According to Universities UK, over 2 million students were studying at UK higher education institutes in 2016-17. There are many common concerns for students with rented student accommodation including unpaid bills or rent, getting deposits back at the end of the tenancy and dealing with house repairs.
A common problem that students come across in rented accommodation is mould. This tends to be a significant issue within student properties due to the number of individuals living in the same property and because the majority of the time the accommodation remains occupied by the tenant.
Reducing mould growth in student properties for many reasons is important. From a landlord’s point of view, damp and mould problems can damage the fabric and fittings of the property if it is left unchecked. If you are a student landlord, Citizens Advice says that dampness is likely to be your responsibility if caused by 'an underlying disrepair problem', which could include the lack of adequate ventilation.
If you are a student living in the property, mould can cause or exacerbate several health problems, including respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies, or asthma. It could also damage your belongings. If the accommodation is well-ventilated and in good repair, damp from other, avoidable causes could be your responsibility.
Here are 10 tips to help reduce mould in your student housing:
This is initially one for the landlord, an important one because well-ventilated rooms are less likely to develop mould problems. There are several different ventilation systems to choose from, including a whole house solution such as a positive input ventilation system, which circulates fresh air, as well as filtered vents or air bricks. Students should take care not to block off vents or air bricks with their belongings.
Leaks and other problems, such as blocked gutters, can cause problems, so it is essential to deal with them as soon as they arise. Depending on the cause, this could be the student or the landlord’s responsibility, but landlords should have the expertise or contacts to deal with such matters.
According to Bolton Council’s Housing and Public Health department, drying clothes indoors produces nine extra pints of moisture. While not always possible, drying clothes outside can help to reduce this excess moisture. You should also ensure that any tumble dryers are well vented. Self-condensing dryers that collect water in a tray or container do not need to be vented.
Opening windows, even a small amount, can have a significant effect in combating mould growth and condensation problems, introducing fresh air and increasing air flow. However, if you want to retain warmth and keep your heating bills down then or you want to go out, then you’re going to have to keep the windows closed, especially in the colder months. If they've not already done so, ask your landlord to have an extractor fan installed which offers good airflow rates and humidity tracking so that the extractor unit can go into boost mode when it senses additional moisture in the air.
Make sure that you use pan lids to reduce the amount of steam entering the air. Don’t leave pans to boil dry, and use the extractor fan if there is one. You might also want to open a window if creating a lot of steam; however, as mentioned above, if you're going to retain the heat in your accommodation and keep the heating bills down, then you'll want to keep the windows closed.
As with the kitchen, you should use extractor fans or open vents in the bathroom when showering or running a hot bath. It can also help to keep kitchen and bathroom doors closed, so that moist air does not spread to colder areas, where it can turn to condensation and make windows and walls damp.
Keeping the heat on a low level as a minimum can help to reduce the formation of condensation on windows and walls, which can lead to mould. This is because condensation is formed when warm, moist air meets a colder surface, such as a wall or window. Use timers to ensure that the heating comes on for part of the time if no one is at home.
Leaving a bit of space between the sides of a wardrobe or cupboard and its contents can allow air to circulate, reducing the potential for mould. For the same reason, you should also try to leave a gap between any free-standing furniture and the wall.
Houseplants can make homes feel homelier, but they can also attract mould spores. Over-watering can allow more moisture to escape into the air, lead to overspill or water leaking from drainage at the bottom of the plant pot and can also be bad for the plant. Aquariums or fish tanks should also be covered and properly pumped.
If mould develops in one or two areas, you can get rid of it with a mould removal product, often in the form of a spray. Read the instructions carefully and remember that this may only be a temporary solution if you are dealing with the symptoms but not the cause of your mould problems.