Important changes to abandoned goods processes and mould in rental properties - Real estate industry bulletin 249
1 October 2021
Important changes to abandoned goods processes and mould in rental properties
In this bulletin:
- Important changes to handling goods abandoned at the end of a tenancy
- Mould in rental properties
Important changes to handling goods abandoned at the end of a tenancy
Sometimes, even when a tenancy ends peacefully and lawfully, tenants may leave behind their belongings after they leave the property. When the tenant makes no effort to remove or collect these belongings, they become known as abandoned goods.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1987, a landlord, or their property manager, can ask the Commissioner for Consumer Protection to supply a written statement of the Commissioner’s opinion about certain goods. This opinion relates to whether the estimated value of the abandoned goods is or is not less than the total estimated cost to remove the goods, store them for at least 60 days, and sell them at private auction. These are referred to as Abandoned Goods Certificates.
Consumer Protection has recently adopted changes to the policy that relates to this part of the law. From 1 November 2021, the Commissioner will no longer issue Abandoned Goods Certificates.
This change of policy does not remove the landlord’s legal responsibility in the handling of the tenant’s abandoned goods. This responsibility includes the landlord, or their property manager, determining if the reasonable value of the goods is more or less than the costs to the landlord to remove the goods, store them in a safe place for at least 60 days and then sell them at public auction.
Further information on the handling of abandoned goods processes is available on our website.
Mould in rental properties
The ongoing cold and wet weather in parts of Western Australia are prolonging the risk of mould developing in a rental property. The damage that mould can cause to the property and a person’s health can be quite costly. The below information and tips may help avoid and reduce the impact of mould in a rental property.
What is mould?
Moulds, also known as mildew, are fungal organisms that multiply by producing very small spores. When disturbed, these spores are carried in the air and if they land in a place that provides moisture and a food source, they start to grow. Mould can develop on a wide range of surfaces. These can be on, within or underneath walls, ceilings, and other hard and soft surfaces in homes.
Common sources of moisture indoors include roof and gutter leaks, flooding, leaking and burst pipes, unflued gas heaters, and condensation from cooking, showering, and clothes drying.
People who inhale, ingest, or have skin contact with the mould spores or particles can experience new health issues or exacerbate existing concerns. These concerns can be asthma-like respiratory illnesses, sinus problems, chronic cough, headaches, tiredness, frequent sneezing, rashes, and watery, itchy, red eyes.
Damage to property
Mould can cause unpleasant odours and damage to a building and its contents. If left untreated, mould can cause structural damage as it grows into plaster, ceiling cavities, behind walls, in and behind gyprock, under carpets and floorboards. This can lead to expensive maintenance, replacement or management costs such as professional cleaning.
Landlord’s responsibility with mould
Mould caused by structural issues, such as a leak in the roof, a faulty pipe, malfunctioning gutters that overflow into the property, rising damp, lack of ventilation in the roof, or poorly working ventilation fixtures like exhaust fans or windows, will typically be the responsibility of the landlord to fix.
The landlord is required to keep the property in a reasonable state of repair, meet building, health and safety requirements, and ensure all repairs are undertaken within a reasonable time frame.
The tenant could serve a notice of breach if the landlord does not meet their obligations. It could also mean that the tenant may end the tenancy early without any penalties if the property becomes uninhabitable. Also, the landlord may be responsible for damage to the tenant’s property caused by any inaction.
Tenant’s responsibility with mould
Typically, the cold weather means tenants might hibernate at home more. This can lead to activities that create the perfect environment for mould growth. Steaming hot showers, use of tumble dryers, cooking delicious comfort foods like soups and stews, all while the doors and windows remain closed.
Tenants are responsible for keeping the rental property in a reasonable state of cleanliness, not intentionally or negligently causing or permitting damage, and informing the landlord or property manager of any damage to the property as soon as possible.
A tenant may be responsible for fixing outbreaks if their actions cause the mould. These actions may include not using exhaust fans or opening windows when showering or cooking, not allowing ventilation of a room when drying clothes inside, not drying water spills or wiping up condensation on surfaces, and storing large amounts of water-absorbent materials such as books, cardboard boxes and soft furnishings in a damp space.
If the tenant has caused the underlying problem that led to mould developing or hasn’t informed their landlord or property manager of an issue with the property, they may be responsible for mould damage and may have to compensate their landlord.
Preventing mould problems
In general, tenants and landlords can avoid mould by preventing unwanted water entering the property, limiting the amount of water vapour released inside the home, and ventilating processes that release water vapour.
You can help prevent mould growth by:
- Checking for potential problems during regular property inspections. Look for signs of moisture inside the property, such as water stains, condensation on walls and windows, and damp or musty odours.
- Advising the landlord of any mould concerns straight away.
- Scheduling routine maintenance, such as cleaning out gutters.
- Reminding the landlord of their obligation to maintain the property and fix any issues promptly.
- Advising the landlord of any things they can do to help, such as installing exhaust fans in bathrooms and laundry rooms, or extraction fans over cooktops. If tenants are to rely on windows for ventilation, ensure they can be secured if left partially open.
- Encouraging your tenants to adequately ventilate the property and immediately report any dampness, windows that don’t close properly, or leaks.
- Reminding the tenants to keep the property reasonably clean, dry and ventilated.
- Suggesting some simple ways to prevent mould from forming, such as leaving windows, curtains or blinds open to allow sunlight and air into the property during the day.
Building and Energy’s industry bulletin, Ventilation in buildings, will assist with understanding the ventilation requirements.
The Western Australian Department of Health provides information, including how to treat mould and dampness, on its website.
Additionally, there is information on our rental home maintenance and repairs page.
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