September 28, 2020Lettings, Lifestyle

Mould: Landlord or tenant responsibility?

As we head into autumn, the chances of experiencing damp and mould in our homes increases but when it comes to rented properties, who is responsible for finding a solution? Well, the answer is not as cut and dried as you might have hoped.

Analysis of the latest English Housing Survey has revealed that 2.2 million people are living in homes with some sort of damp or mould issue. Compared to just 2% of owner-occupied homes, 7% of private rented dwellings suffer from this problem, implying that tenants and landlords take longer to report and rectify the causes of mould.

From March 2020, both social and private renters have been able to sue their landlords under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act if the cause of damp or mould is not resolved. However, both tenants and landlords have a duty to take action to avoid the issue.

Causes of damp and mould

Unfortunately, damp and mould are common in any residential property because they are often caused by everyday activities like showering, drying clothes and cooking. This produces condensation, which accounts for around 80% of damp and mould issues, and is classed as ‘man made’.

The other two serious types of damp that properties can suffer from is rising damp, where water comes up from the ground, and penetration damp – caused by water getting in from outside or an internal leak. If untreated, any type of damp can lead to serious issues for the property and also your health.

When is mould the landlord’s responsibility?

Landlord’s have a legal responsibility to ensure a rental property is fit for human habitation, including maintaining the structure and exterior, the constant external supply of utilities (different from selecting a provider) and keeping it in a good state of repair.

When it comes to damp and mould issues, the landlord will usually be required to fix the problem if it relates to the property not being watertight or a major leak as a result of plumbing defects.

For example:

  • Cracks in external walls
  • Broken or missing roof tiles
  • Unsealed of faulty windows and doors
  • Insufficient insulation
  • Broken or leaking pipes
  • Badly fitted kitchen sinks/bathrooms
  • Broken damp proof course

If the cause of damp and mould, however, is one of the above and not as a result of accidental damage by the tenant, ignorance and failure to report an issue could lead to you being partly liable for the cost of repair. Why? Because if you’d have reported the issue sooner, it would likely have taken less time and money to rectify.  

What should tenants do to prevent mould?

Most damp and mould occurs as a result of condensation, which builds up due to poor ventilation and inadequate heating in a property.

As a tenant you are, therefore, obliged to look after the property and prevent condensation by:

  • Keeping the property warm
  • Opening curtains and windows regularly for air and light circulation
  • Using extractor fans (if available) when cooking and bathing/showering
  • Drying clothes outside whenever possible and never hanging them on radiators
  • Ensuring tumble dryers are vented to the outside

If you are confident that you have taken all the necessary steps to prevent the build-up of mould, but the issue persists, report this to your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible. It could be that they need to install additional ventilation systems, provide you with sufficient means to dry your clothes indoors (if you live in a flat for example) or investigate further.

As a tenant, it’s also always a good idea to protect yourself against the cost of repairs or damage to your belongings with some kind of tenancy liability and contents insurance, should the worst happen.

If you would like to know more about your responsibility as a tenant or landlord when it comes to mould or damp in your property, contact us for further information.

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