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The after effect: mould in your strata property

Much of Australia has been soaked. The latest flooding in Queensland and NSW is yet another climactic disaster the country has experienced in recent years.

But there is a serious after effect of flooding: mould. And the recent floods have seen its major impact on properties.

Prof Dee Carter, of the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, says Australians have seen a major increase in the mould in homes this year with the severe flooding following a humid La Niña summer. This had meant roofs, ceilings, and wood becoming more saturated and mould thrives on this.

In simple terms, mould is fungus growing on a surface that has been wet for 24 hours, aggravated by a high level of warm moisture in the air and poor ventilation.

The impact on a property can been disastrous. It can be present virtually anywhere, both indoors and out. It can grow in or on furniture, curtains and other fabrics (clothes), walls and timber.

Also, studies have shown that mould can impact on asthma and allergies. In extreme cases, people who suffer from immune deficiencies or weakened immune systems can have increased allergic or asthmatic reactions. It’s recommended you contact your health provider if you are concerned the mould infestation is affecting your health.

What do you do when mould strikes?

It’s important strata property owners or strata managers contact the property's insurer as soon as possible, not only to lodge a claim but also advise of any related mould damage.

The owners or managers should document everything with photos and videos. It will mean the owners can provide their insurer with a record of the damage. Also, they should prepare an inventory of the damage – the more detailed and extensive, the easier it will be for insurers to advise on costs to remedy the damage and may speed up the claims process.

Owners should not try to fix damage until an insurance assessor has viewed the damage.  However, if items in the house that are badly water damaged or mouldy they may be thrown out – just take photos or videos to support any potential claim. Soaked carpet , soft furnishings and mattresses should be disposed of as they retain moisture and encourage mould growth.

Ventilation is crucial after the flood. If the mould is minor keep the air flowing. If it’s safe to do so, open windows and turn on fans.

There are mould cleaners you can buy if the mould is minor. You can also use a mixture of white distilled vinegar/ or tea tree oil with equal parts water and spray the affected area with a spray bottle.

However, major mould infestation will require professionals to get rid of it. Owners and managers should discuss this with their insurer when they put in a claim. The affected area needs to be assessed by the insurer, some of whom have their own restoration panel to carry out the work.

FOOTNOTE: It’s not just “natural” flooding and the subsequent mould that could impact on properties. One of the most common strata claims is from internal water damage. A major problem is aging flexible braided water hose attached to a dishwasher or washing machine bursting and flooding the property. Some 1500 litres of water per hour may gush through the property and adjacent strata properties.