We've run the Warmbrook Cottage as a holiday home for the past six years. It's open 365 days a year. Never before have we had people complain about damp and mold. We've not noticed it when we're cleaning the place between rentals, and my wife who had a career as a District Nurse has a nose like a bloodhound. She hadn't spotted any problem.
So we were surprised when we received an evening call from the rental agency telling us our guests were complaining about severe damp and mold in the kitchen cabinet beneath the sink. They'd decided to leave before even staying the first night and wanted their money refunding. Not wishing to cause people to stay against their will in the cottage, we agreed the holiday company could release the booking.
It must be that some people are hypersensitive to mold, when the majority of the public wouldn't notice it. I've seen one report that this might affect 5% of people.
Here's an extract from a research website:
Mold allergy causes the same signs and symptoms that occur in other types of upper respiratory allergies. Signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis caused by mold allergy can include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Cough and postnasal drip
- Itchy eyes, nose and throat
- Watery eyes
... Generally, however, mold doesn't cause systemic infections except for people with impaired immune systems, such as those who have HIV/AIDS or who are taking immunosuppressant medication.
When we visited the cottage to check on the same evening, we found no damp in the cupboard, the wall was dry. There were some dark stains on the wall (inside the cupboard), which might have been historical mold occuring before we took on the cottage. We couldn't smell any mustiness, which had also been complained about. We even invited neighbours in to see if they could detect any out of place smells, but they spotted nothing anyway unusual. Our cottage is "Non-smoking" and we know the husband at least was a smoker, perhaps the cottage kitchen smelt different from a smoker's house. We don't know if the wife actually suffered any allergic reaction, or was just concerned.
We are at a loss to establish what triggered the reaction by the wife. Unfortunately they didn't raise the issue with us directly so it is difficult to know. If they had perhaps there was something we could have done to mitigate the issue. Consequently, this couple have ruined their week's holiday and we're left short of a Bank Holiday week rental, with no redress.
We're going to have the kitchen wall tested for dampness, though it feels dry and warm to touch. We'll also undertake some precautionary antifungal treatment on the old marks on the wall even though there's no evidence of recent activity.
We had a tech visit the cottage to test the area in the kitchen which had been reported as damp. He took a series of reading on the way under the kitchen sink. The wall had an average humidity reading of 5.5% with a peak of 6.7%. That is quite a dry wall, and active mold is unlikely. He reported some construction dust on the wall where the back of the cabinet had been removed for plumbing operations. He gave the surface of the area a precautionary wash down with antifungal solution, but did not think we had a problem.