Rental complaints surge amid Sydney mould outbreak

Sydney residents have been fighting a sudden outbreak of toxic mould in their homes after the summer of record rains, with disputes emerging between tenants and landlords over who should foot the bill for damage.

With reports of mushrooms growing on walls and mould spores thriving in the unusually high indoor humidity, rental complaints have surged.

NSW Fair Trading data showed more than half the 359 tenancy complaints and a quarter of the 1992 written inquiries received in the first three months of the year related to maintenance and repairs.

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The majority of these complaints were due to severe water and mould problems, a Fair Trading spokesman said.

Image of mould in a Sydney home. Provided by Matt Reardon of Mould Buster.

Tenants also reported properties were listed for rent without being cleaned first, despite landlords having a responsibility to provide a safe environment for tenants.

Matt Reardon from Mould Buster said he was receiving hundreds of calls each week from Sydneysiders impacted by mould.

He said many of these were from renters who had been told by property managers that the problem “was their fault.”

“Rentals are horrendous,” Mr Reardon said. “I have had people ring me in tears.

“People ring me saying, ‘I’m sick, the kids are sick, the agents tell me it’s all my fault’.”

Image of a mushroom growing from the ceiling at Ms Bath’s house.

Mr Reardon said the unseasonable level of damp and cold this winter meant Sydney’s mould problem could continue well into spring, with double brick properties built low to the ground the most vulnerable.

Cronulla renter Rebecca Bath was horrified to find a mushroom growing from a crack in her ceiling after more than 10 calls for maintenance on a leaking roof went unactioned over 14 months.

She lodged a complaint with the NSW Fair Trading before the agent arranged for the repair.

In the Northern Beaches, Anna Tsitses came across several mouldy properties when attending open inspections last month.

“One place, you couldn’t see out of the screen – it was putrid,” Ms Tsitses said.

Anna Tsitses with her daughter, Ava. Picture: Justin Lloyd.

Ms Tsitses asked the property manager if the mould would be cleaned, and she replied “Oh, well, I don’t know – I could ask.”

RentRabbit co-founder Ben Pretty said renters were fed up with landlords not addressing mould problems.

“Almost every day, we receive comments from frustrated tenants, who can’t understand why landlords keep hiking their rent yet refuse to properly maintain their property,” Mr Pretty said.

“Some of the landlords are trying to pass it off as dirt.”

Danielle Bunton, national head of Property Partners: Different.

: Different national head of Property Partners Danielle Bunton said mould could be the responsibility of either the landlord or tenant depending on whether the problem was a structural or ventilation issue.

“If it’s a building or structural issue it would most likely be the landlord’s responsibility to treat and rectify the mould issue, however, it could be the tenant’s responsibility if, for example, they weren’t opening windows during showering time,” she said.

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Rental complaints surge amid Sydney mould outbreak

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