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How To Use WeChat in Australia For Mould Inspections in Rental Properties

Life Before WeChat...But All The Same Familiar Questions: Will Mould Make Me Sick?

Several years ago I received a call from a young student who explained using Google Translate that she had recently leased a property and that she was not going to move in because when she picked up the keys she found that the main windows and carpet had fuzzy mould growing all over. The purpose of her call was to find out answers to common questions I regularly hear like:

  • Can mould make me sick?
  • What mould is dangerous?
  • Why is there mould on walls?
  • Can I break my lease because of the mould?

Over multiple calls and emails, and taking into consideration the language problems between us, I learnt that she and her mother had come out together from China to help get her setup for the start of the University year. She and her mother had intended to buy an apartment - but for some reason they had not found anything they liked, or that could be settled in time. In any case, the three months with her mother elapsed and over email she leased a new apartment close to her University from the same real estate agents that she was using to help her look for a property of her own. The problem is that she did not attend any open for inspection and leased the property without ever setting foot inside.

You'd have thought that the property manager from the same firm would show her some respect, especially since her budget for 'buying' was north of $700,000. By the time her mother returned to China, she had been paying rent on the new leased apartment for several weeks but had not yet relocated there as yet.

On picking up the key and going to the apartment, she quickly discovered that the 'beautiful, new apartment' that was advertised as 'recently completed by a developer' and 'had not even been lived in yet' was full of mould due to excessive window condensation that made the internal glass literally drip with water.

What It Looked Like

She called me in quite a state of distress and over multiple emails and SMS, I finally understood her predicament and arranged to attend to inspect. In any case, Google Translate messed up our booking and I attended on a day and time that was not what my student client thought...in any case, after more calls and trying to use simple numbers to re-schedule a day and time, I eventually got inside...

What the Real Estate Agent Said

It's easy to cover up a problem by hiring someone to say what you want them to say. In this case, the managing agent hired a firm that advertises "Free Mould Inspections". Companies that do this often focus on the simplicity of obtaining a "free detailed report". The well-know saying "There is no such thing as a free lunch" shows at once that free and quality are often polar opposites.Infact Wikipedia sums the problems up as:"You can only get something for nothing if you have previously gotten nothing for something." If one individual or group gets something at no cost, somebody else ends up paying for it. If there appears to be no direct cost to any single individual, there is a social cost.

And this sums up what the real estate agent ended up doing to the tenant. By hiring a firm to peddle poor quality advice, the agent fulfilled his or her duty under the Act to respond to the tenants' complaint, but in doing so discharged their responsibility in an unscrupulous way.

See how the managing agent (mis-)uses the "free pseudo-science" against the tenant. One would have thought that the managing agent would convey the problem back to the landlord and seek a more professional solution?

I should also mention that knowingly misleading either the tenant of the landlord is a serious breach of the Guidelines. For example, in Victoria complaints about property management/estate agents is made through Consumer Affairs.

In such situations it is also an option for the tenant to post a review on a site such as http://www.dontrentme.com/au 

This site allows the prospective tenant to search and review by address, agency or landlord to check up on other people's experiences. This type of review website lists dodgy tenancies and is another example of social proof in action, and often a last resort when a moral victory is sought.

What I Did For The Tenant

It was however easy for me to help her. All I had to do was take viable cultures from the internal windows - the ones the agent said weren't mouldy, take swab samples from the carpet (also that was said to be new) and air samples to petri plates in all rooms. The data spoke for itself.

Notably and at this stage of the dispute, the property managing agent personally blamed the student who he said must have caused it herself by not opening windows. The thing is she hadn't even moved in!

Using the same method as what can be found in the DIY Kits, I was able to make the mouldy windows visible on the Petri plate (using streak swabs from suspect surfaces) and you can do this for your own specific situation as well. The tenant was then able to use this information as well as the recommendations contained in our report to demonstrate that the mould was a long-term problem linked to intrinsic building faults (or defects) with the building. Really - all problems for the landlord and the developer and Body Corporate and not the tenant!

How The Tenant Used Our Data

Once the Petri plates had grown and I had written up the results, I sent her the lab report. She then sent this onto the property manager and to her solicitor (which you can read about below):

Which brings me to the point of this blog post: What if there was a more streamlined way to communicate and share building-specific data as problems are discovered?

Enter...WeChat

With approximately 1.4 million Chinese students in Australia, we have conducted a pilot showing how WeChat can be used to quickly communicate all the data I need as an environmental health consultant to help you - and especially if there are language issues. Just take a look at the increase in students in the graph below across the educational sector.

So, Tell Us What's Happening?

Ok, so I hope this story has demonstrated some of the things we can do for you. Now, it's your turn. Go ahead and connect with us and call or DM with your introductory details about your residential tenancy water damage or mould or indoor air quality problem and I guarantee to help you with practical and useful information.

Send Examples Of Your Problem?

You can send a combination of text messages, images, voice notes, video, file attachments, etc. to get your points across.

Let Us Guide You With Expert Advice

After you have presented your material that we can review, it makes it easy to guide you with practical advice that is matched to your problem.

I Say It, Now You Say It

There's a saying in coaching that you learn by example and through repetition. It's a simple model where: "I say it, now you say it".

Because our range of DIY kits allows you to accurately sample your living environment - it doesn't matter if you're worried about your air or actual mould you can see, or even if you just think something's not right.

Our kits provide my lab with the data allowing me to classify your home as NORMAL or HAZARDOUS. The range of possibilities between these two extremes easily follows from the science. This gives me the confidence to make a judgement about your home based on facts.

Once I say it, you too can say it with confidence. Now, when you talk to your landlord, or to your property manager, or to your builder, insurer, or even a co-worker, friend or family member, you can show them the evidence and now you're not persuading them to see it your way, you're actually demonstrating why your claim/s have merit.

Ready To Get Started...

If you're having a water damage or mould issue and want to get in contact with me on WeChat then here's how to connect. This is particularly useful for documenting aspects of your tenancy that we can help you with.

Send as much information about your problem and my team and I will try and find you an appropriate solution.

(Just remember I may be using Google Translate)

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