New student tenant alleges mould – but we can’t find it?

New student tenant alleges mould – but we can’t find it?

by Readers Question

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9:50 AM, 29th August 2023, About 10 months ago 11

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Hello everyone, I have a student tenant who moved in on July 1st and as soon as little more than 2 weeks later he was already threatening legal action against me and going to the council for alleged mould issues. He also had made complaints about various non-issues such as a thermostat that was said not be working but actually was – to a chair was broken but just needed tightening up – to complaining previous tenants left behind a few items which were as trivial as cup and plate and their copy of the tenancy agreement.

From the very beginning, the mould according to him is –everywhere– in the house. He also claims to have asthma yet there is evidence he actually smokes. For what it is worth, he has also set up cameras outside and inside the property also. The managing agent has gone round twice and could not see anything and nor the parents of the tenant could point to anything.

When asked where is the mould, the parents just gestured, is it not obvious? So, the agent spent a while looking and found a microscopic piece the size of what half a millimetre. So I/Managing agent then also arranged for a contractor to examine the place and the report could not find anything of note mould-wise either. The report did find one smallish damp patch on the party wall that he intimated was caused by next door – and any rate is not that tenant’s room and the tenant/parents has not even raised that issue. The damp patch does not even feel wet, just somewhat cooler.

Also somewhat relevant a few years ago, I had someone with pre-existing very serious lung issues who never said/complaining their lung issues was getting worse while living there.

So, fast forward to this week and the tenant’s guarantors have sent a copy of a report from a Danish firm who claim to do qpcr test (air sampling). The report refers to one room having been tested (probably the damp patch room). Then he has — another company — claiming it is ‘very dangerous’. The tenant is American and the company who claim it is very dangerous seem to based on American technology of ‘dry fogging’ and seem to do their own reports as well.

Neither of the reports had any photos be it normal or thermal to demonstrate anything either. The dry fogging firm came across as just a sales pitch if anything.

To repeat, the tenant has not sent any photos of mould or damp, but he did send photos of the thermostat and the offending things left behind by the previous tenants. So, I am just left with the alleged levels recorded by the Danish firm that state they sent the kit to take the sample then you send it to them.

I have no real evidence that the test results were truly even done at the house. I am just thinking is this because he just wants the place ‘dry fogged’ or just to cook up a false compensation claim. I can’t state enough I and the agents have not been able to see anything. The levels of the report are as follows:

Universal fungi 463.529 Mucor/Rhizopus grp. 560
Acremonium strictum 2 Pen/Asp/Pae grp. 445.746
Alternaria alternata 2 Penicillium chrysogenum 33
Aspergillus fumigatus 4 Penicillium expansum 35
Aspergillus glaucus grp. 356 Rhizopus stolonifer 0
Aspergillus niger 4 Stachybotrys chartarum 4
Aspergillus versicolor 22.138 Streptomyces spp. 87
Chaetomium globosum 3 Tricoderma viride 0
Cladosporium cladosporides 865 Ulocladium chartarum 6
Cladosporium herbarum 499 Wallemia sebi 3.750
Cladosporium sphaerospermum 497

Any suggestions of what I should do?

Sam


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Comments

homemaker

11:58 AM, 29th August 2023, About 10 months ago

The report appears meaningless. Mould spores can be routinely found by air sampling i.e they are ubiquitous. The question is whether the levels indicated are of concern. As both you and your agent have visited and established that there does not appear to be a mould problem affecting the fabric of the property I think you have taken a reasonable approach. I presume that you have also assessed whether there are any other maintenance issues that need addressing. On this basis I would advise that you are not intending taking any action at present. I would ensure you have a written record of the complaints made and your responses. If he subsequently complains to the Council I can't see that you will have any problems and if he involves solicitors he will need to evidence/ demonstrate the issues of concern.

N N

12:09 PM, 29th August 2023, About 10 months ago

Seems a bit odd, the test you've mentioned is a surface swab DNA analysis. He can't do much if he doesn't want to share the location of the mould. Maybe he's not happy with the flat now and just wants a different place.

Rob Crawford

12:36 PM, 29th August 2023, About 10 months ago

I think in this instance I would send him details of how to contact the council and also a link to the regulations stating how to proceed. Assuming he has already written to you to complain and you have responded with a short polite letter / email stating your findings did not substantiate his claims. I may even take the initiative and invite the council around to do an inspection. If the council then agrees, I would be serving a section 21. Your tenant is a trouble maker!

Freda Blogs

13:17 PM, 29th August 2023, About 10 months ago

If he's a student tenant and is on a joint and several tenancy, your best allies may be his fellow tenants - do they share this person's concerns and do they want to prejudice their relationship with the LL for this one student's shenanigans?

