Landlords: how to counter tenants’ complaints about damp

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Complaint about dampHow often have you had a tenant complain about damp patches or mould? You may even have had builders or specialists in to fix the problem, only to find that the come back again.

Unless you have worked out exactly what is causing the dampness and mould  in the first place, than all a builder can really do is mask the problem for a few weeks or months – it will come back. Yet damp problems can often be resolved completely by taking very simple steps, without the need to pay for major works –often just opening a window will suffice, if you’ve been able to trace the problem to condensation.

While there are many reputable firms, you may be very surprised to find that some so-called damp specialists might have gone on a course that lasted only a day and cost them as little as £50. These courses are usually sponsored by the people who make the materials that often actually trap moisture in your walls. I generally advise my clients to avoid these treatments at all costs.

Of course, one of the biggest causes of damp in let property is quite simply condensation, and no one can fix that unless the tenant can be persuaded to ensure that the premises are well ventilated. However, they may not accept that until you can prove the point, and sending a surveyor out on a site visit may be rather expensive.  So do consider online alternatives like AskASurveyor.co.uk.

By Guest Columnist Robert Desbruslais of AskASurveyor.co.uk

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Comments

  • Hi Des

    The only effective products I’ve ever come across to cure condensation are Envirovent fans and units. They are not cheap though.

    It’s all very well proving that damp if the fault of the tenant but when you do they just move out. At that point you have a void period, a decorating bill and the cost of finding a new tenant. Surely it’s better to find remedy than fault?

    What’s the best remedy you can recommend?


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  • Pauline Sandwith says:

    I live in one of the hundreds of Victorian terraced properties in my town. On the whole it’s a well-made building, but it has cold spots on various external walls, which have a tendency to get unsightly mould patches, despite regular wiping with fungicide / dilute bleach.

    The best way of allaying condensation in my experience is by
    - not having furniture up against these cold walls
    - allowing fresh air to circulate through the rooms on a daily basis (not an easy choice during the long, chilly winters!)
    - avoiding steam from the bathroom and kitchen passing elsewhere by simply closing the door, and ventilating that room properly
    - and of course, no hanging of wet washing around the place. Towels can hold pints of water, which just settle straight onto both the windows and those cold areas on the walls.

    I guess some tenants might be slow to adapt their habits, but advice at an early stage might save at least some of the re-decorating costs.


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  • I’ve had reasonable success with £50 humidistat fans, one’s that come on automatically when they detect condensation. Put in bathroom & kitchen.
    If minor, cheap air-brick vent.
    Cleaning mould off first with bleach. A cleaner mate taught me pva glue on wall before paint quite often stops mould coming back there.
    As u all know, most problems are tenant caused.
    One story I had, I get on great with Environmental Health in Nottingham, if my tenants ring them, they tell ‘em to talk me again ’cause they know I do do my repairs & there is two sides to the story. I called Environmental Health out once to WORK AGAINST ME in this house.
    Tenant had been with me for 7 years in previous house no mould problems from her or house. She moved into my other house where modern 1970′s don’t get mould. She got mould. So I assumed wasn’t her or house, but just didn’t know. So I called Env Health to come & see if I, the tenant or the house is doing anything wrong ’cause they are very experienced in this.
    Do u know what he surmised? He got out of her that she was taking her THREE dogs upstairs at night, the THREE dogs were panting all night, producing much more wet air condensation that we could ever envisage, & they were the new damp/mould/condensation problem.


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  • That was a brave move, inviting an EHO into your property Mick! You must have a good one in your area. I’ve heard many stories where HMO landlords have done that and been given a ridiculous list of jobs.

    I agree on humidistat fans, they definitely help but they don’t seem to fix the damp patch behind the wardrobes do they?

    I don’t work for Environment and I’m not on commission or anything from them either but I do recommend them. I don’t profess to understand the science behind how they work but they do work very well. My theory is that by pushing air into a building other air has to leave. This air pressure builds up everywhere, unlike a draft from an open window, so it also gets behind cupboards and wardrobes etc and creates airflow. That’s my theory anyway and I have the units in two of my properties, one being an old Victorian terrace and the other being a 1980′s ground floor flat and it’s cured the problem and will end up saving me a fortune in redecoration costs and voids due to tenants moving out because of damp issues.


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  • How do I reply directly to u?
    EHO’s only normally ask for what is reasonable anyway, but I agree, I ain’t got any HIMO’s so would probably panic there, as rules are tighter.
    EHO love me ’cause I don’t argue, agree with them & next time, u end up doing less than they ask ’cause they can see you’re reasonable.
    My tenants han’t got wardrobes ha ha.

    I need to look into them Environment fans next time I have problem.


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  • They are bloody expensive Mick, I only got the first one because I was so desperate and they offered me a money back guarantee that it would solve the problem. You are looking at about a grand a pop though!


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  • I recently came across NuAire at the Welsh Landlords Day.

    Their solution for condensation & mould costs less than £200 and has received good testimonials from landlords.

    http://www.propertytribes.com/solution-for-mould-and-condensation-t-8090.html

    We also have a fact sheet on Property Tribes to give advice to tenants to insure that they do not cause mould & condensation problems.

    http://www.propertytribes.com/condensation-mould-guide-give-your-tenants-they-move-t-6807.html
    Vanessa Warwick recently posted…Green Deal for or againstMy Profile


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  • Hi Vanessa

    Yes I’ve heard of them too, they been around for decades haven’t they?

    They seem to to something very similar to Envirovent units but I don’t know anybody personally who has used one and had success.

    £200 is very cheap in comparison, is that just for a humidistat fan or for the loft or wall mounted units which pump in filtered air? Also, is that supplied and fitted and with a money back guarantee? Sorry to ask all these questions and I appreciate you might not know, I’m just trying to compare like with like.


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  • I think those questions are mostly answered on the thread I linked to as NuAire are part of that conversation.

    If you have any unanswered questions, just pop them on there and I am sure they will answer. :)


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  • Sunny says:

    I have had a similar problem where a tenant complained about a funny smell and then mould growing on his clothes in the cupboard.

    The tenants complained to the letting agent who managed the property but I had already notified them that I was looking into this problem.

    I had a company that quoted me 4k to fit a ventilation system that simple moved air around the property. Long story short I went with a local damp company who charged considerably less and treated one side of the building, installed extractor type fans with a timer in each bedroom and advised the tenants not to dry clothes on the central heating.

    It did cause a slight dispute and the tenants wanted to cut the agreement short, I was more than happy to do this as the tenant complained about everything he could think about including “too many flies inside the house” and the fact that the toilet seat lid kept falling each time he tried to use the loo.

    Happy Days :-)


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