Mould is a landlord problem claim tenants and councils agree by issuing massive fines

by Des Taylor & Phil Turtle, Landlord Licensing & Defence

15:34 PM, 6th January 2021
About 3 weeks ago

Mould is a landlord problem claim tenants and councils agree by issuing massive fines

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Mould is a landlord problem claim tenants and councils agree by issuing massive fines

New research has revealed that almost two thirds (62%) of people claim to have had an issue with mould in their home at least once, with conditions in the home the most common reason for the spread of mould, says a new research study commissioned by Uswitch.

It may be no surprise that London’s the city where people have experienced mould the most. Over a quarter of respondents who declared they had mould found it in properties in London. This is followed by Birmingham, the only other city where the percentage of people finding mould reached double figures (10%).

The four most populous cities in the UK (London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds) also take the top four spots for mouldiest cities, raising questions over accommodation conditions and overcrowding. Surprisingly, some smaller cities in terms of population such as Bristol, Brighton and Norwich are more notorious for mould than the larger metropolises of Sheffield and Liverpool.

Over a quarter of mould victims agreed that mould had affected their health in some way. While being around mould may cause minor illnesses like a runny nose or coughing, for those with asthma, mould allergies, and weakened immune systems, it can trigger a much stronger reaction. 9% of respondents shockingly believe that the mould in their home led to them having an asthma attack and 10% of people believe that it compromised their immune system. But aside from the physical issues people have encountered due to their mouldy homes, mental health has also been affected with 13% of people stating that it’s made them depressed.

Holly Shaw, Nurse Advisor at Allergy UK advises those who’ve experienced symptoms due to mould: “Contrary to popular misperceptions it’s not mould itself that’s the problem for those with a mould allergy, but the spores it produces. So if you’re allergic to mould spores you may have symptoms like a runny nose, coughing, wheezing, sneezing and/or watery eyes. If you also have other respiratory allergies like allergic rhinitis and asthma, mould spores may act as a trigger and exacerbate these conditions.”

“If you have these symptoms and find mould, avoidance is recommended in the first instance. It’s advised that you do not attempt to clean the mould yourself, but pass this task on to a willing relative or friend.”

As the number of people in private rental accommodation increases, so does the rift between landlords and tenants. Tenants may find that they don’t want to spend their money on fixing issues with a property that isn’t really theirs. Whereas landlords will not want to see their properties neglected, and without having easy access to sort it themselves, arguments can ensue.

In the study, 40% of people stated they wouldn’t clean mould themselves if they were in a rented home, with 64% of people believing mould is solely the landlord or letting agency’s responsibility. However, it’s not a black and white issue, with responsibility falling on both parties.

 Landlord responsibilities:

  • To fix and repair problems causing mould (leaks, broken damp proof course, inadequate insulation).
  • Mould affecting a tenant’s health and safety.

Tenant responsibilities:

  • To adequately ventilate the property within reasonable means.
  • Maintain cleanliness of the property.

The research has shown that those who are younger are more likely to have been blamed for mould growing in their home (44% of 16-24 year olds compared to 11% of over 55’s), with men (57%) bearing the brunt of this. But as for the reasons these people have been blamed, it may be due to the following:

  • 40% of those who’ve had mould dried their clothes indoors.
  • 11% confessed to keeping the shower curtain folded when wet.
  • 22% left the kitchen or bathroom door open when cooking or showering.
  • 12% admitted to having a cluttered home.

Many of these things can be easily avoided.

Keeping the heating on is too expensive

Sadly for those that have had mould, 46% of people struggled to pay their heating bills and may have not been able to keep their home adequately warm to prevent it. Out of this group, young adults aged between 25-34 struggled most, whereas those aged 55+ struggled least. 5% of people admitted to not having the heating on at all when they had mould.

Landlords at risk of council fines

Damp and mould are perennial problems in Uk housing stock and whilst without doubt some problems are tenant lifestyle-related, a lot of the problem is poor structural quality and lack of investment/improvement by landlords.

