What to Do When You Find Damp or Mould in Rented property?

29 March 2021

Finding damp and mould in rented accommodation is a common problem, and one that many people have to deal with nearly on a daily basis. The big question is though, how can a tenant deal with damp and mould, and what is a landlord’s responsibility in this situation?

Luckily, Timberwise have all the answers you might need when it comes to dealing with damp inside rented accommodation, with answers for both tenants and landlords!

Who is Responsible for Damp in Rented Accommodation?

When it comes it determining who is responsible for damp within a rented property the answer hinges on what type of damp a property has within it.

If, for example, a property is exhibiting the signs and knock on effects of condensation led damp, then the tenants may well be held responsible for the damp that occurs as a result rather than the landlord due to condensation being a problem caused by lifestyle choices and lack of ventilation, rather than a construction or property failure.

If the type of damp found within a property is based within the failings of its construction however, then the landlord will be found responsible for the presence of damp. In this situation, the landlord will be responsible for contracting a damp survey, and having whatever measures deemed necessary to prevent the continued presence or spread of damp and mould .

The main types of damp that a landlord will be held responsible for are rising damp and penetrating damp. Rising damp occurs when a build up of moisture within the ground is absorbed by the masonry and travels upwards through the brickwork due to capillary action. Penetrating damp however is the action of water penetrating through an exterior wall through degraded brickwork, porous walls or other kinds of building defect, which leads to the development of damp.

In either situation, the presence of damp is serious and should not be ignored by either party, as its presence can lead to larger issues relating to the properties structural integrity, the quality of the building materials and their degradation, as well as the physical health of those inhabiting the property.

If You Discover Damp Whilst Renting

Mould and damp are common problems, and its more than likely that within your lifetime you will have to deal with its presence in your home, rented or otherwise in one form or another.  So, here are some tips not only on how to recognise damp, but what do if you encounter it whilst renting a property as a tenant.

Firstly, be thorough in your initial viewing of any property. Make sure that if you are seriously considering, or are in the process of agreeing to a tenancy agreement, that you take photos of the property and any damage / marked surfaces as they are before you move in.

This includes the likes of damp and mould. Be sure to stay on the lookout for tell-tale black mould, hygroscopic salts coming through paint, wet looking patches on walls and for the signature musty smell of damp itself.

If you do encounter any of these factors, bring it up with the letting agent or landlord immediately. Make them aware that the issue exists, and if you are still interested in the property make inquiries into how the damp and its side effects will be treated.

If you happen to notice damp appear during your tenancy then your approach should be a little different. Make a note of the time and date you noticed the damp, and also take a photo at this time. Continue to monitor the damp itself, making a note if it gets worse in the rain or humid weather, if household activities like baths, showers, cooking or washing affect the damp, if its affected by temperature, as well as numerous photos to corroborate your notes.

This information will be vital when it comes to determining the type of damp present in your rented accommodation. Once you do have the information you require to prove that you have a damp issue within the property, you should approach your landlord with your evidence so that you might get permission for a damp survey to be undertaken.

At this stage, a qualified surveyor will be able to identify the exact type of damp within your property, which should enlighten all parties involved as to whether the damp is the cause of condensation, or a property based malfunction.

If Your Tenants Discover Damp

As a landlord it is your legal responsibility to provide a home that is fit to live in. To that end, If damp and mould are discovered that stems from faulty masonry, plumbing or otherwise then you will have to take immediate action. That’s not to say that you cannot protect yourself against this eventuality however.

The very first step to take is the inverse of our first advice to renters. At the showing stage of renting a property, it will be vital for you to take photos of your property before anyone has resided within it.

This is your chance to check the property thoroughly for existing damp, or having it professionally surveyed to root out any potential faults within the property that could lead to future damp appearing. Keep copious records with photographic evidence, and have them shown to your tenants as part of any contract, with them accepting the state of the property before their habitation as fact.

