Renter's 'desperate situation' after alarming find in property: 'Not liveable'

The Sydney tenant has called out the 'sick cycle' many renters are forced to endure.

A Sydney renter's "desperate situation" highlights the "poor living conditions" that some tenants are forced to endure.

The renter, who has chosen to remain anonymous, has sighted health problems from black mould which started growing in their home only two months into the lease. After taking several measures to fix the issue, they are now at a loss on what to do.

"Moved in, 2 months into the lease noticed black mould growing on walls and ceiling. I tried to clean it, got dehumidifiers in every room — no result," they said on the Don't Rent Me Facebook group.

A photo of the black mould on the Sydney renter's walls and ceiling. A generic photo of the outside of a house.
The black mould in a Sydney renter's home has given her health troubles. Source: Facebook/Don't Rent Me and Getty/file image.

"To make it worse, it seems to have given me an allergic reaction (skin rush, issues breathing, itchy eyes). My REA [estate agent] was quick to get mould cleaners out, and they found issues with ventilation and a roof leak.

"So very likely the mould will grow back. Unless they fix the root cause — which would require a decent renovation."

Asking for advice on whether they "should break the lease", the renter now faces health issues, potential financial issues from breaking the lease and the possibility of having to find another place to live in Australia's rental crisis.

"Think it’s easier for them to let me break the lease and get new people in while the property still looks mould free after the clean... sick cycle," they added in the comments.

A photo of black mould on walls.
Many Aussies face dire living conditions from mould that can deem their rental 'uninhabitable'. Source: Getty (file photo)

Tenants recount similar experiences, offer advice

The renter's experience triggered outrage from others, who advised the person to "[not] risk their health" as mould can be deadly. They also gave helpful suggestions on what the renter could do.

"Surely there should be grounds to break a lease with no cost due to health conditions such as this. It’s not liveable," one person said.

"My sister broke her lease for a similar issue, she got her REA friend to help her write a letter so she could break her lease at no penalty to her as the unit wasn’t safe to live in," another said.

"Also report to council about the roof repairs and mould so they cannot re-lease the property without repairs taking place," a third person said.

If a premise is deemed uninhabitable, a NSW tenant or landlord can serve a termination notice with immediate effect even if during a fixed term, according to the Tenants' Union of NSW.

Landlord must note signs of mould/dampness at start of tenancy

The Sydney local was seemingly not made aware of the mould issue at the start of the tenancy — something the Tenants' Union of NSW says landlords and agents must disclose in the condition report.

"Whether or not they note the presence of mould/dampness, they [the landlord] cannot avoid the obligation to keep the premises in reasonable repair during the tenancy," their website reads.

Additionally, the repair should be classed as "urgent" if the black mould is causing health problems, according to Fair Trading NSW.

Many Australians forced to 'endure poor living conditions'

A new study has found a large majority of Australian rental properties are actually putting people's health and wellbeing at risk due to poor regulation of housing standards.

"This leaves many people with no option but to endure poor living conditions such as houses that are cold, damp, or mouldy," says University of South Australia Associate Professor in Architecture, Dr Lyrian Daniel.

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