A massive amount of Uk rental property is badly insulated or not at all. Victorian and even younger properties have solid walls which have inadequate or no insulation and are permanently cold. It takes a massive amount of heating in the room to warm the walls sufficiently to stop condensation and landlords need to recognise that tenants simply cannot afford that.

You simply cannot install cavity wall insulation in such properties, because there is no cavity. Instead, and it’s not simple but needs doing, hack of plaster on external walls and fit 50-60mm cellotex-backed plaster boards and skim. The difference in comfort and heating bills is amazing. And because insulation keeps the wall surface warm, there’s little likelihood of condensation which is the case of most mould.

The other structural element that landlords sadly fail to consider is adequate ventilation. I don’t mean just trickle vents (assuming they’ve bothered to upgrade the windows to double glazing) I mean double-airbrick sized ventilation in each room. But NOT old-fashioned naughty air bricks that cause cold draughts and tenants block up but either draught-free passive moisture extraction vents, room by room active ventilation or a whole house positive air pressure vent system.

One thing that Landlords need to understand is that their prosecution focused and revenue-hungry councils will hold the landlord totally responsible and issue many £1000s of Civil Financial Penalty fines for failing to eradicate damp and mould

Phil Turtle, HHSRS and Fire compliance director at Landlord Licensing and Defence


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Comments

Judith Wordsworth

10:35 AM, 7th January 2021
About 3 weeks ago

One of my previous tenants refused, in writing, to open windows in Autumn and winter as " it was too cold in this country" and "it wasn't her job to wipe condensation from the windows so if I wanted that I should either come round everyday or send done one to do this"; she switched off the Eco humidistat in the kitchen as it rattled in the wind, but thankfully left the one in the bathroom on. Condensation was running down the windows and onto the wall below. I put in passive air vents in the lounge and bedrooms and she reported me to Environmental Health for causing a draught. I begged EH to inspect, initially they said they only inspect when requested by tenants, but did come round and reported I had done everything I could and that she needed to change her lifestyle and use the central heating! They also said that I had no legal right, and neither did they, to tell someone how to live.
The Green Grant outside/inside walls insulation methods will only make mould problems worse I believe. Properties need to breath and be ventilated and if they are not and mould issues arise it should not be dumped on landlords to have to sort.

In 2 previous properties, tenants lifestyle caused so much mould that I had to knock back to the brickwork and it cost £1000's to rectify.

Steve Masters

11:17 AM, 7th January 2021
About 3 weeks ago

In my experience mould tends to come and go on change of tenants. This would suggest it is more to do with tenants lifestyle choices than building defects, and I use the word "choices" deliberately.

In life there are choices and consequences. If a tenant chooses not to adequately heat and ventilate the property they live in or a landlord chooses not to rectify a building defect in the property they own then the consequence can be damp or condensation leading to mould.

I have used Envirovent in the past and they offer a free damp and condensation survey (I have no connection with Envirovent). I follow their recommendations and ask the tenant to do the same.

Sometimes tenants just need educating, sometimes they refuse to change their lifestyle choices and insist it is the landlords responsibility.

'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink'!

