Mould House

Reporter: Madeleine Kennard

Mould can be very toxic.

Houses infested with mould, tenants preferring the unknown to living with this, in this leafy Sydney suburb with million dollar plus homes.

Birgit Stewart has rented here for the past ten years, two years ago her health started to rapidly deteriorate.

She believed it was from the infestation of mould growing inside the home.

"I get chronic lung pains and in here as well and in the lungs and they put me on Metatrexalate about six weeks ago I had another episode where my toe went numb and breathing problems I have been having respiratory problems for years." Said Birgit

"You can see it is just black toxic mould creeping closer and closer into the middle of the room.

All these marks here are likely to be caused from mould and as you can see it is all over the place." Said Birgit

Frustrated, sick and no help from her real estate agent, Birgit contracted an external mould and environmental scientist to evaluate the property. The results revealed the house is categorised as a level four contamination.

Level one is normal or good environment and level four is the highest amount of contamination. To have a level four house you need more than 25 square metres which is colonised with mould in a house you would probably have a whole ceiling or a whole wall to have a type shape or form of mould.

Dr Heiki Neumeister-Kemp (new-master) is from mould testing laboratory Mycoloiga. She says mould becomes hazardous when the small spores that are released into the air are inhaled, they can latch on to the lung making breathing difficult and painful.

We find mould in houses when we have a type or shape of moisture it can be as simple as condensation or you let your bath tub overflow heavy rains or rising or falling damp.

"We didn't notice it was there until I was cleaning for our 6 week house inspection and I cleaned a lot of the mould off and I showed it to the agent and from there it just got worse and worse and worse." Said Claire

Claire and Alistair Fremantle are tenants who also lost their home and possessions to mould.

"We're living out of a suitcase, we've got our two young kids and we've got a few items of clothing between us and a few toiletry items, that's all we were able to take with us." Said Claire

Their kids started to suffer from bronchitis, testing revealed that 40% of their bedroom was covered in mould- even their pillowcases.

"I remember touching their blankets and they would be damp during the night because the humidity was so high, so they were breathing in that moist, mouldy air, all night long for weeks until I realised." Said Claire

Tenants should expect to have the property they're renting in the standard that they first walked through the door.

Don Jones the acting commissioner of NSW Fair Trading and says tenants have rights to complain if the feel they are being hardly done by.

If you don't think you are getting anywhere with your landlord you should talk to the consumer affairs agency and see what we can do for you , there are tenancy advisory services in most states.

Claire and her family managed get out of their 12 month lease and Birgit plans to take the Real Estate Agent to the tribunal.

"Who is to blame?" Said Madeleine

"I have been asking that myself is it the Real Estate Agents or is it the person that actually owns the house."Said Birgit

They need to be more vigilant about checking for these kinds of problems, getting building inspectors to check out the structure of the house to make sure when the rains come nothing like this can happen.

Further Details


Tenants Advice Service - WA