Damp and mould are issues that many tenants face in rental properties around the UK, but it’s a problem that can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. Dealing with damp and mould can be very stressful, affecting your mental and physical wellbeing, but what can tenants and landlords alike do to combat this problem?
Damp comes in various forms, and knowing what you’re dealing with is essential for taking appropriate action. The first and one of the most serious is rising damp, which refers to the process of water rising up from the ground into the structure of the building. All houses should be constructed with a damp proof course which is a waterproof material to prevent this issue, but when the damp proofing fails, it can lead to serious problems, including mould development.
Penetrating damp is caused by leaks which create surface level mould, such as leaks from faulty plumbing, damaging roof or a blocked gutter. Penetrating damp comes from outside of the property and tends to be due to structural issues.
Another issue you may encounter which can result in damp and mould is condensation, which is incredibly common and caused by moisture in the air coming into contact with cold surfaces. It’s common in bathrooms and kitchens where steam occurs, and may be exacerbated if the building isn’t well insulated or has poor ventilation.
Mould is more than just unsightly, it actually poses several health risks for tenants. In fact, according to the Housing Health and Safety Rating (HHSR), damp is considered an essential repair due to the health problems it can cause. Mould and dampness can trigger breathing difficulties, irritation to the throat and skin, rashes, allergic reactions and more, and it’s particularly harmful for people with existing conditions such as asthma or respiratory conditions.
When it comes to mould, there’s no clear consensus on who is responsible. After all, there are several factors that can cause mould and exacerbate the issue, making it hard to point fingers. From a legal perspective, rising or penetrative damp is caused by structural issues and these do fall on the landlord to resolve, as per the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. But condensation is harder to pinpoint, and the responsibility will tend to shift to the tenant since they’re living in the property.
Condensation can be caused by various problems, from drying clothes indoors without ventilation, showering without opening the bathroom window, cooking without opening the window, and not adequately heating the property. So, as you can see, determining whether it’s due to the tenant or the ventilation of the property can be difficult.
Landlords renting out properties can take measures to help tenants avoid the issue of damp and mould. The first is to have a full property survey carried out on the property, or a specific defect report if you suspect damp is already an issue. This will enable landlords to get a clear picture of the extent of the issue and how to remedy it before tenants move in. Landlords should improve ventilation in the property when decorating or renovating, to reduce the risk of condensation developing and replace stagnant air with fresh air.
Insulating the walls and replacing single-glazed windows with double glazed windows can also help to retain warmth and improve the energy performance rating of the property, which is a legal requirement for anyone renting a property in the private rented sector. Similarly, using anti-mould paints in bathrooms where condensation is common can help to reduce issues for future tenants.
A tenant’s lifestyle can certainly encourage damp and mould, simply by providing the ideal environment for spores to thrive, so there are things tenants can do to keep the home clean and healthy. If structural issues have been ruled out as the cause, then the damp is likely to be caused by poor ventilation so this should be the priority for tenants to tackle.
For example, if you’re cooking, opening a window to allow steam to escape will help reduce condensation. Likewise, showering or bathing will increase the chance of condensation so opening a window or using an extractor fan, if one is installed, will help.
If you’re drying clothes indoors, you’ll increase the moisture in the air which is a prime contributor for dampness, so open as many windows as possible to allow moisture to escape. Drying your clothes outside is the preferred best choice, but not always an option. If your property is leasehold you will need to check if clothes are permitted to be dried in outside areas such as balconies. Heating is also an effective way to reduce the risk of mould forming, because the property needs to be sufficiently heated to minimise condensation. If the property doesn’t enable keeping the windows open all the time, such as if it’s located on the ground floor, using a dehumidifier can help to reduce moisture in the air.
If you’re living in a property with high levels of condensation, you could be facing mould already. It’s a good idea to raise the issue with your landlord or property agent as soon as you spot the signs, and take photographs of its current state in case it worsens.
It’s also worth documenting the location, date it was first spotted, and the conditions which seem to make the damp worse such as when you use the shower or washing machine, for example. You can then work with the agent or landlord to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Both tenants and landlords have a responsibility to reduce the risk of damp and mould in a property, and as we’ve seen, ignoring the issue can have devastating consequences. It’s in a tenant’s best interests to keep condensation at bay, for their own well being, general care of the property and an overall comfortable living environment. But similarly, landlords have to take appropriate measures to ensure that a tenant has a safe and healthy environment to live in, with sufficient ventilation, working heating and insulation in place. Luckily, it is treatable and taking action quickly can help to minimise the damage.
Written By Annie Button
Posted by Simon on May 26th, 2010
Posted by Simon on June 25th, 2010
Posted by Simon on November 8th, 2012