Back in Oct 2021, The Housing Ombudsman released a special spotlight report addressing the issue of damp and mould, called “Spotlight on: Damp and mould. It’s not lifestyle”
For households who experience it, they can experience profound detriment. It can lead to distress, it can affect their belongings, they can be embarrassed about their living environment.
Landlords be they Social Housing Landlords, like Folkestone & Hythe District Council, or private landlords, are too often defensive, dismissive or fatalistic, about damp and mould.
Landlords, be they social or private, must make plans to tackle the real risk of worsening damp and mould issues as energy bills soar.
Back in April 2021, we ran the blog
Housing Ombudsman issues call for evidence for an investigation into social landlords’ approach to ‘damp and mould’.
Below are just some of the image we took while going around various Council owned properties in April 2021.
Having revisited most of the properties owned by Folkestone & Hythe District Council we visited back in April 2021, the mould still persists, even though tenants have followed the Council’s Condensation-Policy . Most of the tenants have raised these issues since the housing stock came back under Council control in Oct 2020, but little to nothing has been done.
Only yesterday, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has ordered all social landlords – including FHDC to submit evidence to them to show they have systems to identify and deal with damp and mould in homes. The evidence the council will send to the RSH will be interesting, given that damp and mould still persists in council homes they own.
The RSH said that it will review the information submitted and, where there is evidence that providers are not meeting regulatory standards, it will take appropriate action.
The Housing Health and Safety Rating (HHSR) dictates that mould and damp is an essential repair as it can cause health issues for tenants.
Mould is a fungus which can trigger or exacerbate the following health problems;
Not only is mould detrimental to physical health, it can also have an impact on tenant’s sense of wellbeing. This is why it’s so important for landlords, private or social, to deal with mould swiftly and efficiently.
Given Awaab Ishak died of respiratory failure due to mould spores, which made national headlines, one would have thought this issue would be a much higher priority than retrofitting council owned homes, for which the council have so far received £2m.
The issue of mould persists in council properties from Lydd to Lyminge.
One must ask if somebody must die, or be hospitalized before the Council act on this life threatening issue.
Ishak’s death is why the RSH want to know what processes Council’s have in place to act damp & mould, as Rochdale failed a two year old. But who else are council’s failing, including our own?
Is Mould the Landlord’s Responsibility?
With regards to mould, when fingers are pointed, things can get complicated.
Legally, rising damp or penetrative damp caused by structural leakage is the landlord’s responsibility to put right. Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, it is the landlord’s responsibility to resolve mould issues caused by structural faults.
However, when interior condensation is caused by the tenant, this shifts the responsibility.
Condensation can be caused by;
Drying clothes indoors
Showering and not opening the window
Cooking without opening the window
Not heating the property sufficiently
Determining whether mould in a property is due to the tenant’s lifestyle habits or the poor ventilation of the property can be tricky.
Given energy prices have risen significantly for all of us, heating one’s property may well be a problem for both private and council tenants.
We’d strongly advise that you take images of the mold, cleaning and take new images when it grows back. Always time stamp the images, this way one can show it is a persistent issue.
First Steps When Mould Is Spotted
If you’re a tenant whose spotted mould anywhere within your rental property, you need to alert your landlord straight away. Describe where the mould is and any damage to furniture or belongings. Once the problem has been reported, the landlord has to respond within 14 days.
For landlords, when a tenant reports mould in the property, arrange an inspection to determine the cause of the mould and, where necessary, ensure repairs are made.
Once a damp problem has been resolved, you may also need to repair any damaged plaster or flooring and redecorate affected areas.
If you don’t respond within the two-week timeframe the tenant could contact the local authority who could force the issue through. That’s why it’s vital to arrange an inspection and repairs as soon as possible.
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 – section 11
Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord is required to resolve structural issues that could potentially lead to mould infestations.
Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 included an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. This allows tenants to apply to the court if they believe their rental home is “unfit for human habitation”, which it would be if excessive damp and condensation are causing significant mould problems.
Landlords are, therefore, obliged under law to ensure their properties are kept in an adequate state of repair throughout the duration of the tenancy. There is no liability if the tenant has breached the covenant by their own actions.
Under section 10 of The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, ventilation and freedom from damp are now listed as hazards that determine whether a rental property is unfit for human habitation.
Government guidance for tenants clearly states that if damp and mould growth or the chemicals that treat mould growth are a problem, tenants can take action against their landlord.
Tenants no longer have to deal with the local authority – they can take a landlord to court directly. Once a tenant notifies you of the problem, you have 14 days to reply in writing, stating how you plan on fixing the issue.
Note that tenants can’t be evicted within six months of them reporting an issue and you not fixing it. That would be classed as a retaliatory eviction. If you ignore a tenant’s complaint, the court can order you to pay compensation as well as ordering you to pay for the repairs.
If you have issues with mold Legal aid is available. Locally TNA Solicitors deal with housing disrepair issues which mold amounts to.
Also do contact you landlord as soon as possible, with photographic evidence where possible.
One can contact
The Regulator of Social Housing (with images)
and of course your local Councillor
The contents of this blogpost do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only. Users should seek appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action based on the content of the website or otherwise. If you require specific legal advice you should contact a specialist lawyer.
The Shepway Vox Team
Not owned by Hedgefunds or Barons