Landlords and agents that ignore tenant complaints about damp and mould, could lead to personal injury claims and even hefty fines of up to £5,000 warns Letrisks, a leading provider of landlord insurance and tenant referencing services.
In Britain, condensation and mould in residential property is mainly a winter problem, particularly where warm moist air is generated in areas like kitchens and bathrooms and then penetrates to colder parts of the building. When the air gets cold, it cannot hold onto all the extra moisture produce by everyday activities, so some of this moisture appears as small droplets of water – most noticeable on windows, or where there is little movement of air. If not properly dealt with, this extra ‘dampness’ can lead to mould growth on walls, furniture, window frames and even clothes.
Condensation and mould isn’t something that landlords and agents should ignore. Mould spores need a moist environment in which to germinate, so many mould problems are caused by poor building maintenance and lack of ventilation, such as water leaking through windows or roofs; rising damp, which is often caused by breached, missing or damaged damp proof membranes; steam and condensation from showers, bathrooms, cooking or high air humidity; and inadequate ventilation or heating throughout the home.
Older properties tend to suffer more than new ones, but rental properties are particularly prone. The problem is often a matter of degree from a small patch of mould or discoloured wallpaper behind the wardrobe in the very top corner of a bedroom, to serious amounts of mould growth across walls, inside wardrobes and on clothes, furnishings, carpets and in basements.
Aside from damage to the property, mould spores are well documented as a health risk. The mould fungi have been identified as the source of many health problems, including infections, asthma, allergies and sinusitis. Moulds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins that may cause reactions in humans.
The best way to ensure the control of mould in buildings is to carry out good building maintenance and check there is adequate ventilation. Anywhere that is liable to allow water to leak in from outside the property, has a high degree of damp or condensation, or is not kept at a comfortable temperature is prone to a mould attack.
For properties that already have a serious mould problem, the best option is to call a professional who can diagnose the cause of the mould and remove it.”
Letrisks has put together some advice on how to deal with damp and mould:
• Don’t ignore it – if a tenant complains about mould or condensation, visit the property and fix the problem
• Checks for leaks that may be causing damp, inside and outside the property. Bathrooms are a common culprit for escaping water, so make investigations and call in a plumber to fix the leak if you can’t. Also check gutters which could be blocked by leaves at this time of year.
• Ensure that bathrooms and kitchens are well ventilated by installing extractor fans and ensuring that there windows that can be easily opened. Advise tenants to try to ventilate both kitchens and bathrooms for at least twenty minutes after use
• Ensure extractor fans are working efficiently. Noisy extractors will encourage tenants leave turned off. If an extractor cannot hold a postcard to the vent when switched on it is not efficient enough.
• If your property is prone to condensation, then give the tenants a de-humidifier unit. These come in all shapes and sizes, cost very little to run and draw out the excess moisture from the air helping to keep the condensation under control.
• If you can’t fix a mould problem, call in the experts. Don’t leave it to get worse as this could land you in court with a criminal charge.