Damp and mould are not glamorous topics but some of our most frequently asked questions involve humidity, condensation and unsightly black patches. As landlord responsibilities are bound in legislation and compliance, including the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), it is imperative those involved in lettings understand how damp and mould issues are tackled.
Here are the answers to the most common damp and mould questions:
What is damp?
Damp is a broad term for the presence of water, moisture and condensation within a property. There are three main types of damp. Rising damp is when moisture is drawn from the ground up through a property’s bricks and mortar, while penetrating damp is a result of a structural defect – such as a cracked chimney stack or broken gutter. Ambient damp is usually attributed to condensation and is a by-product of everyday lifestyles inside.
What produces condensation?
Condensation is when warm air full of water vapour comes into contact with cool surfaces. In the home, this can be the steam from a hot shower settling on a cold mirror, or a kitchen window fogging up when boiling a pan of water. Having a conversation, breathing in our sleep, houseplants and wet washing drying inside also create condensation.
What is mould?
Mould is a microscopic fungus that grows best in damp and poorly ventilated areas – it’s what you see if there’s a black-green, mottled stain on a wall or window sill. As well as being unsightly and damaging to surfaces, the presence of mould and its spores can create or worsen respiratory health issues.
Who is responsible for preventing & treating damp in rented properties?
Prevention is definitely a shared responsibility but it is usually the responsibility of the landlord to provide the cure. In the case of rising and penetrating damp, a structural fault is usually to blame. It falls to the landlord to solve the issue and make repairs under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
It is wise, however, for tenants to let landlords or their property manager know if they see the first tell-tale signs of damp or mould, such as peeling wallpaper, bubbling paint, black speckles or water droplets – especially if these are on the interior surfaces of outside walls. In fact, a tenancy agreement may stipulate that it’s a tenant’s responsibility to flag up issues early.
Ambient damp needs a team effort. A tenant should take measures to reduce the amount of condensation they produce in their property by making lifestyle changes, while landlords should create an environment where warm, humid air can easily escape.
Are there any condensation, damp & mould prevention tricks?
For tenants, this could be: line drying washing outside or using a condensing tumble dryer; ensuring the inside temperature in winter is kept steady throughout the property at around 18°; ventilating the property by opening windows whenever safe to do so, and keeping steam confined to one room by shutting the bathroom or kitchen door.
A landlord can also play their part by ensuring there are extractor fans in all high humidity areas; using specialist anti-mould and condensation products in kitchens and bathrooms; ensuring replacement windows have trickle vents installed, and making sure windows have locking safety latches so they can be left securely ajar for ventilation.
Nip small issues in the bud
Professional inventories and scheduled inspections commissioned by a letting agent are two other ways of ensuring instances of damp and mould are recorded, tracked and attributed. Often small lifestyle changes or the installation of extractor fans are enough to reduce condensation to acceptable levels. If you’d like more advice on the matter, get in touch with our team.