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Later this month, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act fully comes into force. What does that mean for landlords? From March 19th tenants will be able to sue for compensation for issues such as mould and damp.
In the past, we have lived by the simple aphorism that 'damp is a landlord problem, mould is the tenants', based on the knowledge that most mould is caused by condensation and most of the time, condensation is a symptom of the way a property is inhabited, not because of how it was built. This view may no longer stand up in court….
As landlords we can no longer expect 4 or 5 adults to live in a small terraced house without improving ventilation – whether by use of continual running extractors, positive input ventilation or similar. We can't tell people to stop drying clothes indoors if we don't provide vented or condensing tumble dryers – especially given the exceptionally wet winters we seem to experience of late.
Firstly, you have to ensure the property is adequately insulated. Condensation only occurs when the internal temperature drops below the dew point (the point at which the amount of water in the air is greater than can be held at that temperature). So ill-fitting doors, windows that are not double (or better triple) glazed and flooring that allows draughts from below all need to be addressed.
Once that is done, check loft insulation - if it has been flattened it is not doing what it should and if it is less than half a metre deep, it could be better!
There are obviously many more things that can be done to retain the heat but you get the idea.
Next is to get rid of water in the air. Obviously it is best not to have it in the 1st place, so tenants should avoid drying clothes indoors and cooking in pans without lids, use of gas appliances also increase water vapour in the air - but during a wet winter, a family with 2 small children in a small 2 bed property are going to be putting a lot of water into the air even if they follow your advice not to as much as they can. Same applies to an HMO where multiple adults showering and drying towels can have a significant effect on the amount of water in the air.
You probably say, "I am OK, all of my properties have an extractor in the bathroom" but what you should be asking is "Does it run in the background all the time to keep humidity levels low" and "Should I have the same in the kitchen?".
Even if you have this degree of investment, if the bathroom is downstairs and you have tenants who spend a lot of time in their rooms upstairs, there will be no air circulation up there and outside walls behind wardrobes and around windows, ceiling under the eaves and similar spots will be very prone to mould - so you may need to go further and consider PIV (Positive Input Ventilation) based solutions as well.
If you attended our Damp, Mould and Condensation course last year - dig out your notes and refresh your memory. If you didn't, we are hopeful that Chris from Alliance Remedial Supplies who ran that course will be able to run another this year and also, be along to speak at one of our meetings - so do try and attend as and when these occur.
The RLA also have some very good guidance on the topic, start here:
- How to reduce condensation (https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/guides/condensation/condensation_factsheet.shtml)
- Landlords Responsibilities (https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/guides/statutory-obligations-relating-to-property-condition.shtml)
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.