Irish Times Property Clinic 17th day of November 2022.
Publishing Date; Thursday the 17th day of November 2022.
Q Last year there was a leak from the apartment above mine, this lead to issue in both my bathroom and bedroom. At the time my landlord painted over the walls but the paint has since cracked and mould has appeared. The mould has also spread to items within my wardrobe. Who is responsible for removing the mould and repairing the damage done? Is this an issue for my landlord or the management company?
A. Experiencing mould again may be due to, but not limited to, one of the below examples as water can present in the same place from multiple different sources over time. The bathroom, hot press and kitchen above you has an array of appliances and facilities that can fail over time. Mould is a fungus that can be harmful to you. It needs to be treated so that is removed from your home. Early mould staining can be saved with a variety of vinegar based products but some clothing may not be salvageable.
You are obliged to notify your landlord of the matter in writing to afford them the opportunity to resolve the issue for you. Under the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 last updated in August 2022, your landlord must keep the property adequately ventilated and free of damp. If you are unable to have an appropriate resolution from your landlord to resolve the issue you may refer the matter to the Local Authority for enforcement or the RTB.
1. Your landlord is a member of the OMC and is the point of contact with them to report damp ingress for you. If the water is emanating from the common areas, the OMC is required to rectify the issue and make good any damage. If covered for water escape, a claim can be made off the block policy for costs associated with remedial works.
2. If the property is damaged as a result of a leak emanating from the property above the onus is on the property owner above to resolve the issue. The OMC or their agent may assist them in this regard with arranging search and trace plumbing works and liaising with loss adjusters and insurance providers. Some developments do not have cover for water escape, if they do your landlord may claim off the OMC block policy. The property owner above may also make a claim if they also suffer loss. The OMC will then pay out to the claimants less the excess. Your landlord may decide if the excess is too high to claim for their damages off the property owner above if evidence is available to show that water emanated from that property and damaged theirs. An OMC block policy will not cover defective workmanship and as such will not provide cover if this is the case. If the property owner above is not taking action the OMC may do so under Section 13 of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011.
3. It may be the case that the leak is intermittent and requires better investigation to source the cause. Your landlord may have in good faith believed that the matter was resolved. Examples include a full bath causing the overflow to drain away water and is not correctly connected, or a seal can fail with dead weight. Some plumbers can miss this by running the water without standing in the bath or shower tray. Drying clothes in a bathroom or bathing children can direct water to areas not sealed. A kitchen appliance that has failed or is not plumbed correctly and used irregularly can also be difficult to identify. Having the occupants present at the time of the investigation will narrow the focus on the behavioural occupation of the property to identify intermittent leaks.
4. The leak may have been stopped but may not have been correctly treated. Adequate drying time and ventilation is vital. You may have had to leave the window open for longer than you would have liked or turned off a dehumidifier prematurely. The trapped moisture allowed for mould growth as a result of your intervention.
It is unclear from your question if the source of the leak was resolved or if it was simply hidden temporarily. The appropriate treatment of a resolved leak is to allow the plaster work to dry for a few weeks with plenty of ventilation and with the assistance of dehumidifiers to quicken the process by way of eliminating excessive ambient moisture. Once dried a mould cleaner needs to be applied and the application of a stain blocker and then paint the affected areas with new fresh paint.
Paul Huberman FSCSI FRICS is a chartered property and facilities manager, and a Fellow of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
Author: Paul Huberman of H&H Property Management Consultants Ltd
Publish Date: 17/11/2022