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Mold infestation: What should you do if you find mold growing in your home?

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Ugh, there's mold growing on my walls! This gray pest is not only irritating, it’s bad for both your walls and your health. And as if that weren't enough, it could also lead to legal disputes and get you dragged into financial discussions with your landlady/lord. We will shed some light on the legal aspects, clarify your insurance situation and give you some pointers on how to avoid mold.

Having mold growing in your apartment is not only annoying and dangerous, it often leads to squabbles between you and your landlady/lord. Just calling in experts to clarify the situation alone can cost you several thousand francs. The person who will have to pay to remove the mold depends on who is determined to be responsible for its cause. This often devolves into protracted discussions and accusations by both parties – the last thing you need when you're already dealing with nasty mold in your home.

As varied as mold itself – the causes of an infestation

Leaky roofs, undetected ruptured pipes in walls or the build-up of condensation due to faulty thermal bridges: Mold can have many causes. It happens more often than you think. In Germany, one out of six people lives in an apartment that has mold. In 55 percent of the cases, the mold is found in the bathroom, and in 38 percent in the bedroom.

Unfortunately for us, mold is very undemanding when it comes to growing conditions. It takes very little for it to flourish. It loves humidity and wet walls. The perfect breeding ground for mold is when the air in an apartment remains humid over a longer period of time.

What is surprising is that not only are older apartment buildings affected by mold, but many newly renovated or even newly constructed buildings as well. The reason for this is because they are engineered to be increasingly airtight, which makes natural air circulation more difficult. The result is higher humidity in rooms and walls, providing the ideal growing conditions for mold and mildew. The way to keep mold at bay is to properly air and heat rooms. This way you’ll never have to deal with an infestation.

Mold damage due to faulty construction – who is liable for what?

If the mold infestation in a building was clearly caused by faulty construction, then the landlady/lord must pay for the damages. As a tenant, you have the right to a reduction in your rent for the time during which you cannot use the apartment as set out in your rental contract. The amount of the reduction depends on the extent to which you are not able to use the apartment.

If, however, there is evidence that you as the tenant caused the mold in the building, then your liability insurance will cover the cost, if necessary. Damages that were very likely to occur or were to be expected, or which were to be expected due to the gradual effects of temperature, weather or humidity, are not covered.

The legal situation has as many shades of gray as the mold itself

Notify your landlady/lord as soon as you discover mold. Ideally, you should do this in writing. And take photographs to document the progression of the mold. Initially your landlady/lord may be very uncooperative or disinclined to seek a joint solution to this problem. Where mold is concerned, there can be a lot of finger pointing and bad feelings. All this can result in interminable discussions that can quickly escalate into legal battles.

If you have a mold infestation, request that your landlady/lord bring in an expert to make an assessment or report. Refuse to accept any blame until the causes have been definitively identified and there is a final report available.

How you’re covered for mold infestations

  • Teaser Image
    Household contents insurance

    As a rule, mold damage is not covered under household contents insurance. But, if the fungal infestation is due to previous water damage which was already insured under household contents insurance, then the damaged furniture is covered as well.

    More about household contents insurance
  • Teaser Image
    Liability insurance

    If your landlady/lord is responsible for the mold infestation, then she/he is liable for the damage that has been identified. Although mold damage is not generally covered under liability insurance, it still makes sense for tenants to have it.

    More about liability insurance

Mold puts your health at risk

Poor air quality and a foul smell are the first signs of mold in your home. Often you won’t see any of the typical gray spots on the wall. Infestations are sometimes not visible at all and can hide in your walls or behind furniture that has been pushed up close to the wall. The invisible spores will nonetheless spread throughout the room and over time throughout your entire apartment or house. A small concentration of mold poses no risk to your health. But once the concentration reaches a certain density, it puts a strain on your respiratory tract and is bad for your health in general. Mold in the bedroom can be injurious over a longer period of time because this is where we spend most of our time.

Symptoms range from sleep disturbances and problems concentrating, to inflammation of the mucous membranes and difficulty seeing and breathing, to sore throat, eye irritation and fatigue. But headaches, joint pain and digestive disorders can also develop. Particularly annoying is the fact that it is not easy to establish a direction correlation between these symptoms and a mold infestation. Let alone prove one.

How to avoid a mold infestation

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you already have a significant amount of mold in your apartment, experts advise that you have it removed immediately. In areas where there is a smaller amount of mold, it's best if you wash the moldy spots with a five-percent caustic soda solution and 80% alcohol. Make sure to protect your eyes and skin while using. If the mold is widespread, you may have to replace the carpet, resurface the walls or even replace incorrectly installed insulation. You will need professionals for this. We have compiled a list of five tips so that it won’t come to this in the first place. 

Our five tips

Tip 1: Air out your rooms. Again and again and again.

Especially after you shower, bathe or cook. But even watering plants or running the dryer can raise the humidity. Doing yoga or working out at home can also cause the moisture level in your home to go up.

Air out your house three to five times a day – even if it’s cold or rainy out. Make sure that the air in the room is completely replaced by outside air at least once. This takes between five and ten minutes each time you air the room completely. Do not leave the windows cracked open for a long time because this does not air the room out completely. And it cools down the walls, which makes them more prone to condensation.

Tip 2: Heat your rooms the right way

Cold rooms are more conducive to mold than heated rooms. So make sure that your rooms are at least 16 degrees Celsius. The ideal temperature is between 19 and 20 degrees. Air that is too warm absorbs water vapor, which can also cause mold to grow. Even in winter you should never heat your rooms to over 20 degrees.

Tip 3: Different room temperatures

Try to ensure that there is no more than five degrees difference in temperature between any of your rooms. So always keep the doors to cooler rooms closed because the humidity quickly causes condensation to form on the walls. And this provides the optimal growing conditions for spores, mold, etc.

Tip 4: The right level of humidity

In addition to fresher and warmer air, you also need to pay attention to the level of humidity. This is a problem particularly in new buildings because there is still a lot of humidity left in the walls or attic as a result of construction. If you want to be really safe, you can use a thermo-hygrometer to find out the exact level of humidity. Somewhere in the range between 40 and 60 percent is ideal.

Tip 5: Reach out to a specialist

Bring in the professionals. Many types of mold damage can only be removed and remedied by a professional. Oftentimes the damage is detected rather late, which makes it difficult to clean it thoroughly. There are bound to be some mold experts available in your region. Contact one to ensure the best results.

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