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A breath of fresh air: Air quality guidance for landlords

As a landlord, the well-being of your tenants is a top priority. Beyond ensuring timely rent payments and maintenance, there’s an unseen factor that can significantly affect tenant satisfaction: indoor air quality.

To understand what this means and what you as a landlord can do to enhance air quality, we sat down for a chat with Francesca Brady, the CEO and Co-Founder of AirRated.

Up to FIVE times more pollution indoors than outdoors

Did you know that the air inside a home can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside? And, perhaps even more astonishingly, did you know that indoor environments that aren’t well-ventilated can have the same impact on your cognitive performance as two pints of beer?

As Francesca points out, air quality isn’t just a health concern; it’s a comfort and quality of life issue that can affect tenant satisfaction, tenant retention and the reputation of your buildings.

So, how come air quality is often so bad?

Well, sometimes, the culprits are not those you may expect. Let’s start by having a look at some of the things that can contribute to bad air quality and that can easily be mitigated by tenants.

  • Candles. Candles, while delightful, can compromise air quality. When burning candles, ensure your space is well-ventilated. Beeswax candles are preferable as they produce less smoke and harmful pollutants.
  • New furniture and carpets. New materials and new furniture can emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds). To avoid toxic materials, it’s essential to pay attention to labels. For instance, products with the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certification have undergone rigorous testing against up to 350 toxic chemicals.
  • Wood-burning stoves. Wood-burning stoves, with their rustic charm and cosy warmth, can be a delightful addition to any home. However, despite their appeal, they pose concerns as their emissions can compromise both indoor and outdoor air quality, potentially affecting health and the environment.
  • Dirty kitchen fan filters. Extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms play a crucial role in maintaining optimal indoor air quality. Over time, these fans can accumulate dirt and grease, especially in kitchens where regular cooking occurs.

Actionable steps for landlords to improve indoor air quality

We’ve had a look at some of the actions tenants can take to improve airdoor quality. Now, let’s dive into what you as a landlord can do to enhance the indoor climate. Turns out, quite a lot!

Encourage Second-hand Furniture

Encouraging tenants to consider second-hand furniture can be a win-win. Older furniture has typically off-gassed most of its VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are a major source of indoor pollution. Such small guidance can lead to a healthier living environment and enhance your reputation as a health-conscious landlord.

“Trickle ventilation is great for removing a build-up of pollutants and dust, and it manages humidity levels, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. It’s important to ensure it is not blocked.”

Francesca Brady, CEO of AirRated

Ensure trickle ventilation is not blocked

Trickle ventilation is small ventilation, usually placed above windows, that allows air to flow through even when the window is closed and locked. Trickle ventilation is great at removing a build-up of pollutants and dust, and it manages humidity levels, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Blocking these vents is something that should be avoided. 

Invest in quality stoves

When considering upgrades to properties, prioritising the installation of electric stoves over gas options and steering clear of wood burners is a wise choice. Electric stoves, in addition to being in vogue, offer a cleaner cooking experience, effectively reducing indoor pollution and fostering a healthier living environment. And Air fryers are great for indoor air quality! Gas stoves and ovens contribute significantly to air pollution in the home. Electric hobs or air fryers are much better alternatives.

Replace carbon filters

Carbon filters remove pollution such as NO2 from gas stoves by absorbing the gas to their surface. This means they trap the gasses rather than breaking them down. As a result, they typically become saturated after 12 months of use (or less, if you cook every day!), so these need to be replaced when required or they stop doing their job.

Maintenance is key 

By ensuring that extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms are functioning optimally and by regularly replacing filters, landlords can significantly improve air quality, leading to a healthier living environment and fewer tenant grievances.

“A well-informed tenant can actively participate in maintaining good air quality, reducing potential complaints and issues in the long run. Temperature and humidity sensors are low-cost tools that can help residents to understand their homes better.”

Francesca Brady, the CEO of AirRated

Educate and empower your tenants

Offer best practice guides on indoor air quality. A well-informed tenant can actively participate in maintaining good air quality, reducing potential complaints and issues in the long run. Temperature and humidity sensors are low-cost tools that can help residents understand their homes better. Suggest an ideal range for temperature and humidity to help tenants optimise their home environment. This should also reduce complaints and management linked to dampness and mould.

A little goes a long way

Low-cost investments in devices like dehumidifiers and air quality sensors can be invaluable in avoiding issues related to dampness and mould. They’re relatively affordable and can save on much costlier maintenance in the future.

Engage with expert bodies

By joining associations like BESA, BRE’s Home Quality Mark, and the National Housing Maintenance Forum, you stay updated with the latest research and best practices on indoor air quality.

The important role of developers

Many developers are already making strides in promoting better indoor climates, says Francesca. They prioritise resident desires like outdoor space access, and their increasing focus on sustainability directly benefits both our planet and outdoor air quality. Emphasising pedestrianised areas in larger developments helps reduce external pollution, further safeguarding indoor air quality. Moreover, there’s an evident curiosity among developers about the direct impact of air quality on aspects like health, productivity, and sleep, influencing design adjustments for optimal living conditions.

However, there’s room for improvement. Material selection, especially concerning paints and finishes, can sometimes be overlooked in its impact on indoor air quality. And while large windows in apartments offer stunning views, they can compromise thermal comfort, affecting air quality with temperature fluctuations.

For a brighter future, developers can aim higher, seeking expert opinions and focusing on air quality-centered certifications like AirScore D&O. Embracing these strategies can lead to homes that are not just visually appealing but health-enhancing havens.

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