Toxic Mould

Posted on 14 April 2021 Back to News

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The two words that make up the subject of this article need some context. Used together, and especially in the context of buying or selling a house, they can be concerning. Mould or mold, as both spellings are used, is a naturally occurring fungus which is literally everywhere and is a component in the breakdown and composting of plant material. Mould helps in the beneficial process of breaking down dead leaves, trees, and other plant material. When mould starts to grow in an enclosed space, particularly where people live and work it can become toxic and affect the health of inhabitants. This is particularly concerning if someone has existing allergies or other compromising health conditions. Mould requires two conditions to grow and thrive, moisture and warmth and the more of either, or both, the more mould will usually result. 

 A house or place of business is usually heated so sufficient warmth is usually taken for granted and the usual culprit is excessive moisture. That moisture can be from a variety of sources including leaks in the structure, excessive humidity, plumbing leaks, flooding or accidental spills. Cleaning visible mould is not a cure as remediation has to include identifying and fixing the underlying problem. 

To further complicate matters, mould is not always visible as it can lurk and thrive behind walls and in other places that are not easily inspected. Further there are also thousands of types of mould. So called black mould is not always what you see as mould. Mould comes in different colours and even black mould has a number of different types. 

So, accepting toxic mould can be a problem, how does that affect your rights and obligations as a seller or a buyer? 

If you are buying you should, wherever possible, have a condition on having an inspection and satisfying yourself on the condition of the building, which would include checking for mould. You should also make sure the inspection is done by someone who has the qualifications and equipment to do a thorough inspection. An inspection report may result in a decision not to waive the condition or in amendment to the agreement to provide for remediation of the problem or a price reduction. 

If you are selling what are your obligations? Being asked by the agent or a buyer about the presence of mould, leaks, history of flooding or other problems requires honest answers. Hiding problem conditions may result in a claim for material misrepresentation and damages. Even if not asked, any condition that would ordinarily be a concern to a buyer usually requires a seller to disclose the problem or risk a claim when it is discovered. 

The legal rights and liabilities arising where there is toxic mould can vary and be influenced by a number of factors, but the health risks should not be ignored and the problem should be investigated and fixed. 

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