Damp and mould affect numerous households throughout the UK, especially during the winter months.
If you are a landlord or work in property management, you should be aware of the different types of mould, the causes, and what your responsibilities are in terms of putting the problem right. Here, we take a look at some of the most common damp and mould issues along with what can be done in terms of prevention and treatment.
What are damp and mould?
Damp and mould arise as a result of excess moisture, normally in areas where there is limited or no ventilation.
Mould is normally made much worse in the winter, when moisture comes into contact with a cold surface such as a wall; in older buildings with no insulation, this can mean mould begins to grow on the walls, which if hidden behind furniture can also affect things like sofas, desks, wooden TV stands and chests of drawers. Condensation also forms on windows, which can affect the wood panelling around it.
Mould spores can be harmful to health, leading to conditions such as allergic reactions and respiratory infections if inhaled. While a small intake of mould doesn’t generally cause any long-lasting harm, if the problem persists in a property and/or goes unnoticed or untreated, any tenants exposed to it may suffer longer-term health issues.
Understanding a landlord’s responsibilities
It can be difficult to differentiate landlord and tenants rights when it comes to cases of mould and damp, largely because there are a number of causes for the issue.
For example, a tenant may feel that structural issues are the cause, while landlords may place blame at the door of tenants if they don’t open windows when cooking or showering to allow for proper ventilation. Of course, this can be an unappealing thought during winter months, and so having working extractor fans in rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens can help prevent the problem before it starts.
Regardless of the cause, in most cases, it is the responsibility of the landlord to solve damp and mould issues in a rental property. Not only is this best practice for maintaining a good relationship with tenants, but landlords may be obligated to do so under the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985). According to Section 11, “ (1)In a lease to which this section applies (as to which, see sections 13 and 14) there is implied a covenant by the lessor—
- (a)to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),
- (b)to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
- (c)to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
With this in mind, it is crucial for landlords to react promptly to issues concerning mould in a rental property, and provisions for doing so should be made clear in a professionally- drafted tenancy agreement.