Breaking the mould

Kathryn Tormay from Crown Paints discusses how anti-mould paints can help landlords and housing providers fight mould and damp, amidst a stubborn cost-of-living crisis

The cost-of-living crisis looks set to continue into this winter. With energy prices remaining high, tenants are, understandably, likely to keep their windows shut and heating off this winter. Unfortunately, that creates a perfect breeding ground for mould and mildew. 

As long as any pre-existing mould is eliminated beforehand, repainting with effective, anti-mould paints can help landlords tackle the health risks of damp and mould, while improving a property’s look and establishing a positive relationship with its tenants. 

Human, legal, structural & aesthetic: mould’s many threats

The law around damp and mould may be set to become more stringent for the private sector, after it was proposed that the Decent Homes Standard be applied to all rented properties. With the Chartered Institute of Housing currently also pushing for social housing providers to do more, it seems there will be pressure on all housing providers and landlords to step up their efforts to combat mould. 

As well as the build-up of mould leading to allergens, irritants, and sometimes toxic substances that can have a negative impact on the health of a building’s occupants, it can also cause structural damage to the property.

Mould can cause dry rot in wooden features, damaging skirting boards and floorboards. It can also lead to insulation becoming damp, and ineffective, exacerbating the problems of a cold, low ventilation environment. 

On top of that, it seriously impacts the property on an aesthetic level; damp and mould can ruin the look of a new paint job in a month. That may not feel as important, but it makes a huge difference to how happy and comfortable a tenant feels in their home. A happy, comfortable tenant is likely to stay in the property long term too. Depending on its severity, the aesthetic and structural damage could also decrease the value of your property. 

There are a multitude of factors, compelling landlords and housing providers to take action to prevent the build-up of mould this winter. Repainting, with the right products, can help them meet their legal obligations, protect their property, and – most importantly – fulfil their duty of care to tenants this winter. 

Tackling mould, in the cold

With windows closed, the lack of ventilation in properties, along with the cold, wet climatic conditions can create the perfect breeding ground for mould. 

Landlords and housing providers can compensate for this, to some extent, by making sure extractor fans are working and dehumidifiers are provided to tenants. Accepting that this won’t be as good as a warm, properly ventilated property, they can take a range of other steps to combat damp and mould. 

There are various anti-mould and mildew paints on the market, with properties which inhibit mould growth. Where these are designed with strength and durability in mind, they can also play a role in making mould easier to treat where it does occur. 

An example is Crown Trade’s Clean Extreme Mould Inhibiting Scrubbable Matt Paint. It has built-in fungicides which stop mould building up on its film. It is also highly durable, so it can be cleaned repeatedly and thoroughly without its finish being ruined. The paint can also be tinted in well over 400 colours, allowing landlords and property managers to fortify their defences against mould without compromising on style. 

Repainting provides a valuable opportunity to build dialogue with tenants. Residents, naturally, want to see their landlord or housing provider being proactive on tackling mould, and taking their thoughts and feelings into consideration. Consulting with them regarding repainting, or installing other anti-mould features, can be a great way of doing this. 

Repainting can be particularly effective here. Taking tenants’ opinions into consideration about aesthetic elements of the property, like colour choice, demonstrates a commitment to making them feel happy and comfortable, not just safe from hazards. It can also treat any remaining scars in properties that were badly affected by last year’s mould. 

It’s crucial, of course, that you only repaint once your walls are free of mould. Painting over it will obscure the problem, but it won’t prevent it from causing damage. Crucially, people can still become seriously ill from mould underneath paint. 

Learning from last year

Last year’s cost of living crisis caught the rented housing sector off guard. Landlords and housing providers didn’t have time to make provisions to compensate for the removal of heat and ventilation – the traditional defence against mould. 

This time around, they have more opportunity to prepare. The same problems are likely to remain relevant. So, it’s important to use other protective measures, to combat the dangers damp and mould pose to the health of tenants. 

Using anti-mould paints is a great way of doing this. The right products can provide extra protection against the formation of mould, and make cleaning far easier if any mould does form. And, repainting shows a commitment to creating pleasant and comfortable, not just safe, housing for renters. 

Kathryn Tormay is head of product at Crown Paints