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Your guide to damp and mould in rented properties

January 10, 2022

Winter presents the ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that can trigger episodes of damp, mould and condensation. While it can be concerning to see black patches develop or water running down the walls, many issues are easily fixed. Knowing who is responsible for prevention and treatment in rented properties is the essential place to start, as our guide explains. 

Know what damp you’re dealing with

There are three main types of damp and knowing the difference will establish the course of treatment and by whom. Rising damp is when moisture below a building is drawn up through bricks and mortar, and it’s this moisture that encourages mould growth. A lack of a damp course – or a damp course that’s failing – are the most common reasons for rising damp, and this issue needs resolving by the landlord.

The landlord is also responsible for rectifying penetrating damp, which is a result of failing structures, such as broken guttering or a  leaky downpipe. It’s important to note that while a landlord is responsible for repairs involving rising and penetrating damp, tenants should alert their landlord or managing agent if they notice blocked gutters, peeling wallpaper or bubbling paintwork – especially if it’s occurring on the interior surface of an outside wall.

The third type of damp – ambient damp – is the most common and reducing it is a shared responsibility between the tenant and the landlord. Damp and mould are most frequently caused by condensation – warm, moist air that turns into water droplets when it meets colder surfaces. Many everyday actions produce condensation – from taking a shower and drying wet washing inside, to boiling a kettle and even having a conversation. 

Prevention and cure

If there is a suspicion of rising or penetrating damp, a specialist company may need to be deployed by the landlord to find the root cause and undertake repairs. Cosmetic redecorating will also be the responsibility of the landlord, unless agreed otherwise.

Condensation is a trickier issue as improving insulation standards in let properties can actually contribute to increased condensation, unless well mitigated, as homes are now more airtight with fewer cracks and gaps where air can naturally escape or enter. 

We know asking tenants not to breathe or bathe simply isn’t possible so ventilation is crucial, especially when cooking, showering and drying clothes inside. Windows should be open or kept ajar whenever safely possible to let moist air escape and extractor fans should be installed in rooms susceptible to high humidity – bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms as a minimum. 

On the note of wet washing, this can be a hard aspect to tackle in flats, especially those without balconies or outside drying options. In these cases, a condensing tumble dryer or a dehumidifier is something to consider.

As well as ventilation, a steady, even temperature throughout a property is a useful tool in the fight against condensation. Avoid letting a property get too cold inside by keeping the central heating on low – warm air of around 18° and warm surfaces are what you ideally need to stop condensation forming. 

Everyday actions to prevent condensation, damp & mould

Small lifestyle tweaks can make a big difference around the home, so here are eight to encourage:

  1.     Keep lids on saucepans when cooking
  2.     Keep the bathroom door shut when bathing
  3.     Open a window in any room where washing is drying
  4.     Wipe condensation off window sills promptly
  5.     Move furniture away from outside walls to improve air circulation
  6.     Boil only enough water required to cut a kettle’s boiling duration
  7.     Air a property on a regular basis by opening as many windows as safely possible
  8.     Use anti-mould and condensation paint when decorating

If you would like more information about mould and damp in lieu of Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 in England, please contact us today.

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