Damp problems everywhere and electrocution!

by Readers Question

12:52 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Damp problems everywhere and electrocution!

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Damp problems everywhere and electrocution!

My family and I are in a bit of a situation with our letting agent and landlord and we are hoping that somebody on here may be able to either offer a bit of advice or let us know where they think we might stand?wits end

So, we have been living in our rented property for the past 6 years, which is facilitated through a letting agent and is owned by our landlord. When we first moved into the house everything seemed fine for the first few months, but then little things started to go wrong and in a nut shell those little things have now developed into big massive things and haven’t really stopped since.

One of the first things that we noticed was that our bathroom was badly suffering from condensation whenever we had a shower. Even with the window fully open and the door open, every time we used the shower or had a bath, water would collect on the ceiling and drip down onto the floor for a good 10 minutes after you got out. We would obviously wipe it up (post shower) and try to keep on top of it – but after a few weeks we noticed that the walls and grouting were all developing a black mould which was spreading across everything else pretty quickly, so we purchased some mould spray and cleaned it up without giving it much more thought. But it would always come back really quickly, and we were now noticing that this black mould was also starting to develop in the kitchen, and the living room, and all three of the bedrooms.

They were only small patches to begin with – however, my wife is asthmatic so this sort of thing was a concern along with the fact that our youngest child had also just been born, so we were living in a house with an obvious mould problem. We contacted the letting agent (in both writing and on the telephone) to speak with them about it and they essentially ignored the problem. They told us that we had to open the window whenever we had a shower (which we did) and to ventilate the house as much as possible (again which we did). So we struggled on and a year later we had our first house inspection.

We pointed out how the black mould was spreading and how it was now turning into a fortnightly battle with me scrubbing every single wall and literally getting through litres of H&G Mould spray to combat the issue. They again told us that the house didn’t have a problem and that we had to open the bathroom window when we had a shower and that we needed to keep all other windows open to give as much ventilation to the property as possible. It was also at this point that we noticed a patch of the carpet in the living room was always damp and beginning to smell. We showed the letting agent during the inspection and raised our concerns but were again told that we had to have windows open all of the time and they gave us a handy print out pamphlet on how to deal with condensation.

We pointed out that we were (and always had been) doing everything they had on their handy tip sheet and were once again told that everything was down to condensation. We were also beginning to notice that our front door was becoming incredibly swollen with damp throughout the winter months, to the extent that we couldn’t actually open it at all.

From (on average) September through to March the front door could not be opened unless I physically kicked it open from the outside. Again we pointed this out to the letting agent and our landlord and were told that it would get fixed. It was pointed out how this was a massive health and safety issue if the only point of entry was now the back door and were told that we had to open the bathroom window when we had a shower and to open the windows throughout the day and night to ventilate the property as much as possible. Another year goes by and the patch of damp carpet in our living room has now grown to the extent that there is barely any carpet left and you can see through to the underlay. Also a white fungus was developing around it and the smell was getting worse and worse.

We have another house inspection and point out how this couldn’t possibly be down to condensation and that we would like something done about it. The letting agent agreed that it couldn’t be down to condensation and would look into it further. We also point out again that the front door is still sticking during the winter months and how we cannot get either in or out of the property through it. They said they had made a note of it and that we would be getting an answer soon. But we hear nothing, in fact despite being chased by phone and email we keep getting fobbed off and ignored and nothing happens – so much so that we do not have another house inspection for two more years.

As you can hopefully imagine upon our next house inspection we were getting pretty angry and feeling pretty raw, as the only thing the letting agents were telling us was to open the window when we had a shower and that it was condensation causing all of the issues. It was at this point that they also told us that we should stop using the shelf in the bathroom because this had become swollen through the condensation and that the matter would be looked into. In fact we had a letter from them with their handy tips on how to deal with condensation again.

Skip ahead six months and my wife turns the kitchen light on where she is electrocuted and thrown back from the light switch to find herself on the floor wondering what happened. We contact the letting agent to inform them and they send a maintenance engineer around to see what the problem is. They discover that there is actually water running down the inside of the pillar behind the light switch and tell us that there is a leak in the roof and that the flashing needs to be replaced. No apology or anything, so they send somebody around to fix it and tell us that the issue has been resolved and that we should open the bathroom window when we have a shower and leave our windows open all of the time to ventilate the house..

