Mould is often called the scourge of the lettings property – no matter what you do to get rid of it or protect your property from it, it somehow manifests itself again and finds a spot to do its work; damaging walls, windows and furniture.
The health risks of living with mould
An estimated 450,000 homes in England alone are believed to have problems with condensation and mould, and figures provided exclusively to the Observer in the last quarter of 2022 reveal a dramatic rise in complaints about the social housing sector.
Condensation Damp is the most common and is thought to affect almost 1 in 5 homes in the UK. In an older 2019 report, 5.8 million tenants experienced damp and condensation issues.
Untreated, condensation can lead to the growth of black mould on walls and ceilings which, aside from looking unsightly, can cause a myriad of health problems including headaches, nausea, asthma attacks, insomnia and respiratory issues.
Inadequate or poor insulation
Poor insulation is an issue with much of the older housing stock in Britain, as older buildings do not have sufficient insulation installed to eliminate draughts and stop damp emerging. Houses that were built pre 1925 were constructed with solid walls but unfortunately, these needed insulation. All the new build properties that are constructed in Britain are constructed with damp proof cavity walls.
This is not an overly surprising reason, but the weather is a big cause of damp problems in houses across Britain. Due to the current climate crisis, we are experiencing more extreme rainfall. It is not that we are necessarily experiencing more rainfall, but it’s rather the severity of the rain when it does fall, which then leads to damp issues.
If there are any gaps in the walls or windows of the house, then these will also leave your house vulnerable to damp problems.
Poor ventilation and regulated heating
Condensation is the main cause of damp, and it occurs when moisture laden air comes into contact with a cold surface e.g., a window or a wall. The reason for the build-up of moisture in the air is people carrying out day-to-day activities within a property including bathing, cooking and even breathing.
If the heating is not turned on regularly or there is insufficient ventilation in place, then moisture will start to build up onto cold surfaces. Black mould spots will start to appear and eventually lead to more serious damp problems.
Condensation is primarily the result of poor ventilation, usually from not opening windows to allow moist air to escape from kitchens and bathrooms, and drying wet clothes indoors. Mould can also be caused by structural problems, such as rising damp or penetrative damp.
What does Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 cover?
Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord is required to resolve structural issues that could potentially lead to mould infestations.
In March 2019, there was an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 called the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 in England, reinforcing the need for properties to be ‘fit for human habitation’ at the start of and during the tenancy. Although this hasn’t introduced any new obligations when it comes to damp, condensation and mould, it does give you, the landlord, easier access to a property to make repairs, while tenants can apply to the court directly if the property is believed to be ‘unfit for human habitation’.
What should a landlord do if furniture has been reported as mouldy?
If your tenant hasn’t alerted you to mould anywhere within your rental property, including furniture, then the responsibility does not rest on your shoulders (yet). However, once you have been made aware, you have 14 days to respond – that is, if the tenant alerted you. Therefore, when a tenant reports mould in your property, you must arrange an inspection right away to determine the cause of the mould and, where necessary, ensure repairs are made.
Once a damp problem has been resolved, you may also need to repair any damaged plaster or flooring, as well as replace furniture, and redecorate affected areas.
If you don’t respond within the two-week timeframe, the tenant may contact the local authority, who could force the issue through.
Is it your responsibility to get rid of the mould?
Legally, rising damp or penetrative damp caused by structural leakage is the landlord’s responsibility to put right – Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that it is the landlord’s responsibility to resolve mould issues caused by structural faults.
However, when interior condensation is caused by the tenant, this shifts the responsibility. Condensation can be caused by drying clothes indoors, showering and cooking without opening the window and not heating the property sufficiently.
Determining whether mould in a property is due to the tenant’s lifestyle habits or the poor ventilation of the property can be tricky, however. This begs the question: Can a landlord deduct deposit for mould?
Well, if there are no obvious structural causes of a mould infestation and it is clear the damage has been caused by the tenant, a landlord may seek to deduct the cost of dealing with this from the tenant’s deposit. The problem with mould-related property disputes is that it is very difficult to prove who is at fault.
If the issue is caused by structural problems in the rental property, a tenant can hire a damp expert to produce a report stating an inadequate damp-proof course or poor insulation (or similar). In the absence of such evidence, a property tribunal may rule in your favour.
Minimising the chances of mould
Identify problem areas in a property. While it is impossible to entirely mould-proof a property, you can strengthen its defences. Think about which areas are at most risk. For instance, does the bathroom flood or does condensation form around the bedroom window?
Focus on ventilation. The growth of mould can be accelerated by some everyday activities. Cooking, showering or doing the laundry releases moisture into your home, so make sure you have effective ventilation systems in place to ensure it does not stick around.
Divert water away from your property. If the terrain around your home does not naturally slope, allowing water to flow away, it could gather and eventually seep into your basement or walls. Find a way to drain or push it as far away as possible.
Monitor humidity. Indoor humidity should be between 30 and 60 per cent. A good hardware store will sell a device that allows you to measure your exact level, and if you find it is too high you can take action in troublesome spots, such as areas where condensation builds.
Dry wet areas. It is impossible for mould to grow without moisture, so it is crucial that you dry any area that becomes wet immediately. Whether your bath water has spilled on to the floor, a pipe has developed a leak or there has been heavy rainfall, aim to dry it as soon as you can.
In case any of your furniture has been damaged due to a mould infestation, Furniture Pack Solutions has the answer. Offering nationwide delivery, item assembly, easy furniture replacement and waste.