NEIL T

12:33 PM, 7th January 2021
About 3 weeks ago

I sent this to my tenants a few years ago. Hope that this helps.
Ventilate to remove moisture:
* Ventilate all the time, especially when someone is in
* Increase ventilation of the kitchen and bathroom when in use and shut the door
* Ventilate cupboards, wardrobes
How to avoid condensation
1. Produce less moisture
Some ordinary daily activities produce a lot of moisture very quickly.
Cooking: To reduce the amount of moisture, cover pans and do not leave kettles boiling.
Paraffin and portable flueless bottled-gas
heaters: These heaters put a lot of moisture into the
air - one gallon of gas or paraffin produces about a gallon
of water. If you have a problem with condensation, try to
find alternative means of heating.
Washing clothes: Put washing outdoors to dry if you can
Or put it in the bathroom with the door closed and the window open or fan on.
While drying clothes indoors, ventilate the room. You can ventilate your home without making draughts.
Some ventilation is needed to get rid of moisture being produced all the time, including that from people's breath.
Keep a small window ajar all the time, and especially when someone is in the room.
You need much more ventilation in the kitchen and bathroom when cooking, washing up, bathing and drying clothes. This means opening the windows wider.
Close the kitchen and bathroom doors when these rooms are in use even if your kitchen or bathroom has an extractor fan.
Allow space for the air to circulate in and around your furniture. Open doors to ventilate cupboards and wardrobes. Leave space between the backs of wardrobes and the wall.
Where possible, position wardrobes and furniture against internal walls, i.e. walls which have a room on both sides, rather than against outside walls.
After a bath or shower, the room should be ventilated to the outside, not to the rest of the house - just opening a window (and closing the door) will help.

Mike

16:56 PM, 7th January 2021
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Steve Masters at 07/01/2021 - 11:17
@Steve, you can take a horse to a water hole, but you can't make it drink, true, landlords don't have a legal right to tell tenants how to live, yet we do, we must tell our tenants how and what they need to do when they rent from us, so we put this in our tenancy agreement, so when mould starts appearing, and if they don't follow these rules, they would be breaching tenancy agreement and should therefore be evicted, it is much easier to understand now that we have Corona virus pandemic, and you can see how even the Police has a problem trying to stop all night parties and rave, despite of the lock down rules, tenants are no different, they simply disobey tenancy rules, so should be evicted before Councils start imposing heavy fines on us for not our doing.

Steve Masters

17:18 PM, 7th January 2021
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike at 07/01/2021 - 16:56
I agree Mike. As a good landlord I will do my bit to reduce damp, condensation and mould. If my tenants want to continue to live in sub optimal conditions of their own choosing that is up to them. Only once have I asked a tenant to leave because their poor lifestyle choices led to damp, condensation and mould. This was after I used an Envirovent survey report to demonstrate to them the building was not at fault, it was their lifestyle. She refused to take responsibility and continued to argue that I needed to do something but she wasn't going to pay for precious heat to escape from open windows! It's possibly a bit harsh to evict someone in case they go to the council but I would ask them to leave if their poor lifestyle choices where damaging to my property.

joss URCH

18:34 PM, 7th January 2021
About 3 weeks ago

A studio flat in a block has mold which I'm about to treat with an anti fungi spray then paint with zinsser perma paint which should do the trick, has had the problem before with a previous tenants many moons ago, but this lockdown has intensified the situation with tenants staying home all day in a small space with heat on double glazed windows shut and 1960s walls I guess its not surprising.

Robert M

22:09 PM, 9th January 2021
About 2 weeks ago

It almost goes without saying that the vast majority of landlords do not want damage to their properties and do all that is reasonably required. I have taken to lining my smallest HMO bathrooms with plastic shower boards and a plastic ceiling all wipe clean with a commercial molded floor!

There is loads of advice for tenants, all repeating the same main points. For example try
https://apyork.com/tenant_info/damp-and-condensation-advice.htm

Michael Barnes

18:16 PM, 11th January 2021
About 2 weeks ago

"In the study, 40% of people stated they wouldn’t clean mould themselves if they were in a rented home

And therein lies the problem.

If they tackled it early, then it would not develop.

Judith Wordsworth

16:31 PM, 12th January 2021
About 2 weeks ago

Normal part of a cleaning routine I would have thought. But then too many tenants want spoon feeding and think it's their right for landlords to do everything and jump when demanded.
I now always sterilise walls, paintwork and window rubber trim. Then for walls and paint use an anti-Mould additive or a guaranteed anti-mould paint. Might be a bit more expensive at tenancy turn round redecoration but worth it.
I also have a leaflet to give the tenant(s) explanning about mould and condensation/life style and have clauses in the Tenancy Agreement re not drying clothes indoors and they must either use the washer/dryer provided or purchase a washer/dryer not just a washing machine.


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