14:36 PM, 26th November 2010, About 13 years ago 5
Landlords can expect to see a jump in the number of complaints from tenants about damp in their homes over the next few months – but who is responsible for paying to put the problem right?
Many landlords are seen as a bottomless money pit by letting agents and tenants who are on the phone at the first sign of a problem in a rented home, but the law says that damp is not the landlords problem in many cases.
The landlord does have a responsibility to ‘keep the structure and exterior’ of a property in good repair under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
But ‘keep’ means that the property must have deteriorated in a way that needs repair and because damp or condensation is evident, does not automatically mean a repair is required.
The burden of proof comes from the case Southwark London Borough Council v McIntosh which found the tenant must show damp either arises from a defect in the property that the landlord has not repaired or the damp has led to damage that the landlord should repair.
Most tenants ignore the fact that damp and condensation may arise from the way they use the home – like drying clothes indoors without ventilation that causes condensation that leads to damp. Here, the obligation is on the tenant to pay for any damage caused.
A practical way to avoid condensation issues is to provide ingoing tenants with a guide to heating and ventilating the property and pointing out bad practice like drying clothes on radiators. The guide should include a warning about responsibility for paying for any repairs as a result of failing to follow the guide.
A good idea is to hand over a copy and include acceptance of the guide as part of the signing of the tenancy agreement or inventory.
Damp problems are also actionable by local council environmental health officers who can go as far as issuing an enforcement order to close a property if repair and remediation work is not carried out.
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