With all this under your belt, if damp does appear in a property you are going to be covered against any claims that it was present before they moved in. In most cases, damp can arise not because of a fault within the property, but because of condensation.

Condensation is a side effect of life, and it really cannot be avoided. However, simple steps can be taken to make sure that a build up of condensation within a property doesn’t lead to damp. The installation of extractor fans or other ventilation systems for example go a long way in channelling humid air away from a property, removing the threat of damp arising from condensation significantly.

In some situations though, a tenants actions might be too much for ventilation you have installed to manage. It’s at these times you might find that interstitial condensation has taken its toll, and now your property has become infested with damp.

Here, you will have a solid case to pass on the costs of surveys and damp removal to your tenant, as with your wealth of evidence and measures in place to remove condensation effectively, you have done everything reasonable to avoid condensation turning to damp, yet the tenants lifestyle have allowed it to take hold all the same.

Now, in some other instances condensation can occur not because of tenant actions, but because of faults in the property itself. Leaking pipes, faulty ventilation methods, stuck heating – all of these factors can contribute to condensation occurring and affecting the property itself.

This is why it is vitally important to stay on top of your properties maintenance, as what might seem an insignificant failure at first can quickly snowball into something much larger.

Where this is the case, and in cases where rising or penetrating damp are involved, it is likely that you will be responsible for the treatment of the damp, as well as any costs incurred.

In order to make sure that the time of repairs is minimal, and that any disruption in you clients life is also kept to as short as possible, it’s important to act on damp as quickly as possible. Be sure to listen to any complaints from your tenants carefully, and act quickly to avoid mounting issues.

A Landlords Responsibility Regarding Damp

As previously mentioned, every landlord has a legal obligation to provide a property that is safe, healthy and free from harmful substances that could endanger another person’s physical health.

With that in mind, you may want to investigate some different preventative measures within your property.  Actions such as improving the insulation around windows and other entry points could lower the risk of interstitial condensation, as could improving ventilation with the use of extractor fans or a positive pressure system.

Also, if your property comes with a basement, it will be important for you to make sure that its waterproofing capabilities are up to scratch, and are prepared to deal with any amount of water ingress, otherwise you could find yourself in a situation where as well as damp, you are dealing with structural damage as well.

Keeping it simple, as a landlord you have a legal obligation to make sure that your property stays at a reasonable and healthy standard for your tenants – sometimes the best way to achieve that is by acting pre-emptively.

A Tenants Responsibility for Damp

When you are renting a property and using it as your place of residence, you have a responsibility to reduce the chance of damp and mould occurring, just as your landlord does. Examine your behaviour on an everyday basis, and try to understand if your actions could be the cause of unnecessary humidity and condensation. Actions like failing to open windows, allowing massive temperature fluctuations and consistently drying washing inside your property will all be factors that could see a rise in the amount of dampness that could appear in any property.

You shouldn’t ignore opportunities to reducer damp further either. If you feel like an addition to the property such as an extractor fan or a positive pressure system might decrease the chances of damp further, do not hesitate to request one be installed, and keep any request in writing, just as proof in case you need it in the future.

A Tenants Rights Regarding Damp and Mould

If you are renting a property, then you can live in comfort knowing that your rights regarding damp and mould are set out clearly in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. In short, it is a landlords responsibility to ensure that any property is fit for habitation, which by definition means providing a property that is safe, healthy, and free from anything harmful to a tenants health.

As a tenant, you are responsible for reporting the damp discovered to your landlord at the earliest opportunity. If they fail to respond or act, that is when you can contact your local council and request to be put in contact with the environmental health department, who will be able to take your findings further with enforceable action.

If you have discovered damp within your rented accommodation, and would like the property surveyed with minimal disruption, then you need to contact Timberwise today.

Call us on 0800 288 8660, and we will be able to advise the best course of action for you, as well as arrange a convenient time at which to investigate and survey your property.