In Britain’s cold climate, problems of damp and mould are not new, and not restricted to one type of home or one area of the country. But the prevalence of the problem does not mean that landlords should ignore it. That could be a costly mistake.
Ignoring tenants’ complaints about damp could lead to hefty fines and even personal injury claims. While condensation and mould in properties is usually associated with winter, our colder and wetter spring has increased the likelihood of damp becoming a problem and landlords especially should be vigilant. If even the smallest area of condensation is not dealt with properly, the damp could lead to black spots of mould growing on walls, furniture, window frames and even clothes.
Many mould problems are caused by inadequate ventilation or heating, or structural maintenance issues such as poorly sealed windows, blocked gutters or damaged roofs. This makes older properties and rental properties with void periods especially vulnerable, but it’s not a hidden problem, with sights and smells signalling the presence of damp, making it easy for landlords and letting agents to be watchful.
By spending time and money now to make sure that bathrooms and kitchens are well ventilated, and windows and heating systems are well maintained, landlords can avoid future fines. As well as damaging tenants’ personal property, mould spores are a well-documented 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.
It’s not just private landlords who are vulnerable to fines over poor maintenance. According to Michael Portman, a Lambeth Council tenant recently sued her Local Authority after her multiple complaints over damp and mould were ignored. Three years after she first complained, the small leak from the flat above was found and fixed, but by this time her young son had contracted asthma.
Now, as well as a much bigger repair job, the Council had to foot a £1,335 fine and is now fighting a personal injury claim for the child’s health issues.
So it’s an easy moral – the longer you ignore damp, the higher the cost will rise!