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Is Mould and Damp a Landlord or Tenant Responsibility?

Mould is a hugely contentious subject at the best of times; Landlords blame tenant occupier habits, and tenants are quick to blame structural issues, and so, is mould and damp a landlord responsibility or the tenants and is the answer really that simple?

Let's first look at what mould is.  There are many different types, the cause of mould is usually what determines whose responsibility it is to make good. Various types include: 

Black mould is a fungus that grows on wet surfaces usually caused by excess moisture resulting from condensation when windows and walls are cold and there is high moisture content in the air.  Black mould is the most common type found in homes, and is caused by humidity or dampness, and can spread quickly if the underlying cause is not dealt with efficiently. The cause of mould is usually what determines whose responsibility it is to make good.  When determining the cause, it is sometimes worth instructing a professional to assess, whether that be a plumber, or a damp specialist depending on what type of damp the property has.  Having a professional assessment provides both parties with the proof of the cause which can also be an invaluable tool for an adjudicator if the cause is disputed at the end of the tenancy

Penetrating damp / water ingress occurs when water infiltrates the property either through a leak, missing or damaged roof tiles, or overflowing gutters, or even driving wet weather saturating the brickwork. When damp occurs this way, it is important to have the issue sorted to avoid prolonged damage and issues from this

Rising damp occurs in older properties where the damp proof course either wasn't installed due to the technology at the time of construction, or a DPC has failed, allowing moisture up through the bricks and mortar from the ground

Condensation this is water droplets created by warm air hitting a cold surface causing surface dampness which can lead to mould growth, and is commonly caused by internal room temperatures with insufficient heating and a lack of adequate ventilation.  In terms of general living, this can be caused by showering without windows open, or drying clothes inside without adequate ventilation.  It can however also be caused by structural issues and why an expert damp specialist should be used to independently investigate issues

What Is The Landlord's Responsibility?

Under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022 the landlord must ensure the property is:

 

A competent landlord will ensure the property is fit for human habitation prior to the commencement of a new tenancy, and that the property performs to an optimum level by ensuring (this list is not exhaustive):

- windows open and close sufficiently, and have vent options such as trickle vents which operate

 

- heating systems set to keep ambient temperatures, and thermostats are installed to give tenants

controllability in each room

 

- extractor fans are present in high humidity rooms (bathroom and kitchen) and are clean and free of dust and debris and operate beyond the switching on and off of lights (they require a 20 minute over-run time to limit humidity in the room)

 

- make good repairs such as cracks in windows and render

 

- ensure the gutters are cleared of vegetation and debris so reduce the risk of water ingress from overspilling gutters

 

- include a mould biocide to paint as a preventative measure, not just for kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms!

- consider PIV (positive input ventilation)  which is an internal ventilation system that pushes air around the property, which can be heated or cooled air, and is usually sited in the loft.  It can be cheap to purchase and cheap to operate

- provide the next tenant with a mould and damp guide, which helps to educate tenants on how to reduce the risk of mould through their occupancy good habits - our guide can be downloaded below

- be conscious if a prospective tenant has health issues which increases their vulnerability to breathing issues such as asthmatic, elderly, young, smokers, respiratory disease patients and previous pneumonia patients (our mid-term visit includes this to enable a risk assessment to take place for tenants in occupation of the property)

- regular inspections (see the mid-term visits section) can help the landlord to identify any areas of mould or spot anything that could cause a damp issues in the future and ensure the tenant is complying to the advice given within the mould and damp guide

- if a contract holder reports a mould and condensation issue it must be investigated whether this is a structural issue or an issue caused by the tenant's habits.  NO ACTION IS NOT AN OPTION!

- if the cause is undetermined, a damp survey by an independent damp specialist can help to ascertain the cause of the issue

   - Fit for human habitation at the time the lease commences 

   - Remains fit for human habitation during the term of the tenancy  

   - Respond to reports of mould and condensation by the contract holder (or via the managing agent) in a timely manner  

The landlord can be responsible for all types of mould mentioned above, and a damp specialist can help determine liability as well as advising of effective treatment.  The landlord could be liable if:

- condensation has been caused or worsened by blown double glazing

- damp is caused by gaps in exterior brickwork allowing damp to penetrate

- damp is caused by a leak

- the property has no cavity wall insulation which allows condensation to form more easily

- damage or overflowing gutters from vegetation growth that have not been cleared, allowing the gutters to overflow and water to penetrate brickwork

What Is The Contract Holder's Responsibility?

A contract holder should be aware of the mould and damp guide provided by the landlord within the welcome pack; it is a guide to help educate tenants on how to reduce the risk of mould through their occupancy good habits - our guide can be downloaded below

A contract holder should always report signs of mould to the landlord or letting agent as soon as it is spotted so that an inspection can be arranged and preventative measures started, to determine the cause, and find a solution

A contract holder should also report any issues of penetrating damp whereby an obvious leak has occurred; failure to report this and have remedial works carried out will continue to allow damp into the property and mould growth to continue.  

Where Can I Get Further Advice To Reduce Mould?

Click on the image to go to the Which? informative article about "What kind of damp is affecting my home?"

Click on the image to go to FixFlo's informative article "How to prevent damp and mould"

Click on the PDF image to download our free "Tenant Checklist – Simple Ways to avoid Mould"

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