Then nothing.. No contact.. No updates..

It gets to the point where we have now got through several litres of H&G mould spray and the area of damp carpet in the living room has now spread to about 1 metre in size and is now really (really) smelly.. We are both incredibly stressed about everything by now and feel that each time we bring up the subject that the letting agents are either willfully ignoring the problem or trying to pin the blame on us where the only advice they can offer is to tell us to open the bathroom window when we shower and to keep other windows open at all times to ventilate the house.

It is now November 2015 and my wife, myself and the kids all have permannet coughs, and we are all wheezing. We get in contact with the landlord and the letting agent to demand that something is done. It has been nearly 4 years by this point – so they send around a damp expert to take a look – he and the landlord pay us a visit and look at the mould throughout the house and the carpet and he confirms that it is definitely damp, but that fitting a condenser in the loft would alleviate some of the problems in regards to the condensation.

However, he also says that they would need to look further into the problem with the damp under the carpet. He promised to generate a report that would be sent out to us, the landlord and the letting agents – we still yet to see this report despite repeatedly asking for a copy. Two weeks later the letting agents come around for a house inspection – we point out the sticking front door (again), the mouldy carpet (again) and the black mould throughout the house (again). They agree that the carpet issue is definitely damp and that they will send through their advice as quickly as they can. In fact it was so bad for the guy who came around he said he had to leave after 10 minutes because it was getting onto his chest and he didn’t like the smell. He told us that off the record we should just leave the house as quickly as possible. So we wait two weeks and get another letter from them telling us to open the bathroom window when we shower, to have windows open throughout the house both day and night in order to ventilate and that we should now additionally set the heating to 21 degrees at all times.

They do not mention the carpet or the damp that is eating it away or the front door that wont open, or anything about providing us with the report that the damp specialist had passed onto them.

It is now March 2016.. And the letting agents sent another damp specialist around to house to look at the problem – this was yesterday. He came in and looked around and lifted the carpet beneath the damp patch in the living room and discovered what I can only describe as a wet sand pit. Underneath the underlay the floor has deteriorated so badly that he could push a screwdriver into the concrete beneath with little to no effort.. He said that he’d never seen anything like it before. He went outside and found that at the base of the wall (pretty much all the way around the outside of our house) that there is a gap where water is leaking in underneath the wall and that is what’s causing the damp. He says that the carpet will need to now be ripped up, they will have to dig out all of the “wet sand” and then fill it back in with concrete, strip the plaster from the walls and re do them and paint every wall throughout the house with damp solution. He also said it would take at least a year for the concrete in the living room and walls to dry out properly once this work has been carried out. He also said that the pointing needs doing over the entire one side of the house as again he was just picking the brick away with his screwdriver with no resistance..

So we are now at our wits end. We need to get out of here. We need to leave – they have known about these problems for the past 5 years and have done absolutely nothing about it apart from telling us to open the bathroom window when we have a shower. And now by the look of things we are facing masses of work throughout the house, loads of upheaval and additional stress that we simply do not need.

Is there anything we can do? Can we demand compensation that would allow us to find a new house and move out as quickly as possible? Should be taking them to court? We just don’t know what (if anything) we can do to resolve this issue now – so any help or advice would be much appreciated.. We just don’t know which way to turn anymore. If anybody would like to see the photographs we have taken over the years or any the correspondence we have received regarding these issues then I would be more than happy to post them – if you think you can help..?

Again I apologise for the length of this post, but there is so much I have missed out still – like how the letting agents and landlord keep asking me to clear the gutters when it is stated in the contract that it is their responsibility, or how the boiler broke and we had no hot water or heating for weeks, or how the house was flooded on a Friday afternoon and were told that there was nothing they could do because it was too late to send somebody around on a Friday afternoon. honestly, the list goes on and on.

Please? Can anyone help?

Dren

 



Comments

Jerry Jones

13:01 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

In your position I would be asking the local council's Environmental Health team to come and take a look.

Steve From Leicester

13:28 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Agree with Jerry.