You need to treat them all as one entity, so a carefully crafted letter to all of them highlighting his complaints, your actions and proposals may bring them/him to his senses.

It would be worth doing anyway as this guy may well be complaining about you to the Council and uni/ student union (who always want to believe the worst about LLs irrespective of facts ), so a pre-emptive strike may be helpful to you.

Martin Thomas

13:45 PM, 29th August 2023, About 10 months ago

Agree with Rob Crawford. Get on the front foot. Get the Council to inspect the property and agree with your assessment and that of the letting agent. That sets a datum point and puts his complaints into context. When he complains again, they will hopefully treat his complaint with the contempt it deserves!

Simon F

14:29 PM, 29th August 2023, About 10 months ago

Explain UK maritime climate makes mould more prevalent than continental climate, so norms here are different to what he knows. If he's a student tenant - timing is still good to get a replacement - so you can likely afford to give him a few days to decide if he wants to annul the contract, but be clear if he stays until term starts, he needs to fully honour the contract for the rest of the year, and stop being a nuisance to you. If he's been in the house when it's all closed up, he might detect odour from inside an old sofa or coming up through the floorboards -- I can always smell mould long before I locate it visually. Fogging won't kill mould though - life as an HMO landlord would be too easy if it did.

Judith Wordsworth

16:24 PM, 29th August 2023, About 10 months ago

Have you actually gone to the property yourself? With or without the Letting Agent?

Is this an HMO or sole occupancy? How long is the Tenancy Agreement?

If HMO have you contacted other tenants?

Personally I think he is looking to make a dubious claim.

Ask him if he would like to rescind the contract and that you wont hold him to any longer notice period than the end of the current tenancy month.

There are hundreds of students desperate for rental property.

Fizi247

9:30 AM, 30th August 2023, About 10 months ago

I bet this LL can't wait for this tenant's contract to expire.

If the tenant is like this now, what will they be like when the 'Renter's reform bill,' comes into effect?

My advise to the LL and all other LL's is to do the following to cover yourself;

1) Get a professional Damp report from reputable company such as Peter Cox.
2) Ensure that you have dehumidifier extractor fans in the bathroom and kitchen.
3) Contact your local council disrepair department. Personally they're all useless and they all discriminate against LL's, when it comes to you raising a complaint, as they don't have a dedicated contact number/email address for LL's only for tenant's. You're only doing this to cover yourself in the event of another "Awaab Ishak," scenario. Council’s normally reply when it becomes fatal, then look to blame the LL.
4) Notify your legal team in advance about the situation.
5) Get a mid-term inspection report.
6) Ensure trickle vents are installed and working on all windows
7) Provide the tenant with damp, mould and condensation guidelines by "Shelter."
8) Provide a portable dehumidifier.

Bemused

10:17 AM, 2nd September 2023, About 10 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Fizi247 at 30/08/2023 - 09:30
I think we have to be careful when talking about Awaab Ishak. Someone’s child died whatever the circumstances. Naturally this has created a fear of damp and within the population there will always be the more anxious tenants. Possibly more so with students. Taking an adversarial position is driven by fear of unfairness by the authorities - a reasonable fear given all of our experiences. But if it were me I’d try to aim for reassurance rather than denial as the way you respond is as important as what you do.

You can both deal with the tenants and our own anxieties by all the things you are already doing and some of the suggestions by landlords in this thread. I’ve had the same problem and merely explaining that there are no black spores and that someone had just used the wrong paint which is why it has peeled in a bathroom was enough to reassure them. Granted your tenant comes from a culture that can be hyper anxious and may not trust us Brits, I think that if you have photos and witnesses (env health should back you - they are used to real mould and understand the difference between condensation and damp) then you will be ok.

Lisa008

11:31 AM, 2nd September 2023, About 10 months ago

It's always troubling when someone comes along, been there all of 5 minutes and then the complaints start. I always give an option of a graceful exit. If you're not happy here - you may leave. No penalties. I won't stop you. I'll even pay for your Uber. In this case, I'd involve my own third party to inspect. Get evidence. Provide it to them. And then still invite them to leave. No penalty. Do let us know how much more of a nuisance they continue to be as time goes on! Some people are just serial complainers and hyper condriacs. I don't get paid enough to waste my time listening to complaints. If you know your service offering is up to scratch - then there's nothing to worry about. But you have to nip it in the bud. Take all complaints seriously. Keep risk assessments. Keep paperwork. You are now running a property management company... with everything that comes with it... health and safety officer, credit controller, immigration specialist, tax lawyer, social worker... etc.,

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