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Damp and Mould in Rented Property - Who's Responsible? Tenant or Landlord?

By Eitan Fox  //  Mon 20th July 2020
Condensation is the most common cause of damp in rented properties. It happens when moisture in the air comes into contact with cold surfaces, causing water droplets to form, which can lead to mould growth.
Damp and mould caused by rising damp is a structural issue and is the landlord’s responsibility to r
Cases of damp and mould are common in the private rented sector. But who is responsible for dealing with damp and mould in a rental property?

In this article, we look at the causes of damp and mould, whose responsibility it is and how to deal with it.

What is Damp and Mould?

Damp is the build-up of moisture which can lead to mould forming inside the property.

Condensation

Condensation is the most common cause of damp in rented properties. It happens when moisture in the air comes into contact with cold surfaces, causing water droplets to form, which can lead to mould growth. It can be caused by tenants failing to ventilate or heat their home correctly. Or by poor insulation, faulty heating and ventilation systems, these are the responsibility of the landlord. 

Rising Damp

Rising damp occurs when moisture beneath a building is soaked up into the bricks or concrete. All building should have a damp course which is a layer of water-proof material that should prevent rising damp. However, when this fails, damp can occur inside the property leading to mould forming that can be very difficult to remove.

Damp and mould caused by rising damp is a structural issue and is the landlord’s responsibility to repair.

Penetrating Damp

Penetrating damp is caused by leaks allowing water into the property, for instance, missing roof tiles or faulty plumbing. The wet conditions allow surface mould to grow.

Penetrating damp is usually a structural issue, so it is the landlord’s responsibility to deal with it.

How can Damp and Mould be identified?

Is there black mould growth on the walls, ceilings or skirting boards? Does the atmosphere feel cold? Are there signs of water or condensation on the window sills? Damp patches on the walls generally indicate there is a problem with damp. Or it might be that paintwork is discolouring or the wallpaper or plasterwork is peeling away? These are all ways to identify damp in a property.

The Health Risks of Living with Mould

Mould is not a severe health hazard; however, it can adversely harm your health. The mould fungi can be inhaled or come into contact with skin causing:
  • Difficulty breathing and asthma attacks
  • Skin irritation and rashes
  • Allergic reactions
  • Infections such as sinusitis

Is Mould the Landlord’s Responsibility?

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that it is the landlord’s responsibility to resolve damp and mould issues caused by structural faults. If a surveyor finds rising damp or penetrative damp, this is the landlord’s responsibility to put right.

However, if damp is caused by condensation, it could be the result of the way the tenants are using the property. For instance:
  • Drying clothes indoors
  • Showering and not opening the window
  • Cooking without opening the window
  • Not heating the property sufficiently
Condensation can also be caused by poor insulation, or faulty heating and ventilation systems. These would be considered structural issues and so are the responsibility of the landlord.

Determining whether mould caused by condensation is due to the tenant’s lifestyle habits or structural issues with the property can be tricky.

It is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure the property is habitable and safe to live in. So, landlords need to deal with issues of damp and mould swiftly regardless of who’s to ‘blame’.

First Steps When Mould Is Spotted

If you are a tenant who has spotted mould or damp in your rental home you must tell your landlord straight away. The landlord will arrange an inspection to identify the cause of the damp and mould and carry out any repairs they are responsible for.

Can I Withhold Rent for Mould?

If the landlord won’t make the necessary repairs you should continue to pay your rent otherwise you could be subject to repossession or eviction.

If your landlord refuses to undertake a repair or will not respond to you, you can contact your local authority who will carry out an inspection of your home and can order your landlord to carry out repairs or improve conditions.

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

Tenants are expected to properly ventilate and heat the property so that damp doesn't build up. This is sometimes called 'acting in a tenant like manner'.

Landlord shouldn’t make unreasonable demands. For example, requiring clothes to be dried outside when there is no access to outdoor space.

Everyday activities like cooking, showering and drying clothes create moisture that can lead to condensation.

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
  • opening bedroom windows for 5-10 minutes in the morning
  • Keeping the property adequately heated. It usually helps to have a low background temperature of at least 15 degrees in all rooms.

Preventing Mould: Advice for Landlords

For landlords, dealing with damp issues will minimise the risk of mould growing in the property. If damp is suspected, call in a surveyor to investigate. Dealing with the problem promptly could save money on maintenance in the long run. The issue will need to be dealt with at source – a DIY clean-up job on its own will not suffice, as the damp will reappear.
  • Here are some ways to prevent mould in your property;
  • Ensure the property is well ventilated
  • Maintain gutters and roofs to prevent leaks
  • Ensure all plumbing is in good working order
  • Repair any rotten window frames
  • Improve the insulation of the property
  • Install extractor fans in the bathrooms
  • Repair or replace faulty damp proof course

For more information on letting property in central London, Paddington, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch or South Kensington, call our agents today.

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