Damp is a common issue in many rented homes. But what are the causes, what needs to be done and whose responsibility is it?
We address all these questions in this article.
What is Damp and Mould?
Damp is the build-up of moisture which can lead to mould forming inside the property. Before we look into who is responsible for dealing with damp and mould in rented homes, let’s look at the various types of damp and their causes.
Rising damp affects the walls of buildings and occurs when moisture from the ground travels up through walls by capillary action. Rising damp is relatively rare as all building should have a damp proof course which is a layer of water-proof material which protects against moisture rising. However, if this fails, damp can occur inside the property leading to mould forming on walls. Signs of rising damp are:
- Damaged or rotten skirting boards or plaster
- Peeling paint or wallpaper, often with wet patches
- A tide line of brown staining in the lower area of your wall
- White powder-like substance on your wall or skirting boards caused by soluble salts from the ground water
Damp and mould caused by rising damp is a structural issue and is the landlord’s responsibility to repair.
Penetrating damp is one of the most common causes of damp in the UK. Water penetrates through external or internal walls causing damage to the property.
Structural problems, such as faulty guttering or roofing or cracks in the walls are the most frequent causes of penetrating damp. Penetrating damp can also be caused by internal leaks, such as burst pipes under the sink or bath.
Signs of penetrating damp are:
- Damp patches on walls or ceilings which may get worse when it rains
- Wet and crumbly plaster
- Drips and puddles
Penetrating damp is a structural issue and is the landlord’s responsibility to repair.
Condensation happens when moisture in the air comes into contact with cold surfaces, causing water droplets to form. Condensation can lead to mould growth on interior walls, window frames, curtains and furniture.
The development of mould growth is the most tell-tale sign of condensation.
Excessive condensation is caused by poor heating, ventilation and insulation systems in the property, all of which are the responsibility of the landlord to provide.
However, condensation can also be caused by the lifestyle and habits of the occupants which tenants must take responsibility for.
The Health Risks of Living with Mould
Moulds can produce substances that can cause allergic reactions. They can also produce toxic substances and irritants which may cause skin rashes, sneezing, runny noses and red eyes. If people are suffering from some or all of these symptoms, it could be a sign that mould is present but is as yet unseen.
Some people will be more sensitive than others to the health-threatening effects of damp and mould. Those suffering from asthma or eczema, babies, children and the elderly can be susceptible to the effects of mould. It can also be hazardous to people with a weakened immune system.
Is Mould the Landlord’s Responsibility?
In nearly all cases it is the landlord’s responsibility to solve the problems of damp and mould.
Landlords are duty-bound to provide safe and secure homes for their tenants and must act swiftly to rid the property of mould, damp or condensation as soon as their tenants report the problem to them. Failure to do so could result in them facing punitive fines.
Since April 2017, the Deregulation Act has made it possible for local councils to impose fines of up to £30,000 on landlords who fail to respond to their tenant’s complaints of mould and damp.
However, tenants have a responsibility to report any sign of trouble as soon as they appear. They also have a duty to ensure they do not do anything in the property that will cause the problems. As a landlord, it is advisable to make the tenant aware of the many things they could do to prevent damp or mould forming.
First Steps When Mould Is Spotted
If you are a tenant who has spotted mould in your rented property, you should inform your landlord immediately. The landlord should arrange an inspection to determine the cause of the mould and ensure that the necessary repairs are made. If the landlord does not respond within 14 days the tenant can contact the local authority who have powers to force the landlord to take action.
There is no point trying to remove mould until the cause of the damp problem has been found and resolved. Once you have made the necessary repairs, then you can remove the mould.
Assess the damage
As a general rule, you should only try to remove mould if it the result of condensation and only covers an area of less than one square metre. If the problem is more extensive, then you should call in help.
Remove the mould
Keep windows open for ventilation and doors closed to prevent the mould from spreading to other parts of the property. Wear long rubber gloves, a mask that covers your mouth and nose, and protective goggles. Use water and detergent and scrub the affected area vigorously.
Repair the damage
Once the area is entirely free of mould and is perfectly dry, you can repaint the affected area. Don’t simply paint over mould as it just doesn’t work, the paint will begin to peel and flake off.
Can I Withhold Rent for Mould?
We do not recommend that you withhold your rent payments as you could be subject to repossession or even eviction.
However, tenants do have the right to make the repairs themselves and recoup the cost through future rent payments. Seek legal advice before committing yourself to this route as you need to make certain that the repairs are the responsibility of the landlord and ensure that the proper procedures are followed.
Can a Landlord Deduct Deposit for Mould?
If there is mould in a property at the end of a tenancy, that was not there at the start, landlords can deduct money from the deposit if it can be proved that the mould was caused by the actions of the tenant and is above the level of ‘fair wear and tear’.
Can I End My Tenancy Early Due to Mould?
You need to end your tenancy correctly if you decide to move out. If you don’t, you could still have to pay rent after you leave. Check your tenancy agreement to see if you have an early break clause.
Condensation and Mould: Advice for Tenants
Tenants should refrain from drying clothes indoors and rooms should be ventilated by opening windows during the summer and kept warm during the winter.
Tenants can help reduce damp and mould by:
- covering pans when cooking
- using extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms
- closing internal doors when cooking or showering
- leaving a gap between furniture and external walls
- drying clothes outdoors or use a vented tumble dryer
Preventing Mould: Advice for Landlords
In the first instance, you should take steps to prevent damp and mould. Then you won’t have to deal with the task of having to remove it later. As mould thrives in damp conditions, your first port of call should be to prevent dampness in your home.
Fix structural issues
Structural problems which allow water to enter your home could encourage mould. Therefore you need to repair any roof damage as soon as possible. Also, ensure that all of your windows and doors are correctly sealed. Finally, fix any cracks in walls or ceilings to prevent water from seeping through.
A humid environment provides the perfect conditions for mould to grow in. Hence, you need to make sure that your home has sufficient ventilation. Plus, any appliance that uses or produces water, such as a tumble dryer, needs to have a ventilation system that expels the moisture outdoors.
Pay special attention to the bathroom and kitchen
Areas such as your bathroom and kitchen are particularly susceptible to dampness as moisture builds up whenever you take a shower or cook. Install extractor fans in both the bathroom and kitchen and ask your tenants to dry windows and sills if they notice condensation gathering.
If you have any questions about damp or mould in rental property or are looking to rent in central London, our team of property experts provide advice, contact us today.