How a Landlord deals with a tenant who complains about damp and mould

It’s that time of year again when Landlords start receiving numerous telephone calls from tenants complaining about damp and mould problems in their properties.

Different types of damp can affect a property in different ways, and it is important to identify the type of damp you have as soon as possible. There will be different root causes for the different types of damp and various ways of dealing with them.

The NHS says that damp and mould, which is often a symptom of damp, can also cause, or contribute to, allergic reactions, skin conditions such as eczema, and problems with the immune system. Together with health issues, damp can also ruin decorations and furnishings, such as wallpaper and carpets, as well as plaster, woodwork, window frames, and other parts of the structure of the building. It can also get into clothes and other belongings, can create bad smells, and contribute to an unpleasant living environment.

  1. Condensation – Condensation is caused when moisture present in warm air comes into contact with a colder surface, usually, but not always, a window or an exterior wall. This can sometimes be easy to spot because you may see droplets appearing on windows and other surfaces, especially when it is cold outside.

Establishing with the tenant that the damp and mould was not because of rising damp or penetrating damp, but due to condensation. When temperatures drop in an occupied property, the air can no longer hold onto all the moisture that has been generated; it will migrate to the coldest parts of the house and condense onto the windows and walls

Improving the airflow within a property by fitting good ventilation is the best way to deal with condensation damp but there are also many other things you can do. Moisture is always present in the air, but tenants can reduce the amount they create by avoiding drying clothes indoors, leaving lids on pans when cooking, and making sure that tumble dryers that are not self-condensing are properly vented. Tenants should also try to ensure that the property does not get too cold by keeping the heating at an adequate level.

Humidity level in the property is at 80% or above for 6 hours or longer over a prolonged period of time, then mould can occur leading to the dispersion of mould spores and various other mould problems that are known triggers of asthma, dust allergies and hay fever. High internal relative humidity in a property is the result of poor ventilation. For a small investment in each room and a purchase of

Temp/Humidity Monitors with Humidity Comfort Indicator are a great way of giving the tenant a visual indicator when the atmosphere is too cold/good /too hot.

It is often argued that tenant lifestyle is to blame, but the truth is, most of us create at least 4 pints of moisture per day just by breathing, cooking, bathing, washing and drying clothes, normal everyday activities that everyone performs at home. Tenants are naïve and feel it is  for the landlord to correct, when sometimes some gentle advice to the tenant can help with understanding their environment.

  1. Rising damp – This type of damp is caused by groundwater rising up through the capillaries, or pores, of a wall or floor. It can be difficult to spot until it has taken hold, at which point you might notice plaster or wallpaper bubbling or discolouration along a horizontal band. These ‘tide marks’ are caused by the moisture evaporating when it reaches a certain height and can be a combination of water and salts. Other signs are skirting boards starting to rot, and a noticeable smell of damp.

The usual way to deal with rising damp is to have a barrier called a damp-proof course or damp-proof membrane installed.

  1. Penetrating damp – Penetrating damp gets into the walls or other structures from an external source. It could be rain water getting in through cracks in the wall, missing roof slates, or too much water for the walls to deal with, due to a blocked or broken gutter or water pipe. If it is found at ground level, penetrating damp can be mistaken for rising damp, although it tends to spread horizontally rather than climbing vertically.

Penetrating damp will usually show as damp patches, which get worse when it rains, but serious cases may drip or run. It is essential to identify and rectify the problem that is allowing the water to penetrate in the first place.

  1. Construction damp – There will sometimes be areas of damp in a new-build house or after major renovations or building works. This is caused by moisture working its way out of the structure. It usually shows as patches, especially on bare plaster but can also appear on other surfaces. These may grow before shrinking again, sometimes over a period of months. Time is the best way to deal with this type of damp, and it is also generally the least harmful and damaging.