A MOULDY home can cause serious problems for its residents, and cold weather can make it even worse.
Around 11.8million Brits are living in mouldy properties, research by housing charity Shelter found earlier this year.
Mould and mildew are caused when there is a high level of moisture in the air in your home.
Typically, mould will only start growing on a surface that’s been wet for at least 24 hours so if there’s any damp in your home, you could be at risk.
The issue is usually worse in humid rooms, like your bathroom, which can steam up after a hot shower.
The problem can cause unappealing patches to appear on your walls, and could even affect your health.
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But there are ways to avoid the household problem.
Karl Parr, home insurance expert at Axa, said it's important to take mould seriously.
Sometimes mould damage can lead to needing to make an insurance claim on your house.
But, there are some steps that can be taken to prevent these problems.
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Here are his top tips to combat mould this winter.
Keep your house warm
Keeping your home at a consistent temperature will help condensation from building up on walls and windows.
Karl advises keeping the heating on at least 12-15C.
He said: "This will prevent water freezing inside pipes and will help keep air humidity and condensation levels low which reduces the chance of mould developing."
It will also keep warm air circulating throughout your house and helps water move more freely in radiators.
Make sure your house is properly ventilated
Condensation can build up from everyday activities like drying your clothes inside, cooking and showering.
This can cause mould if your house isn't properly ventilated.
Karl said: "Ensure that your home is adequately ventilated and check for obvious problems such as leaky pipes or blocked gutters which could be adding to the problem."
He also recommends that if you have a loft hatch, consider leaving it open to allow warm air to reach your water tank if it's stored in your attic.
Keep an eye on cracks and holes
Karl said other structural problems in your house can also cause mould inside your home.
Damp and mould can stem from moisture rising from beneath a building.
He added that these can be caused by problems with the property’s damp coursing.
Damp coursing is a barrier through the house designed to help stop moisture from rising.
Holes and cracks in brick pointing and leaking roofs can also lead to moisture going up into your home and lead to mould growth.
Karl said: "It is important to take mould seriously and, if there is doubt, contract professionals to help determine the cause of the problem.”
How to get rid of mould
If it's too late to avoid dreaded mould and it has already spread in your home, there are ways to get rid of it.
Use a spray treatment
If you want to tackle mould yourself, you can use a mould removal foam spray on the affected areas, leave it to work, and then wipe and scrub away using a cloth and a kitchen scourer.
Make sure you wear protective clothing such as gloves, a mask and goggles, and put a dust sheet on the floor to protect your carpets.
Using rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle every month or so can keep mould at bay.
This savvy mum pulls all her furniture out and sprays behind it – and she swears by the results.
She said rubbing alcohol is also great at keeping your bathroom free of mould.
You can buy a 500ml bottle of rubbing alcohol on Amazon for £6.
Prevent future problems
To stop mould from coming back, you should paint the surface with anti-mould paint, or ask your landlord to do it if you’re renting.
You can also use a temperature and humidity gauge to monitor moisture levels in your home.
This will help you spot if there is a problem.
What are your rights if there's mould in your rental property?
If you're renting your home, the government has set out clear rules for any landlord to follow.
Here are a few things to remember if you think your house isn't up to scratch:
You can't be charged admin costs or renewal fees
Estate agents and landlords are banned from charging tenants extra fees to cover administration costs, such as removing mould.
You may be entitled to a payout if your landlord refuses to carry out repairs
Your landlord is responsible for most of the repairs that need to be carried out on your home.
According to housing charity Shelter, these include fixing issues with the electrical wiring, gas pipes and boilers, heating and hot water, sinks, baths and toilets.
And RSH has confirmed landlords are responsible for dampness and mould too.
Tenants are responsible for repairing their own furnishings, such as a fridge or freezer if the property is let unfurnished.
You may be entitled to compensation from your landlord if they fail to carry out repair work within a reasonable time, or if your house is unfit to live in due to poor conditions.
This may be in the form of a rent reduction or a payout.
If your landlord agrees to this, Shelter advises you to get it in writing.
If your landlord won't agree, renters can take legal action to claim compensation either during the tenancy or after it ends.
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Renters can sue landlords over damp and mould
Renters in England and Wales can take their landlords to court over problems including cold and damp homes.
Landlords must already make sure that your home is fit to live in under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act and tenants can sue for compensation if their home isn't up to scratch.
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