It is becoming a common problem for tenants in rented properties to suffer from mould and dampness in the property with little done by their landlord to rectify the issue. Properties in the UK can be more susceptible to dampness and mould due to the colder climate, wet weather and age of property.
When living in damp and mouldy conditions, this can cause a number of health difficulties to those who face exposure. In particular, they can suffer from respiratory conditions. The Courier, in Dundee, recently reported a case of a mum who has lived in a property which has been affected by damp and mould for 10-years. In her battle to combat the issue, she cleaning the ceiling of her bathroom on daily basis in order to limit the exposure faced by herself and her two children.
Her landlord, a local housing association, attempted to resolve the issue by installing additional ventilation throughout the property. Unfortunately, this did not sort the issue out. It has now reach the point where the only solution being offered to the family is for contractors to attend the property repeatedly to paint over the mould. The housing association are now refusing to locate the source of the damp within the home.
According to the NHS, damp and mould in a home can increase the risk of suffering respiratory problems, such as infections, allergies and asthma. It can also impact the immune system. Mould is said to produce allergens and irritants. Inhaling and touching the mould spore, such as by cleaning the mould on a daily basis, can cause an allergic reaction such as a runny nose, sneezing and a skin rash. It can also trigger an asthma attack. The World Health Organisation have attributed 300 million cases of childhood asthma to exposure to indoor damp and mould worldwide.
It is widely recognised that signs of damp and mould should be investigated to establish why there is excess moisture in the home. Once the cause is known, steps can be taken to limit the moisture and the necessary removal works can take place.
In property which is rented, whether from a local authority, housing association or private landlord, the landlord has a duty of care to their tenant to provide accommodation which meets the repairing standard. This stipulates that the landlord must ensure that a property is fit to live in, meeting the ‘tolerable standard.’ Properties which have serious issues with damp and mould may not be fit to live in. It should, however, be noted that a landlord is only responsible for dampness which is caused by structural defects, such as lack of damp-proofing course, poor ventilation, etc, rather than caused by condensation. Dampness can be caused by drying clothes indoors or heating systems not being used appropriately. In these instances, the landlord can look to blame the tenant for the damage.
Where a tenant finds themselves in a situation where they do not consider their property to be fit to live in, they should contact their landlord in order to advise them of the issue. The landlord should be advised of any health issues which are being caused as a result of the dampness. If the landlord refuses to carry out necessary repair works then the tenant can report them to the Housing and Property Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal who can investigate the issue being reported and assist parties in reaching resolution.
If the issue cannot be resolved, the Tribunal can assign a hearing to investigate the problem where they can decide:
- That the landlord has failed in their duty to meet the repairing standard;
- They have not failed in this duty; or
- They have failed in their duty but do not have the necessary right to carry out the repair works.
If a failure of duty is found, the Tribunal will issue a Repairing Standard Enforcement Order ordering the landlord to rectify the issue.
Where an individual has suffered adverse health effects from dampness or mould in their property, they should also contact a solicitor who may be able to pursue a claim for personal injury on their behalf. If you believe you have suffered ill-health as a result of dampness or mould in your property, contact our specialist team to discuss pursuing a claim for compensation.
Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Dundee Solicitor