Damp and mould is an issue that has affected thousands of tenants. Not only does mould make the walls in your home look awful but, more importantly, it can also lead to a number of serious health problems if not dealt with quickly. This is not what a home is made for.
If you are a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure that your property is free of damp and mould to provide a clean and safe home for your tenants to live in. If you are a tenant and have spotted damp in your home, then it is important to act fast and speak to your landlord. In this guide, we will be covering the rights you have as a tenant, the causes of damp and its health risks, as well as the ways in which damp and mould can be prevented.
What are tenants’ rights regarding damp and mould?
No tenant should be subject to damp and mould in a rented property. Landlords should seek to prevent damp and mould in their property not simply out of good will, but also because they are required to do so by law. Landlords have a number of responsibilities in regard to their property, and one of these is to manage any repairs that need to be performed on the home.
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that the landlord of a property is responsible for ‘the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes)’ and ‘the instillations in the dwelling house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation’. In addition, the Housing Health and Safety Rating System specifically outlines ‘damp and mould growth’ as a safety hazard that landlords must prevent and resolve where necessary. Therefore, if you have a damp and mould problem in your rented property then bring it up with your landlord – it is their responsibility, not yours!
It is important to note that if you have not been using provisions installed by your landlord to avoid damp and mould such as a bathroom extractor fan, you may be liable for any problems that arise as a result.
What are the causes of damp and mould?
As you might have guessed, the sole cause for damp and mould in your home is excess moisture. This moisture can arise in a number of ways. It could be because of a leaky pipe, or a damaged roof or window that is letting rain penetrate into the walls. This is known as ‘penetrating damp’. It can also come in the form of ‘rising damp’, which is when moisture from the ground rises up and seeps into the walls. However, the cause of damp and mould is not always from an external source of moisture. Everyday activities such as cooking, showering and even boiling the kettle for a cuppa all release steam, which can condensates on the surfaces around your house and leads to the formation of mould.
What are the health risks of damp and mould?
Damp and mould is not an aesthetically pleasing addition to your home, and it can lead to health problems if not tackled quickly. If you are exposed to high levels of damp in your home for a prolonged period of time, the toxic spores that are released by the mould become part of the air that you breathe, and these spores can be very damaging to your lungs. Damp can lead to the development of asthma and can worsen the symptoms of any pre-existing respiratory or skin problems. The health risks posed by damp and mould are particularly dangerous for babies/children, the elderly and those with a weak immune system.
How to avoid damp and mould
As a landlord, it is your responsibility to make sure that your property is not susceptible to the development of damp. To prevent penetrating damp, you need to make sure that appropriate measures are taken to ensure that areas such as window frames, walls, the roof and internal pipes are secure and will not let any external moisture in. If a problem such as a leaky pipe arises, it is important to get this fixed as soon as possible to prevent the development of harmful mould.
With rising damp, it is important that a damp proof course is installed between the floorboards and the soil. To the non-landlord readers out there, a damp proof course is simply a barrier designed to prevent moisture from rising from the soil into the wall of the house. For condensation damp, landlords need to make sure that their properties are well heated and insulated, as this type of damp is more likely to arise in colder houses. Bathrooms should be well ventilated, as shower steam is one of the main causes of mould build-up on bathroom walls.
While it is ultimately up to the landlord to resolve these problems, there are also a few things you can do as the tenant to prevent the spread of damp and mould in your home. These are simple measures such as using extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, covering steamy pans when cooking and leaving a gap between your furniture and external walls. If you have damp and mould in your bedroom, it may be worth opening your windows for 5-10 minutes every day to allow the room to ventilate. All of these easy steps can all help to nip the problems of damp and mould in the bud.
How can you get rid of existing damp and mould?
Although there are many ways to prevent damp and mould, sometimes it is completely out of the tenant’s control. If you spot damp in your home, contact your landlord and make sure that they take appropriate measures quickly. A landlord will usually pay for a damp specialist to come into your home, who will use a fungicidal wash to remove any mould from the wall.
Moving forward, it is important that your landlord identifies the source of the excess moisture and fixes it accordingly to ensure that no further damp occurs in the future. If your landlord fails to deal with your mould problem within a reasonable period, you can take legal action and get a court order for your landlord to make the repairs and pay compensation. However, this is a time consuming process and so should only be considered as a last resort.
How to spot damp and mould
This is important when viewing a property to buy or rent and when living in a property as a tenant. As well as a damp and musty smell the visual signs of damp in a property include:
- Dark or yellow/brown stains on walls or plaster
- The appearance of mould or mildew on walls, floors or ceilings
- Walls, floors or ceilings that feel cold or damp
- Lifting or peeling wallpaper and flaking paint
- Excessive condensation on windows
Research shows that property dampness encourages two-thirds of potential buyers to pull out. And perhaps rightly so because tackling damp issues properly – that is, preventing it at the source rather than creating a short-term cover up to hide it – can be costly. It’s advisable to consider presence of damp when purchasing or renting a property. So long as the issue has been fixed, old traces of damp such as stains on the wall are purely an aesthetic problem.
Evidently, the epidemic of mould and damp in the UK is not one that should be taken lightly. If you have spotted signs of damp in your home, it is ultimately your landlord’s responsibility to make the appropriate repairs. Our landlords at James Anderson work hard to ensure that they only offer the best customer service to their tenants. If you are interested in renting a property, get in touch today.