How should landlords handle damp and mould issues?

How should landlords handle damp and mould issues?

9:42 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago 21

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Hi, hope this post comes as helpful and can kick off some useful discussions. It’s about damp and mould, the risks, and mitigations as well as a (my current) case study.

I own and self-manage an ex-local authority flat in South East London and it’s been fine (concerning damp and mould) for years. A new tenant moved in over two years ago – no major concerns or complaints. At the start of the year, we extended this for a further year. I visited them in person to discuss it and sort out the paperwork etc. Nothing was flagged and nothing was immediately concerning.

In May, I received a video from the tenant of a mould-ridden wall behind a bed which they moved (it was backed up against an external wall). Over the next week or two, I received more and more pictures, videos and voice notes of mould and concerns about health and wellbeing.

I had a survey carried out and a mould remediation programme completed all within around three weeks from the first report. The survey identified extractor fans which weren’t working, so I got my electrician to address this (stronger fans with humidistat). I also noticed trickle vents were blocked/full of dust, so I’ve arranged a glazier to replace all the trickle vents in the flat.

As soon as the treatment was completed, the tenants’ issues (like mould) spread to a variety of other things. We are working through these, and I’ve regrettably given in to some unreasonable demands because rent was being held at ransom. Live and learn, it could be worse.

In the meantime, the tenant has complained to the council about me, claiming it’s been reported for 5+ months and I’ve done nothing. The council have delegated this to a charity. Needless to say, I am in touch with the officer and am putting some facts straight, with evidence.

I’ve even put together a 6 page report consisting of the whole matter end to end (up to the date of the report). Which includes some comments that the tenant has carelessly made to me, such as being unable to operate their food business, and being unable to pay their cooker/helper. This is a 2 bed flat, not a commercial kitchen (and it’s a bit of a coincidence there’s high humidity and mould).

Given the exposure, I’ve gone and done a load of research – what is the landlord’s responsibility, what the tenants should do, what can the council do etc. I’ve read the Decent Homes Standard, papers around Awaab’s Law and Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

But I cannot seem to find any guidance that says something like ‘a landlord is compliant/meeting their obligations if they do XY and Z’ – why isn’t this said anywhere?

Damp and mould is treated as a severe hazard (HHSRS), the same degree as a fire. But unlike a fire, landlords have guidance to comply with (smoke and heat alarms, and test them periodically). If we comply, our risk is mitigated. There is no such approach to damp and mould. So what do we do?

The fact that lifestyle is not a defence, the only way I see it is that a landlord is responsible for tailoring their building to their tenant, somehow. I could have a reasonably breathable property (good extractor fans, sensible background ventilation) and Tenant A lives and cooks as I personally do, and there are no concerns.

Tenant A moves out and B moves in – they prefer to live in a way that naturally induces higher humidity levels. But that is now something the landlord needs to find a way to address?

It sounds absurd, and I hope I’m not misrepresenting or misunderstanding anything.

I will be grateful to hear from others on this topic.

Thanks,

Priten


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JamesB

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9:35 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

I have one property I have owned for 28 years.
After 20 years as an HMO, with no damp or mould issues whatsover, I decided to refurbish it and let it as a single family home for less tenant turnover and an easier life.
Within 2 months of reletting, the tenant sent me a stroppy email with about 40 photos of damp and mould throughout the whole house completely ruining most of the decoration that I had literally just paid for. I felt so low about that. Somewhat baffled I then had a PIV system fitted and upgraded all the extractors and did some remedial redecoration.
About a month after that the next door neighbour started complaining. "Do you know you tenant cooks 24/7 for her brother's restaurant? We are sick of the smell all day and all night." Well I didn't, but it explained everything. A quick check showed that the new cooker hood was literally caked in grease. I turned a bit sour on them after this and thankfully they left after a year. I returned the house to being an HMO and to this day I haven't had another issue with damp or mould.
I do fear that the way things are going, I could have been on the receiving end of big trouble for the condensation and subsequent mould effects of their "business." This is one of the many, many, reasons why I am gradually selling up.

