Landlords: how to counter tenants’ complaints about damp

by Robert Desbruslais

14:00 PM, 6th June 2013
About 8 years ago

Landlords: how to counter tenants’ complaints about damp

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Landlords: how to counter tenants’ complaints about damp

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

Comments

Robert M

17:09 PM, 7th June 2013
About 8 years ago

I think some confusion may occur about Envirovent if we are not careful.

The basic problem is that properties need to be heated and ventilated. Owner occupiers, who bear the cost of negligence, seem much more aware of this than tenants.

Kitchens and bathrooms produce the most problems. Often the solution is to fit a £30ish basic fan from B&Q or Wicks. One step up from this is a fan controlled by a humidistat (£50ish? - I haven't a clue I would never buy them!).

Now the problem with these in my experience is the power supply depends on them being switched on, whether connected to the light or not. Generally this is simply not good enough.

Now Envirovent have a solution. They do a range of fans that are permanently on. They tick over very slow until the atmosphere gets damp and then speed up and slow down as required.

That's a humidistat fan I hear you say. Well yes, obviously it is. But being on permanently it avoids the need to rely on the tenant to activate it. Furthermore, the Envirovent fan passes the bog roll test. Take a single sheet of paper and place in front of the basic fan whilst running, there's half a chance it will drop to the floor. With the Envirovent fan the paper stick to it like a limpet.

Take an example. Two summers ago I had two en-suite shower rooms out into a student house, both without windows. Now all experience landlords will be asking if I am mad. Well maybe I am. Anyhow two years on and the only fault in those rooms is some hard water stains on the enclosures. The decoration remains immaculate. Why? Each is fitted with the Envirovent life time fan with a five year guarantee.

As you may have guessed, the fans are not cheap. Are you sitting comfortably? They cost about £250 plus VAT each supply only. Before you yelp how much just think. How much do you spend in hard cash and time cleaning and redecorating bathrooms and kitchens?

Two £250 fans fit in place of a basic fan (same sized duct). If you want one at home there is a version which claims to recycle 90% of the heat back into the property. These are about twice the price and what I usually fit in my properties and need a larger hole (next standard size up).

A couple of years ago a landlord was having trouble at home with bathroom condensation. He asked for advice so I flogged him one of these fans. Within two months he told me to arrange for 14 more to be fitted in all his rented properties as soon as possible.

Just to let you know, yes I have an interest. I sell these fans (supply only) for less. Also, you need to get the right Envirovent fan; they do their own versions of basic fans.

Moving on, if you have problems in other rooms in the house Envirovent do the unit that Mark is waffling on about. This controls the air in the whole house by pushing warmed fresh air into the building and forcing the old damp air out. Usually these are fitted in the loft with an output on the landing ceiling. As you can imagine, from a company that can charge you £250 plus VAT for a fan these are not cheap. I am not at my desk, but they cost about £500ish plus VAT (supply only). One of my properties has two fans and one of these units fitted and they have transformed the place and my wallet.

Look on the bright side – 100% tax deductible!!

Mark Alexander

17:19 PM, 7th June 2013
About 8 years ago

@Robert M - do you also fit these units?

You need to get yourself a Property118 Member Profile by the way. I am an interested customer and I have no idea how to contact you or who you really are. It's not good Netiquette to put contact details on discussion threads but where your name links back to a Member Profile with lots more info (like mine does) that's pretty cool don't you think?

Robert M

17:23 PM, 7th June 2013
About 8 years ago

That's why my contact deials ore not given!

Mark Alexander

17:31 PM, 7th June 2013
About 8 years ago

Huh? You don't want more customers? I'm confused?

19:37 PM, 7th June 2013
About 8 years ago

yes, I have fitted the Nuaire for a number of landlords and also owner occupiers, particularly ground floor flats where they don't want to leave windows open when going to work all day. feedback from all is very positive (excuse the pun - they are known as positive ventilation units - as they do not extract, but gently pull fresh air into the property and thereby reduce draughts as well. Anyway, it has solved the redecoration problems, unhappy tenants and moldy clothes. used also in flooded properties to dry out, some reckon they are more effective than dehumidifiers. have used both the ceiling mounted and the wall mounted versions. new build properties will have whole house ventilation units, they of course are the ultimate solution, but not always easy to retrofit.

Pete Judd

10:05 AM, 9th June 2013
About 8 years ago

My cheapest fix for mould ever was to buy a cheap relative humidity meter which cost me £12. I gave it to the tenant with a printed leaflet that explained condensation was caused if the humidity went over 67% (I think that was the figure but can't remember for certain). I did redecorate the mouldy areas but now they open the windows and mould has not come back.
PS if anyone can tell me where to get cheap humidity meters I would be grateful as I bought this as a clearance item and can't find anything that cheap anywhere else!!

Gunga Din

11:46 AM, 9th June 2013
About 8 years ago

Pete Judd, you can get matchbox sized digital humidity displays on ebay for about four pounds. And they're in the UK, as opposed to China.

Regards - Doug

Robert Desbruslais

17:35 PM, 9th June 2013
About 8 years ago

Thank you everyone for responding to my article. Ultimately the cure is almost without fail the need to improve all of the following; insulation, warmth, and most importantly, ventilation. The tenants will not be inclined to improve ventilation with energy bills so catastrophically high so heat retention is important. A humidistat and other automatic or electronic appliances can be turned off by the tenant so alternatives are required.

If you can improve insulation to reduce the tenants energy bill, they will be more inclined to ventilate. If the tenant is warm, they will open a window. This will solve most condensation problems.

Not easy in some properties but this should be your aim.

If you have specific issues trying to persuade a tenant the problem is condensation, not damp, our £40 on-line advice may help to mediate the issue (www.askasurveyor.co.uk).

Sunny; I would be surprised if your £4k ventilation system or the damp proofing were entirely necessary (most damp will evaporate if allowed to breathe).

Pete Judd

22:21 PM, 9th June 2013
About 8 years ago

Thanks Doug that was very useful. Never thought to look there.

Steve Gracey

15:06 PM, 11th June 2013
About 8 years ago

Last time I had an EHO look at damp it was a nightmare. He told me I needed to fit a ventilation system in the dormer window area. Lots of calculations about the outside temperature being on 3 sides of the dormer window area etc and then requested details of Freeholder and Mortgagee so he could contact them and tell them the property was in danger of imploding or something because the condensation was running down the windows and the tenant was too busy being unemployed to wipe it up. He wanted a 4 inch hole drilled in the wall for a vent or fan because it was a category A Health and Safety hazard serious danger to health etc. The fact that he had trouble finding the windows due to the fog of cigarette smoke wasn't even mentioned and apparently cigarette smoke isn't a health hazard if it's in your home. I told him there was a perfectly good ventilation system already in place proven over the last few centuries and it was called an opening window. That's why windows have handles on them - they're not just handy hooks to hangs wet towels on - they are for ventilation.

IMHO condensation complaints are getting more common because peoples lifestyles are changing and they have little common sense. More and more people sit on their big fat behinds all day watching telly or using computer and spend less time outdoors. They like it nice and cosy while they do this so they keep the windows sealed. Unfortunately exhaled breath includes a lot of moisture and simple science says all this moisture has got to go somewhere. Building regs specify opening windows for this very reason so everyone please just open the windows and smell the fresh air.
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