Damp and mould – a common problem for landlord and tenant

by Ed Firmin

Posted on Friday, October 16th, 2015 at 10:00

Damp, condensation and mould are one of the most common problems that landlords have to deal with. It’s usually caused by water leaks, penetrating or rising damp, condensation, too much steam or vapour from showers, dishwashers, clothes drying, or poor heating and ventilation. The problem tends to occur more with older properties.

The question of who is liable is a tough one, where it can be linked to problems with the building, then of course the liability lies with the landlord, but in the case of condensation, then it can be tougher to prove. The problem is that once it has taken hold, then if not treated properly at the outset, then the spores can reappear again and again. So if a past tenant didn’t heat or ventilate the property properly, and it reappears even years later with a new tenant, then it’s difficult to prove that the existing tenant should be liable for any repairs (although the mould would only reappear if conditions were less than ideal, they’d just appear quicker and more easily, as the spores were already there).

How to control damp and condensation?

First, it’s important to identify the cause of the problem.

Check that there is no rising damp in the property, and that the property has been damp-proof coursed. Then check that the cavities aren’t cluttered with debris, that any airbricks are clear.

Check there are no issues with the roof, and that there are no leaks in the guttering which are directing rain into the property. Finally, check that there are no leaking water pipes or any problems with the boiler.

If all of that is ok, then you need to think about trying to educate your tenants on how to manage the problem. So they need to ventilate the bathroom when having a shower, and also when they are washing and drying clothes. Not to dry clothes over a radiator, but in a cooler area of the house so that less moisture is in the air. You might have to think about fitting an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom to help here. You can even buy a fairly inexpensive dehumidifier which can be very effective.

What if there’s mould?

The process above should be gone through to identify the cause of the problem, and once that is solved, then it’s important to thoroughly clean and disinfect the areas that have been affected by mould, to remove the spores so they don’t appear again. For items like carpet, textiles, material, clothing, furniture and furnishings, then I’m afraid, your best bet is to throw these away.

For items such as plastic, concrete or glass, then these can be cleaned, by first scrubbing the areas clean, and then disinfecting them with a bleach/water solution. This deep cleaning should ensure the spores are completely removed and won’t be able to return.

It’s the bane of a landlord’s life if their properties suffer from it, but if you’d like any advice on the causes, prevention or treatment, then please get in contact with me.

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