Ross Tulloch

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9:44 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

I have a similar property with walls that do attract damp and mould. With one tenant I had to entirely repaint the room twice in one year after cleaning it. She left and was fine with the tenant the next tenant I explained the issue he kept it well ventilated and there was zero problem and zero damp and Mould. In my experience this is partly education and partly Tenant And little more

Susan Youngs

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10:00 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

I have this with a tenant complaining about damp and mould. I am managing the flat for an elderly relative who can no longer tent out the flat and has moved into residential care. The relative needs to sell the flat. The tenant has lived there 15 years. Suddenly now they have an issue with damp and mould. Accusing my relative of not doing anything about it which I know would not be the case. My relative has even paid for maintenance for the tenants small garden since he’s been unable to do it due to ill health. The tenant refuses to move and now we need to get them evicted even though they are single and young. They are waiting for council housing and they work for the council. It’s proving to be a nightmare.

Judith Wordsworth

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10:18 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

Running a commercial kitchen is not residential lifestyle so certainly a cause.

I would report your tenant to HMRC, to the Local Authority's Food Safety Team, also check to see if the tenant's food business is registered https://consumeradvisory.co.uk/how-to-check-if-a-food-business-is-registered/

I would hope that your Tenancy Agreement states for residential purposes only and that no trade or business may be undertaken in the property.

You may also find that you yourself are breaching the terms of your Lease ie property being used for a business.

Priten Patel

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10:25 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

Reply to the comment left by Judith Wordsworth at 10/07/2024 - 10:18
Yes it’s certainly a breach, but it’s one word against the other. I can’t prove it, but she said it. And I included it in my report which she reviewed and ok’d (I assume she didn’t review). So that’s my only proof, but she could then say she’s not doing it anymore.

I mean, the food/cooking is one thing, my struggle is how can a landlord physically accommodate the variety of different lifestyles, and be on the hook for damp and mould always.

Cider Drinker

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10:27 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

I have a house with a gable end that attracts condensation.

I removed a brick to see if it was the wall ties. Some of them are breached with bits of cement - probably since the property was built in the 1950s. However, it was also evident that the cavity wall insulation was poorly installed and there are large voids where it hasn’t spread properly.

The cost of remedial action would probably be many thousands and the property is only worth around £90k. So, I bought the tenant a dehumidifier and I keep the rent low. The dehumidifier does a cracking job and when the tenant leaves (next year) I’ll change it to a holiday let (if CGT is increased) or sell it.

David

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10:52 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

Sounds like you have gone above and beyond on this.If they are unreasonable tenants and it sounds like using it for a business get rid of them now and even consider selling the property as a lesson learned.You can go on paying for work following surveys and because the tenants create a lot of moisture, doesn't dry it up, doesn't ventilate they will continue to complain that it's your fault.
I have one property where various tenants have complained about different degrees of mould yet my new tenant has no issues, because, guess what he opens his windows.

Stella

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11:20 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

I have a flat that I have rented to various people for nearly 30 years and never had a mould problem until 3 guys move in.
They did not ventilate set up a washing line in the Lounge where they dried all their clothes and refused to used the tumble drier.
Within 2 months of them moving in the room was covered in black mould, luckily I got rid of them after 6 months.

Yet every time I hear anyone speak on this subject they are so blinkered that they always have to blame the Landlord and would not dream of suggesting that the tenants lifestyle might possibly be causing the problem!

JB

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11:20 AM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

Reply to the comment left by Judith Wordsworth at 10/07/2024 - 10:18
Of there's a business being run, it may affect your insurance.

Gayle Tregaskis

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12:02 PM, 10th July 2024, About 3 days ago

It would be very helpful if government/ local authority led an education program for tenants re mold and damp issues ( most landlords are well informed).
Most of my tenants who have an issue with mold automatically say that the property is damp etc.
Sometimes I instal a new extractor fan, though not needed. Most tenants begin to understand the problem regarding their usage of the property and realise they need to ventilate etc.
My local authority officer recently told a tenant to open windows and wipe condensation, and the property was not 'faulty'. The tenant complained about damp mold to the authority under the licensing scheme,

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