An unfit property?

Speech bubbles with questions and answers

Damp and mould can often be an issue, particularly in older properties. This guide outlines how to prevent and manage this, and explains both tenants’ and landlords’ responsibilities.  

Landlords may sometimes need to complete significant and lengthy building and repairs work. This can be disruptive for the tenant, and a number of concerns may be aired.

Contents

Damp and mould

Repairs and building work

Damp and mould

My tenant says the house is mouldy and is affecting their health.  What can I do?

  • Many common household activities will naturally create moisture in the air. Often, there are things that tenants can do to prevent this. Refer your tenants to our page on tackling damp and mould. Sometimes, however, there are problems that tenants cannot fix themselves.
  • Don’t ignore complaints about damp and mould, as they may be a sign of a more serious problem. You should visit to check the property or send someone on your behalf to investigate. You must:
    • Carry out any necessary repairs in a reasonable time
    • Ensure the property has a reasonable standard of energy efficiency. This could mean improving the heating and thermal insulation.
  • Once a tenant has notified you about the damp and mould, you must carry out any necessary repairs in a reasonable time. For example, you are responsible for fix leaking pipes, broken heating systems, replacing missing roof tiles, and repairing cracked walls and rotten window frames. You should also ensure any damage caused to walls, skirting boards or floors, is addressed, and redecorate the affected areas as necessary.
  • If the damp and mould isn’t caused by a repair issue, you should still consider improvements to the heating, insulation and ventilation.

Ventilation

  • consider providing a tumble dryer if your tenant cannot dry washing outside
  • consider cutting a ventilation slot in the back of each shelf of a cupboard, or in the back of wardrobes
  • ensure chimneys are not blocked– fit an air brick with a louvered grill.
  • consider installing a cooker hood that vents to the outside. Re-circulating hoods simply move moisture back into the kitchen
  • consider fitting new windows with trickle vents

Heating and insulation

  • You may consider the following:
    • insulating the loft and draught proof the loft hatch
    • installing cavity wall insulation. Make sure the installer notifies the Building Control Office
    • dry lining large solid walls with thermal insulation
    • installing secondary or double-glazed windows to reduce heat loss and draughts
    • installing fixed heating (rather than using portable heaters) This should ideally be a gas central heating system or other economic means of heating such as a night storage heater. Heaters should have reliable thermostatic and time controls
    • do not draught proof a room where there is a cooker or a fuel burning heater. Ask a Gas Safe registered engineer for advice if you are not sure.
  • Residents on means tested benefits can apply through their energy supplier to have loft and cavity wall insulation installed to help maximise the energy efficiency level of their property.
  • As a home owner you could apply for a Green Home Grant. You could get up to £5,000 or £10,000 to help cover the costs of energy efficient improvements to your home. The government will provide a voucher towards the cost of installing energy efficient and low-carbon heating improvements to homes in England. The voucher will cover up to two-thirds of the cost for homeowners and landlords, and up to 100% of the cost for low-income households.
  • You might be able to apply for a Flexible Home Improvement Loan from the council.
  • t is advisable to conduct regular visits to ensure your tenant is behaving appropriately, and to ensure you identify anything you should be reasonably be doing to address the build up of damp and mould.

Repairs and building work

I need to carry out repair and building work. My tenant will not be able to use part of the property. They are therefore refusing to pay their rent. Can I do anything?

  • Most private landlords don’t have to provide alternative accommodation during repair or building work, even if parts of the property cannot be used. However, this may be specified in the tenancy agreement.
  • If it is not safe for you tenant to remain, your tenant does not have alternative accommodation to go to, and you do not have a responsibility to, or cannot provide, alternative accommodation, contact the council’s Housing Advice Team housing.advice@reading.gov.uk
  • If it is safe to do so, and your tenant chooses to remain in the property, they don’t have a right to stop paying rent. However, tenants are able to apply to the courts for compensation for the following:
    • failure to carry out repairs within a reasonable time
    • damage to belongings
    • financial loss (for example higher bills when using plug in heaters when the boiler is broken, or when work man use the gas and electricity)
    • disruption to daily life
    • not having full use of the home
    • time spent waiting for builders or inspections
  • Accordingly, it will save money and time if you reach an informal agreement.
  • If you have trouble reaching an agreement you may want to seek the help of a mediation service.