Damp, mould & condensation

Complaints about damp and mouldy properties are common especially during the winter months when condensation is more likely to occur. Disputes between landlords and tenants concerning who should take action to remedy a damp and/ or condensation problem are also not unusual owing to the complex range of factors that can lead to the problem occurring. This page will provide you with helpful information about what can be done to alleviate damp and mould problems and what we can do to assist.

What are damp and mould?

Damp in a property is caused by excess moisture. This can come from a number of sources and may be caused by either or both occupant behaviour and problems with the building. Moisture can be caused by leaking pipes and drains, defective roofs or gutters, cracks in walls and around windows, rising damp due to missing or defective damp proof courses and many other physical defects. One of the main causes of damp, however, is condensation. Condensation forms when the air indoors is unable to hold any more moisture, which happens when the temperature of the air cools, usually when it reaches a colder surface. Droplets of water then form on the surfaces which are often windows, sills/reveals, outer ceilings and outer walls. Condensation dampness can result from activities carried out in the property by the occupiers and not be caused by a building deficiency or defect, but it can also happen because of poor insulation or poor heating systems etc. Often, it is a combination of both. Mould is formed when the spores grow on damp and humid surfaces, causing the characteristic black patches and a characteristic “damp” smell. Shelter have produced a useful page to assist you in understanding the issues of damp and mould further.

What are the problems that damp and mould can cause?

As well as being unsightly, damp and mould can affect your health. This can mean that you are more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma. Damp and mould can also affect the immune system. Over a period of time damp and mould are likely to cause damage to your property, so it is important that you make your landlord aware of the issue. For further information about liability for repairs in private rented homes and how to report an issue to your landlord, please visit our repairs page.

What can I do to help prevent or reduce damp and mould? 

If you think that there is a physical defect such as a leaking pipe or damaged roof tile/chimney flashing etc that is causing the excess moisture, contact your landlord or managing agent as soon as possible.  They will usually be keen to put this right and minimise any damage being caused. Be aware that if the property has become quite damp, it will take a long time for it to dry out, weeks even, and during this time, it is important to ventilate and heat the property well. If this was the cause of the problem, once fixed it may seem that no matter how much you heat the property, it does not get any warmer. This is because the heat energy is drying out the damp, not heating the air and is a necessary part of the drying out process. Please use the reporting button at the bottom of this page if your landlord or agent fails to act on your complaint concerning damp and mould. We may ask to see written documentation that you have reported the matter to your landlord before we become involved so please keep all copies of correspondence and electronic messages. For more detailed information about how to keep your property free from damp and mould, please see this guide:

Keep your home free from damp, condensation and mould
Download (607KB - PDF)

Cooking, showering, drying clothes indoors and breathing all cause moisture and if there is not adequate ventilation and/or surfaces are not warm enough, this will lead to condensation dampness forming. An average family can produce 15 litres of moisture per day from normal activities, and this all ends up in the air inside your home. 

If the condensation dampness is caused by day to day activities, there are some measures that you can take to reduce the amount of moisture that gets into the indoor air. Condensation dampness is not always caused by day to day activities, however, and it can also be caused by property issues such as missing or insufficient insulation to walls, windows and roof spaces, excessive draughts or patches of dampness (which in itself makes the area cold and leads to condensation), etc. 

You can help prevent the build-up of condensation by: 

  • covering pans when cooking 
  • using extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, leaving them to run on after bathing/cooking for a good 10 minutes to clear all the damp air away 
  • closing kitchen and bathroom doors when cooking or showering 
  • leaving a gap between furniture and external walls 
  • drying clothes outdoors or using a vented tumble dryer 
  • never drying wet clothes on radiators as all the water ends up in the air (if you must dry them inside, use an airer and put them in the bathroom, with the extractor fan on or window open and the bathroom door kept closed) 
  • opening bedroom windows for 5-10 minutes when you get up  

As well as these measures to reduce moisture being produced, it is important that you allow the moist air to leave the property and be replaced by drier air from outside.   For this reason, you should open trickle vents on windows if they are fitted and where possible, use any window “night latch” facilities to securely improve ventilation. Do not block air bricks! 

The final part of the equation that is generally needed to keep a property free of damp and mould is ensuring it is sufficiently heated, so that the surfaces are warm enough to stop condensation forming. A low level steady heat is much better than short periods of high temperature followed by quick cooling – this can make damp and mould worse, because the warm period allow a lot of moisture to gather in the air and then quick cooling then causes it to condense on surfaces! For information about energy efficiency and grants available in Doncaster, please contact our energy team here. 

What does the law say if damp or mould is causing a problem in my home?

This is primarily covered by the Housing Act 2004. The Council uses the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess housing conditions which utilises a risk assessment approach. To learn more about how we use this system, please visit our page concerning housing standards. Where the damp and mould is caused by a property deficiency or defect (rather than just normal day to day use of the property and not following the steps to reduce condensation described above, etc), then an assessment of the likelihood that it will cause harm and the consequences of this will lead to it being rated as either a category 1 hazard (where the local housing authority must take some type of formal action to require the landlord to reduce the risk sufficiently) or a category 2 hazard (where the local housing authority may take formal or informal action, depending on the circumstances). The Council has enforcement powers under the Housing Act 2004 where landlords fail to carry out works they are responsible for. To learn more about how we make enforcement decisions and what our legal powers are, please visit our page concerning enforcement of standards in privately rented property. This page also contains information about taking your own legal action against your landlord (commonly referred to as "civil action"). 

What can I do if I think damp and mould in my rented property is caused by a defect or deficiency? 

If you think that there is a physical defect for example, rising damp, a leaking pipe or damaged roof tile/chimney flashing, insufficient insulation or the heating does not work properly and that is causing the damp and mould, contact your landlord or managing agent as soon as possible. They will usually be keen to put this right and minimise any damage being caused. Please visit our repairs page for advice about how to report repairs to your landlord and what to do if they fail to act. 

Your landlord must carry out repairs within a reasonable period of time - but that only begins once you've told them about the problem. For example, if you report an emergency repair such as a leaking pipe it could be reasonable for your landlord to carry out repairs within 24 hours, but replacing a damaged roof tile could take a week or two and investigating then fixing rising damp, much longerYou may need to contact your landlord or agent again if they don’t take action after you report a repair, but if repairs are still not completed within a reasonable time, you can contact the Housing Enforcement team using the button below. 

How do I get rid of mould?

Once the underlying factor(s) that have led to high moisture levels in your property occurring have been dealt with mould should not recur. A solution of water and vinegar will remove light mould staining on hard surfaces (such as painted surfaces). To kill and remove mould, wipe down the walls and window frames with a fungicidal wash. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Dry clean mildewed clothes and shampoo carpets. Disturbing mould by brushing or vacuum cleaning may increase the risk of respiratory problems. After treatment, redecorate using a good quality fungicidal paint to help prevent mould recurring. Please note that this paint is not effective if overlaid with ordinary paints or wallpaper.

 

Last updated: 07 August 2020 18:16:02