Causes of damp and mould
What is damp and mould?
Damp is the build-up of moisture in a property. It affects building materials, such as walls, floors, ceilings and can affect home furnishings and belongings - such as carpets, curtains, wallpaper, furniture, and clothing. When damp is present in a building it can also lead to the growth of mould and other microorganisms.
Moisture can be caused by property condition, leaks, or many other factors. There are many types of damp that can be diagnosed including; rising, penetrating, condensation and traumatic.
Is damp and mould dangerous?
Left untreated damp and mould can produce allergens, irritants, and spores which are harm to a person’s health. Damp and mould can cause ill health in anyone, but people with underlying health conditions and weakened immune systems can be at greater risk of poor health.
Gov.uk prepared a guidance document on the health risks Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Finding damp and mould in a property
What should you do if you find damp and mould in your home?
If you notice damp or mould in your home, you should report it to your landlord straight away. Promptly reporting the issue will enable the landlord to investigate the cause of the damp and mould and hopefully treat the cause of the issue
Your landlord should arrange to visit the property to investigate. If you feel unwell and have noticed damp and mould in your home, you should seek advice from your healthcare provider straight away.
Some household mould can be managed by wiping the surface and ensuring suitable ventilation to a room where there is moisture present. Shelter have produced guidance on Damp and mould: what tenants need to know | Shelter.
I can smell damp but cannot see any mould. What should I do?
The smell of mould without visible evidence may indicate that there is mould behind a surface, such as on the back of wallpaper, carpets, behind pipes, furniture or inside heating and ventilation units. You should exercise caution when disturbing potential sites of mould growth as removal of carpets or wallpaper can lead to a significant release of mould spores, this should be reported to your landlord to arrange for the work to be carried out by a professional.
What should I do if I notice damp and mould in a property?
Prompt investigation into the cause of damp and mould is vital to avoid damage to the property or its spread through a building. A landlord should follow its own policy for responding to reports of damp and mould and arrange prompt inspections by an appropriate surveyor. A landlord should also seek to find out whether any member of the household has vulnerabilities that may put them more at risk of ill health if exposed to damp and mould.
Best practice on responding to damp and mould is available in our Spotlight report and Centre for Learning training.
Damp and mould policies
Do landlords need a damp and mould strategy and a policy?
We expect landlords to be proactive in their approach to damp and mould, and we make recommendations for landlords in the Spotlight on damp and mould report.
A landlord must know their stock and determine whether it needs a standalone strategy to address immediate issues and then a policy to ensure it has steps in place to monitor its stock and address problems quickly and effectively on an ongoing basis.
Responding to complaints about damp and mould
If a legal disrepair claim has been submitted by a resident - should landlords continue to carry out works if there is a real issue with damp and mould in the property?
We would always recommend putting things right as quickly as possible.
It is for landlords to determine if they feel acting will prejudice any legal case, but we say in the Follow up: Spotlight on damp and mould report not to hide behind legal proceedings.
So, if you know there is an issue that needs rectifying then act quickly and do not wait for legal proceedings to be completed.
How should landlords answer a resident's complaint when lifestyle issues are a contributing factor to the issues they are experiencing, without mentioning lifestyle?
It is about being clear what you will do and what your expectations of the resident are, so it is a collaboration rather than one sided blame of “lifestyle”.
Very rarely is it only lifestyle so it's important to build a plan in collaboration with the resident. If, after carrying out investigations and you are satisfied it is ‘lifestyle’ and not anything structural, the important thing is how you then approach this with the resident. Tone and empathy are key. You need to ensure there are no sense of accusations or blame, and that any suggestions you make are practical.
Learning resources about damp and mould
Where can landlord’s access further learning on damp and mould?
The Housing Ombudsman’s Centre for Learning offers a range of training on damp and mould. Find out more information about the webinars, report and online workshops on our damp and mould page.
Member landlords can also log in to the Landlord Learning Hub to view the range of training available on damp and mould.