How should landlords handle damp and mould issues?

How should landlords handle damp and mould issues?

9:42 AM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago 22

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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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Priten Patel

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12:16 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

The main issue I’m facing now is the tenant is demanding I paint the whole flat. My view is, the condition of the walls are similar to that at the start of the tenancy. There was mould, and now there’s not (the net impact on the walls is not that noticeable). Plus I intend to do works after she leaves, so it’s pointless to do now.

It’s been a money pit for the last few months. The last thing I’m considering is doing something that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Earlsdon

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13:24 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

I have tried various damp treatments over the years and found that Dryzone Mould Remover and Prevention is by far the best. I also recommend Zinsser Permawhite mould-resistant paint. It's quite expensive but probably cheaper than having repeated visits.

David

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14:19 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Gayle Tregaskis at 10/07/2024 - 12:02
Anybody ever read the "How to rent " booklet that landlords are forced to send to tenants, which explains to the tenant about damp and mould and how they should deal with it and care for "your property".
The way things are going it might be an idea to get a reference from an outgoing tenant to say he /she has experienced no damp or mould in the property because they have followed these guidelines.
Then if you have issues with new tenants you produce that letter(s)
and say they are not following the guidelines in this "Government" booklet, that they have damaged your property and you will take the damages from their deposit.

Priten Patel

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14:40 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

I’ve just scanned over it (with support from my friendly Chat GPT).
Section 4 is about tenants living in rented property but I didn’t see anything specific around mitigating damp or mould.

Chat GBT has however referred to a few other links/ sources incl. NRLA, Shelter, CAB which contains such advice for tenants. But these weren’t handed to the tenant on a plate at the start unfortunately.

Gayle Tregaskis

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15:20 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

Thank you, I've founds tenants don't read tenancy or other documents l.
More public awareness is needed re occupiers best practice.

David

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15:22 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Priten Patel at 10/07/2024 - 14:40
I did think i saw this in a "How to rent" guide but they are always updating these .The misnamed Dept of Levelling up as was now sets the responsibility entirely with the landlord.
However if you never had any mould with previous tenants i think you could argue it must be something a new tenant is doing.
As the "Great Reset" to "Build back Better" wants us all out we are unlikely to receive any fairness.

havens havens

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16:47 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

It's frustrating when you're doing your best to maintain the property and then things like this crop up unexpectedly.

You've definitely taken the necessary steps by getting surveys done, fixing extractor fans, and addressing ventilation issues. It shows you're taking the problem seriously and trying to improve the situation.

As for the legalities and guidelines around damp and mould, I get why you're feeling confused. It seems like there should be clearer rules, like we have for fire safety, right? It's frustrating that it's not so straightforward.

Dealing with unreasonable demands from tenants can be tough too. It's good you're documenting everything and staying in touch with the council to set the record straight.

If I were you, I might consider reaching out to a property expert or lawyer who deals with these issues regularly. They could give you a clearer picture of what's expected and help you navigate the situation smoothly.

Stella

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18:43 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Gayle Tregaskis at 10/07/2024 - 12:02Sounds a good idea but the Government or LA would be more likely to run an education program to show tenants how to complain and take the landlord to task.

rita chawla

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21:02 PM, 10th July 2024, About A week ago

Since the court ruling about the little child who passed away in council accomodation due to mould, "damp and mould" has become the latest money making scheme for council tenants. Sooner or later the private rental market will also get affected by false claims motivated by financial reasons. In the council I work in, we received 100+ complaints in last financial year on this issue, a large proportion "not upheld".

Priten Patel

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8:05 AM, 11th July 2024, About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by rita chawla at 10/07/2024 - 21:02
What’s the basis of determining upheld or not? For example, a request to paint a flat because, I kid you not, ‘painting disinfects walls’, and as a result, tenant is having to sleep in the living room (which also has walls..).

Using logic, I can’t justify it, especially where the flat has been treated of mould (disinfected).

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