How to deal with damp and mould

Damp and mould is a serious health hazard and can make tenants justifiably unhappy with their living conditions, but there is much landlords can do to prevent this becoming a major problem.

There are all sorts of basic measures a landlord can take to ensure their properties are kept in good condition, whether it is ensuring structural maintenance is carried out or giving the place a fresh coat of paint.

However, there are some problems that can encroach gradually on a home and make it a distinctly unpleasant place to live in; the sort of thing that could drive tenants away when they occur in rental properties. Damp and mould certainly come into this category, not least because they can have a direct negative impact on the health of those living in the property, particularly anyone with a respiratory condition. 

Causes of damp and mould

Damp and mould are caused by condensation in the home, which is generated by warm air circulating and not escaping, a situation that particularly arises in winter when the windows are kept shut. Bathrooms and kitchens are the main source of the problem, as they generate warm, steamy air from baths and boiling water. This then moves to colder parts of the house and deposits the water vapour on the floor and walls in the form of droplets. 

Legal responsibilities

It is important for landlords to be aware that they have significant legal responsibilities in this area. Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, have a duty to deal with structural problems and anything that can be detrimental to health. Therefore it is vital that you do everything possible to prevent or curb the problem. 

Prevention is better than cure

Landlords do not have to wait for the problem to occur, as it can be prevented. One major source of moisture is leaking pipes, particularly in bathrooms or in gutters, so fixing this can literally dry up the problem. Another step that can be taken is to fit extractor fans, as these can help remove water vapour from the air. A dehumidifier can do the same.

Where tenants can get help

Tenants can seek help with the problem from their local council and the environmental health agency (EHA). The correct procedure in this instance is to contact the landlord first and request that they act to solve the problem. If such remedial action is not taken in reasonable time, the tenants can then raise the matter with the council and EHA, who can take enforcement action.

This can be bad enough for a landlord's reputation and there are also further sanctions available, which include restricting the number of people who can live in the property, carrying out the work themselves and then billing the landlord, or having the property demolished or subject to a compulsory purchase order. 

Make sure they tell you

A situation in which matters go so as far as involving the local authority should never happen, as the landlord should respond to the initial concerns raised by tenants.

When new tenants move in, it is important to stress to them the importance of making sure they do get in touch swiftly so that the problem can be dealt with. This is not just a matter of maintaining good relations; it helps ensure their health is not compromised and nor is the damage allowed to get worse. For instance, if a leak is fixed early, the amount of damp that results will be much less.

So, with good communication, preventative measures and swift action if a problem does arise, the scourge of damp and mould can be kept at bay.

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Published: 17th May 2018 (VW)
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