Google HHSRS (which stands for Housing Health and Safety Rating System) for more info about what is, and isn't acceptable and what powers your local authority has to deal with issues as a starting point.

Adrian Jones

13:31 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Environmental Health is the way to go. However, I'm struggling to understand why you have put up with this for so long. Is there something you may have forgotten to mention eg rent arrears?

Laurie

14:27 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Presumably you must have a very good reason to have persisted to accept these terrible conditions for such a long time, like very low rent. But considering the danger to your families health, the best thing would be to move and find better acommodation elsewhere - even if it costs more. Taking legal action will probably just lead to more stress and delay the inevitable, the landlord will always be able to counter all of your arguments, you may just end up with hefty legal costs and more headache.

Jon Pipllman

14:46 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

You should not have to put up with this for 6 days, let alone 6 years.

The easiest solution for you and your family is, surely, to move.

Do all the stuff about reporting too, but you owe to yourself and your family to find a house that it is safe and healthy to live in.

Do that this afternoon.

IMO

Robert Desbruslais

14:59 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Yes environmental health should be called in, regardless of any possible rent arrears etc.

Re the condensation issues, is there a decent extractor in the bathroom? That usually makes a big difference, especially if it is above the shower.

matchmade

17:55 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Besides approaching Environmental Health, I would approach a solicitor about starting - or threatening to start - a small claims court action against the landlord, on the grounds that he or she is not fulfilling the terms of the contract. The solicitor would like to see evidence of the damage and the repeated failure to act, but the first route should probably be through a close study of the terms of the tenancy agreement.

Also, is the letting agent a member of any professional association like ARLA? Perhaps a complaint - or a threat of complaint - could be made to them.

Adrian Jones

19:05 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Does anyone believe this post is true?

Chris Byways

19:16 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

This sounds very extreme, damp is so often a problem, but usually is a defect or lack of ventilation. There have been several useful postings on here about it. Getting a humidity monitor is quite cheap, and although not your responsibility, moving is expensive and disruptive, so worth persevering. Definitely contact EH, a dehumidifier is one useful aid, and heat exchanger MVHR, is one way, but all defects in the walls, roofs, gutters, and screed need attending too first. Wall insulation IWI, should reduce condensation substantially. EH can insist work in is done, if it not, the next tenant will suffer the same.

Rarely does throwing the windows wide open after a shower until dried off, not work. Personally I think this is far more efficient and effective than trickle vents.

Wrt tthe electrocution, has the electrics been tested within 5 years and certificated? Not mandatory, but can lead to consequences if something like what you describe happen, with RCBOs or ELCB fitted, this would not have happened. Again EH will advise.

Do let us know what transpires, we may be able to learn.

Gary Dully

22:23 PM, 14th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Hello Dren,

Half a decade of being ignored or not getting a problem resolved isn't good enough is it?

We are all curious as to how that could be happening.

So from your question, you appear to want a bag of 'compensation' money so that you can move out of your current home.

That sort of thing is usually decided by a judge.

So the way to proceed is to contact a solicitor who should invoke the CPR ( Civil Procedure Rules) for disrepair.

If they cannot get a satisfactory response from your letting agent or landlord, they will have the right to instigate an independent 3rd party specialist to investigate and report on the issues and your Landlord will be given the right to offer their own expert or go with yours.

I doubt it will get as far as that, but it might.

Based upon this report the next stages will be started, which will involve getting a court case started against them seeking damages, a refund of rent or criminal proceedings for not carrying out contractual repairs as required.

If you don't follow this process, any judge can be forced to throw out your claim for breaching the CPR for Disrepair.

This procedure is the legal way forward as it gives the landlord the opportunity to get the repairs done within a specific time frame.

If you also get Environmental Health to inspect, the landlord will be obliged to get repairs done with an official improvement notice.

If such a notice is issued, the landlord cannot legally evict you, without a court order under specific legal grounds, without severe financial penalties, as it is a criminal offence to do so.

The reason you also will see sceptical comments on this posting is that as Landlords, it is currently the season for Black Spot Mould in the UK, as thousands of tenants ignore their landlord and wreck properties by reducing badly needed ventilation in an effort to stay warm.

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