’s a risk your tenants shouldn’t be faced with.
Mould produces tiny particles called spores. Spores are carried in the air and may cause health problems if inhaled by people who are sensitive or allergic to them. These problems could include a blocked nose, irritation of the eyes and skin, and sometimes wheezing.
Occasionally, people may have more severe reactions – such as rashes, headaches, sinus problems, or more.
Very rarely, people may develop a mould infection, usually in the lungs. But for any asthmatic tenants, inhaling mould spores may cause an asthma attack – which can be life-threatening.
Impact to the property
Excessive condensation doesn’t simply foster mould growth – it can also damage your property.
Condensation can run off windows to stain woodwork, or in serious cases even damage the wallpaper or plaster – which isn’t cheap to replace.
Depending on the location of the property, excessive moisture can freeze the insulation in your roof – where it could eventually melt and damage your plaster when warm weather comes, just like a roof leak.
Or it may help to form blisters under your exterior paint – leaving you in need of an expensive paint job.
What can you do?
Remembering that no property can be 100% free of condensation all year-round, there are several measures you can take to reduce the condensation build-up in your property.
- Check the roof for leaks and broken tiles.
- Fix leaky plumbing as soon as possible.
- The weepholes in aluminium frames can get clogged. If this happens, water will stand in the lower window frame sections. Check weepholes.
- Ensure there aren’t any leaking toilets, and that the seals in the bathtub and kitchen sink are undamaged.
- Fix swollen or crumbling walls, and remove buckling floorboards.
- Keep the property warm with insulation, draughtproofing, and heating systems.
- If you have treated a mould issue in the past, redecorate using quality fungicidal paint. Where possible, remove lining paper and wallpaper, treat the plaster and then paint or paper the area again.
- Install effective fans in spaces likely to be affected by condensation, such as bathrooms.
- Many interior finishes retain some levels of moisture. The interior finish is a critical factor affecting the growth of mould. Flat paints, plasters, and untreated wood are more prone to moisture absorbency than semi-gloss or gloss painted surfaces and treated timbers – it could be worth investing in these materials.
- Consider installing ventilation over appliances that produce moisture, such as dryers, or stoves.
- Install storm windows, or replacement windows with double or triple glazing.
Mould and other problems caused by structural faults or leaks are usually considered to be your responsibility, so it’s important you take the appropriate measures.
What should your tenants do?
Despite your obligations, preventing condensation build-up and mould growth in your investment property is a shared responsibility between you and your tenants.
The lifestyle factors of residents impact the amount of condensation in a property. So, you can’t do everything necessary to protect your property if you don’t live in it.
There are a few measures your tenants can take to prevent an unhealthy living environment, and damage to your valuable asset.
- Open windows and doors regularly to ventilate the home and reduce humidity levels.
- Maintain low constant heat when weather is particularly hot or cold. Continuous heating is better than short bursts.
- Clean the bathroom frequently.
- Dry off clothes and shoes before storing them away.
- Wipe away moisture on windows and walls to keep the home dry.
- Dry washing outside whenever possible. Alternatively, hang washing in the bathroom, keeping the door closed and the windows wide open.
- Always cover pans and pots while cooking.
- Keep bathroom and kitchen doors closed so moisture doesn’t escape into different parts of the property.
- Leave a small gap between the walls and your furniture. This allows air to move away from the bottom of the walls and circulate around the room. According to the WA Department of Health, if air lingers between furniture and walls, it can condense onto walls and could eventually form black mould.
- If tenants have a washing machine or dryer, they should ensure that it is vented correctly. From only one load of washing, two litres of water can be emitted into the air.
- Wipe down surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen after cooking or taking a shower to remove any moisture that has settled on the bench.
Ensure that your property manager is encouraging your tenants to engage in these measures to ensure their health, and your property are adequately protected from the threats of condensation and mould growth.
If you’d like to find out more about the importance of taking measures to protect your asset from the damage of condensation or you are seeking a professional manager to look after your investment properties – call Sarah Jubb on 02 9301 5603 and use our special offer.
General Advice Warning: The advice has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should therefore consider the appropriateness of the advice, in light of these objectives, financial situation or needs, before following the advice. We recommend that you speak to your accountant and financial adviser to help you determine whether direct property investment is right for you.