What Should You Do if Your Neighbours Flat Has Damp?
24 August 2023
Damp isn’t a problem that anyone wants to deal with in their home, but sadly sometimes it will appear due to circumstances beyond your individual control.
One of these circumstances happens to be if your neighbour has allowed for damp to spread from their property into yours. This might happen more than you think as well – especially in flats when there are potentially neighbours above and below you as well as either side.
So, if you live in a flat that is suffering from damp stemming from a neighbour’s property, what options are available to you?
Identifying the Cause of the Damp
Damp isn’t a problem that comes about on its own. There is always a reason the damp is present, an explanation as to why the damp has spread. Usually it comes down to a failure in either damp prevention, or in a facet of the property that is allowing water ingress where it shouldn’t be.
So, your first action should be determining the cause of the damp in your flat. You will want to make sure that if you are approaching neighbours with a grievance, you are correct in what you are telling them.
The simplest way to have what you are saying backed up would be with a report from a reputed property care surveyor. A damp and timber survey from a Property Care Association (PCA) backed surveyor or organisation will not only add weight to your words, but it should give a clear indication on what the cause of the damp is.
A survey from Timberwise, for example, won’t just tell you where the damp is coming from, but it will also outline the actions that would need to be taken in order for the damp to be dealt with completely.
A survey of this nature is going to be vital in instances when either a neighbour is less than willing to be compliant when faced with a claim of damp affecting your own flat, or in instances where a landlord is just as unwilling to take action in a flat stricken with damp.
Of course, there is another advantage to equipping yourself with a damp survey report – and that’s the elimination of condensation as a cause of the damp.
Condensation is one of the biggest causes of damp in flats, and in many cases tenants and flat owners are advised that their own lifestyle is what has been causing the condensation to build up. It’s here we would advise that your neighbours, if willing, should go about their day in a way that eliminates any possibility of excess condensation building up – just so that they can be as sure as possible they are doing everything to reduce the risk of condensation in their power before approaching the landlord.
This can be frustrating, especially in instances where (for example) a landlord may own a number of flats in a single building, and their refusal to act on an issue in one property is now intruding on the others.
So, in summation, make sure you have an expert conduct a survey to identify the cause of the damp in the flat, and give yourself the professionally backed proof to approach your neighbours and come to a resolution.
Tackling the Cause of Damp
Once you are certain that the damp in your flat is not being caused by you, or anything in your own flat, it will be time to talk to the people responsible for the damp.
Now in many cases, the neighbours from where the damp is spreading might well be completely unaware that there is any issue at all.
In fact, we see all kinds of cases of damp where an owner is entirely surprised to find that the cause is something broken, or in a state of disrepair, and that a simple fix was the answer all along.
We are talking about blocked drains, leaky pipes, ruined pointing – the kind of things that could easily go unnoticed in a flat because the effects might not be visible in the flat itself, but rather outside, or on the floor below.
So, never assume that the person who owns the flat causing the damp is acting maliciously or slacking off – it could be the case that they aren’t sure what is causing the damp, or that there even was a damp problem at all.
The same advice applies to the neighbours flat as it does your own though: if the cause of the damp is not immediately noticeable, then you are best of recommending a damp and timber survey so that the cause of the damp can be identified by a professional.
Once the cause of the damp creeping into your flat has been identified, it will be up to your neighbour to take action and have the damp treated.
This might mean that they request their landlord take care of the problem as it falls beyond the scope of their responsibilities, that they need to go to the building manager, or that they are able to action the works themselves, and request the suggested works from the surveyor are undertaken.
Theoretically this is where the problem should stop.
You may have to undertake a bit of cleaning in your own flat once the damp has been treated, but if the damp has been treated properly then it should not return and you won’t have to deal with the damage reappearing.
What if My Neighbour Refuses to Treat the Damp?
Unfortunately not everybody has the pleasure of living next to a neighbour who is happy to help. Sometimes you may need to act a little more forcefully so that you can return your flat to a pleasant state, but there are still actions you can take to move things along.
First, let’s assume that it’s your neighbours themselves refusing to take on any damp treatment works rather than it being a landlord or another third party.
First off, having the results of a recent damp and timber survey handy is going to be hugely beneficial when it comes to proving that its not your property at fault when it comes to the source of the damp.
As we mentioned before, equipping yourself with the word of a PCA accredited specialist is only going to make things easier for you, and having this in the back pocket will add weight to your words.
So, once it has been established that the cause of the damp isn’t in your flat, then it may well be time to contact the local council and request to speak to the private housing team. The private housing team can get in touch with your neighbours and potentially serve them a notice if they refuse to treat the damp so that it stops affecting your property in turn.
This sounds simple, but the process can be more complicated. Your neighbour might choose to engage another damp surveyor to challenge your own surveyors findings, or they might decide to challenge the notice in court.
Of course, this is frustrating and will only drag things out longer. Don’t worry though, because if you have the results of a PCA accredited damp and timber survey to back you up then the chances are that any reputable damp surveyor is going to be faced with the exact same results you already have. If they do find different, then you can always challenge them in court.
Obviously going over your neighbours head, disputing their claims, and ending up taking the legal route is not going to be the smoothest of processes, but if the damp in your neighbours flat has caused damage to your own then it’s a necessary route to take.
What if My Neighbours Landlord Refuses to Treat the Damp?
It might not be your neighbours themselves refusing to solve the damp problem adequately, but rather their landlords if they are being deliberately negligent. Refusing to address the actual cause of the damp and instead simply painting over mould, or repapering where the old paper has curled is not going to solve anything, instead being an incredibly short-term solution with stacking costs.
So, first off it’s important to know who is responsible for damp when a landlord is involved.
If the damp is the product of the occupier’s lifestyle, as in it is the result of condensation, then the responsibility may well fall on the occupier – unless inadequate ventilation has been provided.
So, lets assume that the damp is the result of a failure in the building, and the landlord is responsible for it’s treatment. In this situation the landlord is clearly at fault, and is in fact failing to adhere to their legal obligation to provide a property at reasonable and healthy standards to you, the tenant.
In fact, as a tenant you do have rights outlined in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which clearly sets out that it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide a property fit for habitation, which by definition means ‘safe, healthy, and free from anything harmful to a tenants health.’
If your neighbour puts in a request with their landlord to have the damp in their flat treated, and that request is ignored, then they are well within their rights to contact the local council, and ask to speak to the environmental health department, who can take things further with legally enforceable action if needs be.
Contacting a Damp Surveyor
The first step in all of this is getting in touch with a recognised and fully accredited PCA damp surveyor, and having your flat inspected to eliminate it as the source of the damp is a solid starting point.
You can always arrange a visit from one of our surveyors local to you, and we will be happy to help you work towards living in a damp-free environment. All of our surveyors benefit from award-winning training and development, and they are all fully equipped to complete a full damp evaluation on your flat when they visit.