RLC in the Media: Renters’ rights in mouldy homes: can you get a rent reduction or compensation for damages?

What are your rights when it comes to mould – and how can you actually enforce them? The Guardian spoke with RLC and other tenants’ advocates to find out.

Katie Cunningham reports

Theoretically, tenants in all three of Australia’s La Niña-hit east coast states could be eligible for discounts and damage payments, but seeking them is complex.

Whatever part of the country you’re in, as with most rental disputes, your best bet is to create a paper trail.

Ned Cooke, a solicitor from the Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service at Sydney’s Redfern Legal Centre, agrees. “The key to all of these things is your landlord being on notice or aware of the issue.” If your landlord or agent fails to act, you can escalate to your state’s civil and administrative tribunal with as much evidence as you can muster.

If the mould is down to recent weather, it is unlikely to be deemed the landlord’s fault. Even when mould is a longstanding issue, determining its cause could still be tricky.

“A very typical situation would be a tenant complaining about mould and their landlord saying, ‘Well, it’s a ventilation issue – you guys aren’t using the bathroom fan, you’re not opening the windows’,” says Cooke.

If you’re after compensation in either NSW or Queensland, you must also show that you took reasonable steps to limit the amount of loss that you suffered – for instance, you didn’t leave a laptop in a place with a known leak.

If your landlord doesn’t immediately agree to compensation, you can ask them to arrange for an expert inspection and written report to determine what caused the mould. Of course, your landlord might refuse this request.

In NSW, Cooke says, “If it really turns into a fight, then it might be a matter of getting … Fair Trading to send an inspector out to the property.”

Read full article:  Renters’ rights in mouldy homes: can you get a rent reduction or compensation for damages? (The Guardian, 1 August 2022.)