Mould in rental properties is a prominent issue during the colder months of the year and the upcoming Renter’s Reform Bill will introduce minimum standards to the private rented sector for the first time. This legislation aims to ensure that homes are ‘warm and dry’ and clarifies the responsibilities that landlords and tenants each have to limit the growth of mould within a property. As a landlord, here’s what you need to know about preventing mould if your property is prone to damp.

What causes mould within properties?

Mould develops when excess moisture and insufficient ventilation are present within a property. This is why bathrooms and kitchens are typical environments for mould growth.

How does moisture enter a property?

  • Condensation

    Condensation occurs when warm air comes into contact with a cold surface. This causes the moisture in the air to condense. Because condensation relies on there being a temperature difference, it is more common during the colder months.

  • Rising damp

    Rising damp occurs when moisture is drawn up into the property through capillary action. It typically occurs in properties where the damp proof course has been damaged or may not even exist. As a result, the issue is often found in older properties.

  • Penetrating damp

    Penetrating damp occurs when water finds its way into the property from the outside. Typical entry points include leaking gutters, broken pipework, low-quality brickwork, or poorly-fitted windows and doors. Buildings that aren’t maintained effectively are more prone to penetrating damp.

How to prevent mould from appearing in your property

Landlords and tenants must work together to avoid mould. This is because there are a range of actions that can be taken to improve ventilation and avoid moisture from building up within a property.

How can landlords help to avoid mould growth?

  • Hire a professional to identify the cause of the issue

    Accurately identifying the issue is the only way to ensure that the issue is addressed effectively. A specialist contractor will be able to recommend the right course of action to take, allowing the party responsible to ensure the damage is fixed.

  • Ensure that any maintenance issues are addressed

    If the source of the issue is linked to poor maintenance or a fault with the property, such as a damaged damp proof course, the landlord will need to address this. Both rising and penetrating damp can be eliminated through property repairs.

  • Inspect the property for damp, condensation, and mould

    When inspecting the property mid-way through the tenancy, landlords or property managers should look out for these issues. Any issues can then be resolved before they escalate or cause damage. An inspection will also check if the tenant is looking after the property effectively.

  • Advise the tenant on how to manage the property

    Landlords should work with the tenant to ensure that they understand how their actions (or lack of action) impact the condition of the property. Making sure that tenants understand how to ventilate the property and remove excess moisture can be extremely effective.

How can tenants help to avoid mould growth?

  • Maintain a suitable temperature

    As warm air can hold more water vapour, condensation can be limited by maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the property.

  • Ventilate the property

    Simple actions like using extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom, or opening windows on occasion will allow moisture to escape.

  • Remove excess moisture

    Wiping away condensation, avoiding drying clothes inside, and using a dehumidifier can all keep moisture levels under control.

  • Use mould prevention products

    Incorporating specialist products within a cleaning routine can address mould growth at an early stage, preventing it from taking hold.

What damp and mould legislation is in place for private landlords?

Damp and mould have long been mentioned in legislation that impacts the private rental sector. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 lists ‘freedom from damp’ as one of the conditions that private landlords must meet to ensure that their property is fit for human habitation.

This act was then amended by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. Within the act landlords are instructed to consult the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which outlines 29 hazards that could lead to a property being deemed unfit. This includes damp and mould. It is important to note that, while the HHSRS isn’t ‘necessary’ for courts to determine whether or not a home is fit for human habitation, it can be used by local authorities to enforce action against landlords.

What changes are on the horizon?

The government has announced that the Renters’ Reform Bill will be introduced within this session of Parliament. Within this bill, the Decent Homes Standard will be widened to apply to the private rented sector as well as the social housing sector.

How will the Decent Homes Standard impact private landlords?

The Decent Homes Standard introduces a range of minimum housing standards to the private rented sector for the very first time. In terms of damp and mould, the new legislation aims to ensure that homes are ‘warm and dry’ and will assess this using the 29 hazards outlined in the HHSRS. As a landlord, you should be aware of the following key points:

  • The landlord is obliged to keep the structure and exterior of the property, as well as service installations, in a good state of repair. If damp and mould occur as a result of a structural problem, the landlord will need to take action to rectify the problem.
  • The tenant will be obliged to notify the landlord in writing if they find an issue that they believe makes the property unfit for human habitation. The landlord will then need to respond and deal with the issue in ‘a reasonable amount of time’.
  • The landlord will not be obliged to remedy the issue if it has been caused by the tenant’s behaviour. The tenant will need to heat and ventilate the property adequately in order to avoid damp build-up and mould growth.

What to do if you find mould in your rental property

Leaving mould untreated will make things worse, so fast action is needed to stop it spreading. Whilst you may be able to clean mould yourself, trusting a professional contractor will ensure that the job is done correctly. This is another benefit of working with a property manager. At Pure Lettings, we have a large network of reliable contractors that we can recommend, or we can liaise with your preferred contractor on your behalf. If you would like expert help with managing your rental property, be sure to get in touch. Give us a call on 01689 400100 or email and we will get back to you to discuss your requirements.