Mould in rental properties

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Mould in rental properties is never good news. As well as being ugly and causing structural damage, damp and mould can be a health risk, particularly for those with breathing difficulties. It’s no surprise that tenants expect their landlords to deal with mould if it makes an appearance.

mould-near-a-window-frame

While most landlords are keen to make sure their tenants are comfortable and their health isn’t at risk, paying to fix something that could be avoided in the first place is far from ideal. So whose responsibility is it to deal with mould, and what can you do as a landlord to avoid it?

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Whose responsibility is it to deal with mould in a rented property?

Damp and mould can be a source of conflict between tenants and landlords. The responsibility for preventing and tackling it isn’t always clear, due to the factors that can cause damp (and as a result, mould) to appear inside a property.

The most common cause of damp is condensation. Everyday activities such as showering, cooking and laundry can cause moisture to build up inside a house and cause condensation. Usually it’s enough to make sure the property is well ventilated by opening windows and using extractor fans. In this case, it could be argued that it’s the tenant’s responsibility to keep the property mould-free, as only they can make sure appropriate care is taken to avoid condensation inside.

Condensation isn’t the only cause of damp and mould in rental properties. Damp also occurs when water beneath the house rises through the building’s bricks and mortar, usually due to a problem with the property’s damp coursing (a layer of waterproof material within the walls, which is supposed to prevent damp from spreading). Leaking gutters and roofing can also cause signs of damp to appear.

The problems described above are structural, so the responsibility for fixing them lies with the landlord. Even if you believe the occupants are causing excessive moisture that’s leading to condensation and mould, you should consider your tenant’s rights.

Damp and mould issues are frequently seen in HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System) inspections, which may find that ventilation problems in your property are partly to blame. It’s a good idea to be cautious and take care of damp problems yourself, keeping your tenants happy and protecting your investment while staying on the right side of the law.

Landlords are legally obliged to answer tenant complaints within 14 days of receiving them, stating their course of action in writing. Not doing this may lead to an official notice from the local authority your property is in and prevent you from evicting your tenants via a Section 21 notice.

How to prevent damp and mould in rental properties

If you’re a landlord, mould responsibility is something to take seriously. Prevention is better than cure, so even if damp and mould haven’t been reported yet, investing in quality damp proofing and other mould-deterring maintenance is a good idea.

Start by checking the structure of the property. Hire a professional to make sure your damp proofing is in good working order and inspect the roof and guttering for holes or cracks that may cause water to linger or seep into the home. Leaking internal pipes, cracked walls and rotting window frames are other common problems that can lead to damp, so deal with these quickly.

Another thing to think about is how well ventilated the property is. While most houses and flats have windows that can be opened, this is no guarantee that your tenants will use them to ventilate the rooms, particularly during the colder winter months. In rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens where moisture levels are high, install a high-quality extractor fan.

If a tenant complains that mould is still appearing in their property after you’ve made the necessary repairs, use a fungicidal wash to remove the mould and check back regularly to make sure the problem doesn’t persist. If mould returns, there’s likely an underlying issue, such as condensation or structural faults.

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