How to deal with damp, condensation and mould in a rented residential property
What do you do if you spot condensation, mould and dampness in rented property? Britain is notorious for its periods of damp, cold climate, and many of the problems we experience are down to the weather. But we can’t blame the weather alone. There are many different factors that cause properties to become damp, some easily remedied, some harder to fix.
So what actually causes dampness and mould problems in a rented house, and what can you, or your landlord, do about it?
What causes condensation, dampness and mould in a house?
Properties can be affected by different kinds of dampness. Each requires a different approach, so it’s important to know which type you are experiencing.
Condensation is the most common reason for damp and mould. It is caused when the moist, warm air in your room comes into contact with a cold, exterior-facing window pane or wall. The droplets of water that form are easily absorbed into wallpaper, paintwork or even plasterwork. In time, these damp places encourage patches of black mould to grow.
Condensation happens more during the colder months of the year. The dampness that results from condensation tends to gather in the corners of rooms, on north-facing walls or on - or near - windows. It loves areas where there is less air circulation, so you may find mould growing behind wardrobes or next to beds, especially if the bed is placed along an external wall.
You could see damp patches appearing on ceilings or walls if the property is letting the rain in through gaps or unseen crevices in the roof, walls or windows. This could be the result of missing roof tiles, broken or faulty guttering or any other type of exterior damage. If you live in a flat, a damp patch could be the result of a plumbing issue in the property above.
When dampness results from any of these causes, you should not expect to find mould growing. The leaking water collects salts as it passes through walls and floors, and these generally prevent mould from forming.
Rising damp or faulty cavity wall insulation
Unless your property is protected by a damp proof course (a waterproof lining in the walls, inserted just above ground level), you may see rising damp. This happens when there is nothing to stop moisture in the ground from seeping up through the brickwork.
Rising damp usually stops around 30-36cm above ground level, leaving a distinct ‘tide mark’. You may also see traces of white salts on affected surfaces (note that these also deter mould growth).
Incorrectly installed cavity wall insulation could also lead to damp areas. When it is badly fitted, water can seep through the brickwork and appear on interior walls.
If you can’t establish where damp is coming from, you could ask your landlord to bring in a damp expert, who will inspect the property and produce a report.
How to treat dampness and mould in a house
When mould is allowed to grow on surfaces, it attracts tiny mites which live on the mould. The presence of these mites can cause respiratory problems for some people.
As explained above, condensation is the main cause of black mould growth. There are three main factors that cause condensation:
- How cold or warm the property is
- The amount of air circulation (ventilation)
- The everyday actions of householders
Everything we currently do in our homes: cooking, showering, washing clothes – even breathing – creates moisture. When tackling condensation, you will need to consider all three factors.
Who is responsible for getting rid of mould?
The answer to the question ‘who is responsible for mould in a rental property?’ isn’t entirely straightforward. It will probably require a joint approach between the tenant and landlord.
There are certain steps tenants can take to improve air circulation and banish condensation. As a tenant, you are responsible for proper heating and ventilation in your home so damp doesn’t build up as a result of condensation.
Try to keep your home heated in cold weather, maintaining a low background temperature of at least 15 degrees in all rooms.
There may also be improvements (such as better insulation or improved heating system controls) that your landlord can install to help alleviate mould problems.
However, your landlord should not make unreasonable demands on you to banish condensation, such as drying clothes outside when you don’t have access to outdoor space.
Meanwhile, here are ten steps that tenants can take to reduce condensation and mould growth:
- After cooking, bathing or showering, open a window and close the door to stop airborne moisture from spreading to the rest of the house. Keep ventilating for a short time after use until all the moisture has escaped.
- As soon as you get up, open the bedroom window and leave open for 30 minutes to one hour.
- Clear clutter from window sills so windows can be easily opened, and condensation wiped away (do this every morning).
- Leave space between furniture and cold, exterior-facing walls to allow air to circulate.
- Avoid overfilling cupboards and wardrobes, as this stops air from flowing.
- Fit an air vent on chimneys and flues rather than blocking them off completely.
- Ensure you meet the correct ventilation requirements for any gas appliances you use.
- Dry clothes outside if possible, otherwise, use a clothes airer in the bathroom with the extractor fan running.
- Cover pans when cooking.
- Keep low background heat on all day in the house instead of using short bursts of high heat.
Over a period of almost 200 years, Collinson Hall has built a strong reputation amongst St Albans letting agents. That’s because we are committed to working with tenants and landlords to achieve the highest standards for our properties to rent in St Albans and beyond.
We look forward to helping you find your next home.