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How to Deal With Damp and Mould in Rented Property – Who’s Responsible? Tenant or Landlord?

Reading Time: 7 Mins Read

Mould and damp are common issues in rented properties and inevitably result in tenants requesting that their landlords take action. Mould and damp are unpleasant to live with, cause a variety of health and safety issues and won’t go away unless the underlying causes are addressed. It is vital that mould and damp are not ignored as the longer the problems persist, the worse they will get.

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What is Damp and Mould?

Damp is the result of too much moisture accumulating inside a building. If the moisture cannot dry out, fungi eventually develops in the form of multicellular thread-like structures called hyphae. These are black in appearance and are referred to as mould.

There are three types of damp – rising damp, penetrating damp, and condensation. Each should be treated in a different way, and the potential costs vary considerably.

Rising Damp

This type of damp is caused by ground water moving upwards through floors and walls. Most structures allow some water in, but the moisture is usually prevented from causing damage by a barrier called a damp-proof course in walls or a damp-proof membrane in floors. Newer properties will benefit from these features as they are a requirement of building regulations, but older properties may not, and any damp-proofing could have degraded over time.

The symptoms of rising damp are damaged skirting boards, damp patches on walls and peeling paint or wallpaper. The moisture may dissolve salts in the ground which then leave tidemarks on the walls. If rising damp is present, it is crucial to attend to the damp proof course as soon as possible as the issue will continue to get worse and will eventually damage the structure of the property.

Penetrating Damp

Penetrating damp is caused by water leaking through walls. The damp may expand across your walls or ceiling horizontally, rather than vertically (as is the case with rising damp). This type of damp is usually the result of structural problems such as faulty guttering or roofing and cracks in the walls. It can also be caused by internal leaks from broken piping.

If penetrating damp is suspected, you should inspect the walls, roof and guttering to establish the cause of the problem. Many of the potential causes are easy to fix yourself but more serious defects will require the services of a building contractor.

Condensation

This is the most common cause of damp. It is the result of moist air condensing on internal walls and is more prevalent in winter when the walls are generally colder than the air inside the property. The issue will be exacerbated by poor ventilation and the use of periodic heating.

Where condensation is causing damp, it can be tackled by installing a system to improve ventilation or via the use of dehumidifiers. If left untreated, it will damage plaster and paintwork and cause window frames to decay.

The Health Risks of Living with Mould

Some people are more sensitive to mould than others. Children, the elderly, people with skin or respiratory issues and those with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable.

Moulds produce allergens, irritants and occasionally toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mould spores may result in an allergic reaction or an asthma attack. When inhaled, mould spores can inflame the airways, causing nasal congestion, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and throat problems. Prolonged exposure to high levels of dampness will reduce lung function and cause chronic health problems including asthma and idiopathic pulmonary haemosiderosis (bleeding from the lung).

Is Mould the Landlord’s Responsibility?

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It is usually the responsibility of the landlord to deal with any mould and damp which is present at a property. The tenancy agreement should clarify who is responsible for repairs and treatments. However, a landlord is obliged by law to ensure that their property is fit to live in throughout the duration of the tenancy. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to request that tenants attempt to minimise condensation.

It is in the interest of both tenant and landlord to deal with damp issues at the first opportunity. Damp and mould will negatively impact the health of those who are forced to live with it but will also worsen over time and cause serious damage to the property. The sooner damp is tackled, the cheaper it is likely to be to solve the problem.

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.

There is no point trying to remove mould until the cause of the damp problem has been found and resolved.

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.

Can I Withhold Rent for Mould?

If your landlord refuses to make repairs, 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’.

Is Mould Considered Normal Wear and Tear?

This will depend on the cause of mould. If there is evidence that the mould has been caused by the negligence of the tenants and advice and regular maintenance has been supplied by the landlord, then compensation can be claimed.

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

condensation-information-for-tenants

Day to day activities in the home can make condensation worse. Tenants can help reduce damp and mould by:

  • Putting lids on saucepans and opening windows when cooking
  • Drying washing outside or using a ventilated tumble dryer
  • Leaving bedroom and bathroom windows open for 15 minutes each morning
  • Leaving internal doors open so that air can circulate (except when cooking or bathing)
  • Keeping the property adequately heated and not using paraffin or bottle gas heaters

Preventing Mould: Advice for Landlords

The key to preventing mould and damp in a tenanted property is making sure that the property is well maintained and well ventilated.

Landlords should ensure that the roof, guttering, drains and internal plumbing are all kept in good working order.

To prevent condensation, ensure that the property is well ventilated by installing extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms.

 

For more guidance about letting your property or property management, contact us today.

Neil Jennings

Neil is the Operations Director at Assetgrove Lettings, London's Leading Rent Guarantee Company, providing Landlords with no voids, property maintenance, fee-free property management and stress-free service.

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