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Finding Mould in Your Rental Property
Finding mould in your rental property is cause to contact the landlord for repairs right away. But there has been recent confusion over who is responsible for mould so here we explain both landlords and tenant’s rights after finding damp and mould in a rental.
- Who Is Responsible for Mould in a Rental Property?
- Are Landlords Responsible for Condensation?
- Can I Withhold Rent for Mould?
- How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix Damp?
- Can I Sue My Landlord for Mould and Damp?
- Contacting Environmental Health for Damp and Mould
- What Causes Damp?
- Rising Damp
- Penetrating Damp
Who Is Responsible for Mould in a Rental Property?
Is mould a landlord’s responsibility? Simply put the landlord is legally obligated to ensure that their rental property is free from mould, with any outbreaks being addressed by the owner of the property and not the tenants. With this being said it is important to note that the landlord may miss the initial signs of emerging mould during a routine property inspection and therefore the tenant’s obligation to report urgent repairs to the landlord, including mould.
This legal obligation is established through section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, detailing that any structural damage to the property that could lead to mould must be remedied by the landlord. Further to this under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act of 2018 landlord must provide their occupants with a safe rental environment as if the tenant believes the rental is unfit for human habitation that are able to pursue legal action against the landlord.
Unfortunately for landlords that may assume that mould within their property will be covered by their landlord insurance, this will typically not be the case as the policy provider will likely deem this to be a maintenance issue, disqualifying any payments.
It is however possible for the liability to rest with the occupants of the property when asking who is responsible for mould, landlords or tenants? Providing that the outbreak of mould was caused by the tenant’s neglect, commonly not allowing adequate ventilation throughout the property. If this is the case the owner of the property may choose to recover the costs of treating the mould by making a deduction from the renter’s security deposit.
Are Landlords Responsible for Condensation?
Unfortunately for the occupants of the rental property if any infestations of mould or damp are found to have been caused by condensation, the liability is likely to rest with the renters. Landlords should ensure that their tenants are aware of how they can minimise condensation within the rental property as this has been found to be the leading cause of both damp and mould infestations. This is not to say that this is done intentionally as something as simple as keeping a window shut for too long can quickly become a leading contributor to an outbreak of mould.
Can I Withhold Rent for Mould?
Withholding rent from a landlord is ill-advised to say the least. When moving into the rental property and signing the tenancy agreement, the tenant undertook a series of rights, alongside a responsibility to pay rent. If the occupants of the rental stop paying their landlord rent this is likely to be considered a breach of the tenancy agreement, seeing the landlord not only pursue the missing rent, but perhaps move to repossess the property.
A far more practical solution for the occupants of the property would be to have the appropriate works carried out, with the associated costs then being deducted from future rental payments. However, when choosing to do so renters must follow an exact procedure, providing the owner of the property multiple chances to organise repairs that they are liable for.
How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix Damp?
Once the tenant has reported the mould infestation to the landlord, the owner must provide a response detailing their next steps in addressing the issue within 14 days. However, the exact timeframe a landlord has to address these issues is a little less clear. Landlords can be afforded “reasonable time” in which to carry out the repairs, meaning that this is highly dependent on the severity of the mould infestation affecting the property.
Can I Sue My Landlord for Mould and Damp?
If after multiple requests by the tenants the owner of the rental property refuses to conduct any remedial work to remove the mould or damp infestation tenant’s are able to take their landlord to court. Providing that the occupants of the rental property have sufficient evidence to support their claims of the landlord’s neglect then the court can order the landlord to carry out the necessary work, pay the occupant’s compensation and cover their legal costs.
But, how much compensation can a tenant get for damp and mould? This would of course vary drastically between individual circumstances, accounting for the severity of the infestation. Tenants are able to claim compensation for any items that are damaged as a result of the damp and mould infestation or the remedial works. Further to this is the occupants wish to make additional claims for compensation on the grounds their health was adversely affected by the lack of repairs, they must be able to sufficiently prove the correlation.
Contacting Environmental Health for Damp and Mould
If the landlord is refusing to address the condition of the rental property after numerous requests by the occupants then it is possible for environmental health to be contacted. This department of the local authority will then conduct an assessment of the rental property, reporting on anything that could be deemed a significant risk to the tenant’s safety and wellbeing. Once the inspection is complete environmental health is able to compel the owner of the property to carry out the necessary repairs, or in more concerning cases the local authority will conduct the repairs on behalf of the landlord, later charging them for the work.
If tenants wish to contact environmental health regarding damp or mould within their home then they should take care to document any contact they have had with their landlord over addressing the matter. Alongside this, renters should take photographs of the affected area and any belongings damaged by the infestation. If the problem has also posed a threat to the renter’s health this supplementary evidence should also include any appropriate reports from a recent doctor’s visit.
What Causes Damp?
There are three main problems that can come under the ‘damp’ umbrella. These are condensation, rising damp and penetrating damp, all of which can cause costly damages to your rented home.
This is the most common of all damp problems. As warm air begins to build and then cool, it transforms into moisture appearing on cold surfaces. Your tenants will naturally release moisture into the air simply by breathing and sweating. Other everyday causes of condensation include cooking and showering.
Autumn and winter are the seasons when damp is most prevalent but ventilation really is the key. It’s also a huge challenge since, understandably, your renters will shut window and doors to keep warm and ensure their utility bills are low.
To prevent condensation, ask your renters to hang clothes in the back garden – if there is one – or install a tumble dryer (although admittedly, this will increase the cost of utility bills and it’s not particularly environmentally-friendly either).
You can also fit extractor fans and fit windows that are easy to open (then ask your tenants to do so, every now and again). Mould can be tackled by buying widely available ki
This is usually found in older properties such as Victorian and Georgian tenement buildings where there has been no previous damp proof courses applied. What happens is the moisture rises up through the walls and stays there. It only reaches around a metre but it tends to contain salts and other substances you really don’t want on the brickwork.
To try and avoid rising damp always clear guttering (where water tends to accumulate and can easily seep in to the fabric of the building). A damp proofing course is another excellent remedy and, fortunately, these are already included in the majority of new, contemporary buildings around these days.
It’s worth noting that housing built pre-dating the 1950s might not have this important preventative feature. And even if one has been built in, it is definitely worth checking that it is in good working order.
Another simple but safe solution to prevent rising damp involves drilling into external walls above ground level before activating a low-level electrical charge via a connecting wire. Maintaining this electrical system has the effect of preventing dampness making its way up the wall.
To cure this form of damp, definitely don’t be tempted to implement cheap, short term solutions. Otherwise, be prepared to pay out for costly repairs at a later date.
Penetrating damp is where moisture builds up horizontally in the walls and is, quite simply, usually the result of poor maintenance on the landlord or letting agencies part. Blocked guttering can certainly cause it. So too can air gaps in windows and doors so fill in any gaps to solve the problem.
Check out the cavity walls. If working the damp from external walls should dry here before reaching the internal walls. If not, you need to fix them. It could be that a lot of rubbish has accumulated over time, preventing the cavity walls from doing what they are supposed to.
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