Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Dampness, Condensation and Mould – I have noticed black patches on the wall paper. I also have mould on my clothes in the wardrobe and a damp musty smell. A damp specialist tells me there’s definitely damp. What should I do to get my landlord to do something about this?

Dampness, Condensation and Mould
This is a very complex area and one should be very wary about jumping to conclusions as to whose fault it is.
Also, it must be born in mind that advisors on damp often have a vested interest in finding a problem, which they can then be contracted to “cure”.
When it comes to legal action and blame, enforcement has just as often been against the tenant as it has against the landlord when cases have come to court.
Unless there is a specific cause for dampness such as leaking roof, walls, gutters, drains, water pipes or rising damp, mould is more often caused by condensation – air born water vapour.
Condensation in turn is sometimes caused be inadequacies in the building construction, such as poor ventilation, insulation and inadequate heating systems and older properties are more susceptibleas because they generally require more heating and suffer greater heat loss.
However, often, condesation is caused by the lifestyle of the occupants.
Too much steam generated within the house from cooking and washing coupled with too little heating and ventilation.
The longer a house has been subjected to this, the more the dampness and mould takes a hold in the fabric of the building and the quicker these conditions re-appear when conditions again precipitate it.
In practice what happens is this: in cold weather tenanted properties are too often left all day with little or no heating. When evening comes the occupants return for just a few hours to literally blast the building with moisture from cooking, washing, breathing etc whilst providing little ventilation for all of this moisture.
The occupants are often reluctant to vent-out steam by opening windows as this introduces a cold blast to an already cold building.  Bedrooms, usually the worst affected rooms, and the least well heated anyway, are then subjected to the all-night breathing of the occupants – just the breath from a couple of occupants can introduce a surprising amount of moisture into a room overnight.
The walls and furnishings are cold from lack of heating so all the moist air which rises to the top of the house (bedrooms in particular) which are the coldest, condenses-out causing mould to form on wall paper and on clothes in wardrobes. The tell tale signs are water pools and condensation on windows and sills, black patches on the wall paper in the top corners and a musty smell in the rooms.
Answer: The house may need a thorough dry-out with extra heating, especially if these conditions have prevailed for some time. A de-humidifier will help. Then, keep the house thoroughly dried out and warm by providing adequate heating – this can take some days or even weeks to achieve results – use a thermometer to monitor room temps. Keep the house well ventilated, especially vent-out steam production from the room where it’s made, instead of letting it spread throughout the house.
Automatic ventillation fans are now available, which will keep moisture down to a minimum in kitchens and bathrooms etc, without the need to have windows open in cold weather.
The ultimate cure, where there are not structural causes and where occupants consistently fail to provide adequate heating and ventillation, is a full positive flow ventillation system with an attic installed air extraction system.
See also:
https://www.landlordzone.co.uk/partner-program/positive-ventilation-systems.htm
Never rely totally on these standard answers. Before taking action or not always seek professional advice with the full facts of the case and all documents to hand. Read the Forum “Terms and Conditions”.
Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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