Honourable and personal residential letting experts

19Jun

Understanding damp and mould in the UK: causes and legal updates

Damp and mould in homes are perennial issues in the UK and can pose significant health risks and impacting the quality of life for residents. In the last 18 months (to March) UK rainfall has been measured as the fourth wettest on record. Therefore, in my opinion any issue that may have been there is being recently compounded by the weather. This matched with the introduction of Awaab’s Law in 2023, has the potential to change how a landlord deals with this issue.

Causes of damp and mould

Damp and mould are typically the results of excess moisture in the home. The main causes include:

  1. Condensation: this is the most common cause, occurring when warm, moist air meets cold surfaces, leading to water droplets forming on walls, windows, and ceilings. Common activities like cooking, showering, and drying clothes indoors contribute to condensation.
  2. Rising damp: this happens when moisture from the ground rises up through the walls of a building due to capillary action. It is more common in older buildings that may lack modern damp-proof courses.
  3. Penetrating damp: caused by water seeping through the walls due to issues such as broken roof tiles, blocked gutters, or defective brickwork.
  4. Leaks: plumbing issues, such as leaking pipes, can also lead to dampness. Even small, unnoticed leaks can cause significant damage over time.
  5. Poor ventilation: insufficient airflow in a home can exacerbate condensation and damp issues. Poorly ventilated areas, especially bathrooms and kitchens, are hotspots for mould growth.

Health implications

Exposure to damp and mould can have several adverse health effects, particularly for vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Common health issues include:

  • Respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • Allergic reactions, including sneezing, runny nose, and skin rashes.
  • Weakened immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections.

Awaab’s Law: a legislative response

Awaab’s Law (named after Awaab Ishak, a toddler who tragically died as a result of prolonged exposure to mould in his family’s rented accommodation) was introduced in 2023 as part of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023. Although specifically written for social landlords it gives us the line of sight as to what might happen in the future within the PRS. Basically, the law seeks to enforce stricter regulations and accountability for all landlords.

Key provisions of Awaab’s Law:

  1. Mandatory inspections: landlords are required to conduct regular inspections to identify and rectify damp and mould issues promptly
  2. Clear timelines for repairs: the law mandates specific timeframes within which landlords must address reported damp and mould problems. Failure to comply can result in substantial fines.
  3. Tenant protection: provides stronger protections for tenants, ensuring they can report issues without fear of retaliation or eviction.
  4. Health and safety standards: sets out stringent health and safety standards for rental properties, focusing specifically on preventing damp and mould.
  5. Owners should prove the property is not at fault before blaming resident lifestyle.

Preventative measures and solutions

While legislative measures like Awaab’s Law are crucial, prevention and maintenance are key to addressing damp and mould effectively:

  • Improving ventilation: installing extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, using dehumidifiers, and ensuring that windows can be opened to allow fresh air circulation.
  • Proper insulation: insulating walls and roofs can help maintain a consistent indoor temperature, reducing the likelihood of condensation.
  • Regular maintenance: ensuring that roofs, gutters, and plumbing systems are regularly checked and maintained to prevent leaks and water ingress.
  • Educating tenants: providing tenants with information on how to reduce moisture in their homes, such as using lids on pans when cooking, drying clothes outdoors, and keeping furniture away from walls to allow air circulation.

Conclusion

By understanding the causes, recognising the health risks, and implementing both legal and practical solutions, we can work towards a future where damp and mould in homes are no longer a persistent problem.