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Damp and mould in rented homes

Find out which types of damp and mould problems are your landlord's responsibility, what they should do to resolve them and what you can do if they won't.

Types of damp problem

Your home could be affected by:

  • penetrating damp
  • rising damp
  • condensation and mould growth

Your landlord might need the help of a damp expert to work out the cause of damp.

Penetrating damp

Penetrating damp happens when water gets into your home from outside.

Your landlord is responsible for fixing penetrating damp caused by problems such as:

  • a leaking roof, gutter or cracked wall
  • leaking pipes
  • rotten window frames

Rising damp

Rising damp is when moisture beneath the building is soaked up into the bricks or concrete. It's a common problem on the ground floor and basements of older houses.

Your landlord must replace any plaster, skirting boards and flooring damaged by rising damp.

To get rid of rising damp, your landlord may also need to fix or install a damp proof course. If your home has a damp proof course that isn't working, your landlord must fix the damp proofing as well as repairing the damage.

If your home doesn't already have a damp proof course, your landlord won't usually have to get one put in.

But if rising damp causes problems with rotten plaster, skirting boards and flooring that keep coming back, your landlord may have to install a damp proof course.

Condensation and mould growth

Condensation is the most common form of damp in rented properties.

Condensation appears when moisture in the air comes into contact with a cold surface, such as a window or a cold wall. Mould can grow on walls and window frames.

Severe mould growth can be a health problem for people with asthma and other chest problems. 

More from NHS Choices about how damp and mould can affect health.

Some problems that cause condensation are your landlord's responsibility to fix.

But the way you heat and use your home can cause problems with condensation and mould or make them worse. There may be things you can do to help.

What your landlord should do about condensation problems

Check your tenancy agreement. Your landlord should deal with the problem if the agreement says they are responsible for keeping your home in a good condition or fit to live in.

Your landlord should do something to improve the situation even if your tenancy agreement doesn't say anything about their responsibility for conditions in your home.

For example, your landlord could:

  • provide a de-humidifier
  • install ventilation
  • improve the insulation of your home

Your landlord could be in breach of contract if they don't deal with the problem. You could take legal action against them.

What you can do about condensation problems

Day-to-day activities like cooking, washing and drying clothes indoors can cause or make a condensation problem worse.

It can help if you:

  • keep a lid on pans when cooking
  • dry clothes outdoors if possible
  • keep the door closed and window open when drying clothes indoors

Try to keep your home properly heated. Regular heating keeps the walls and other surfaces warm and reduces the risk of condensation.

How to deal with mould growth

You can treat mould growth to remove it and stop it getting worse. Use a fungicidal wash, available from DIY shops or supermarkets.

Don't try to brush or vacuum mould. This releases it into the air and could make breathing problems worse.

See NHS Choices for more on how to get rid of mould.

Report a damp problem to your landlord

Tell your landlord about the damp and any problems it's causing to:

  • your furniture and other belongings
  • the health of you and your family
  • the structure of your home

If you tell them in person or by phone, make sure you write to them about the damp as well.

Use Shelter's template letter to write to your landlord.

Once you've reported the problem, your landlord should organise any investigations and repair work.

Your landlord doesn't have to do anything about damp problems until they know about them.

How environmental health can help

You can ask the council's environmental health department to visit your home if your landlord doesn't fix the problems with damp.

They'll use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess how much risk there is to your health and safety.

Find out more about the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Environmental health can take action against a landlord if they decide the problems are a health and safety hazard.

If you are a private or housing association tenant, the council's environmental health team could order your landlord to carry out repairs or improvements to your home. In some cases, the council will do the work and charge the landlord.

Environmental health help for council tenants is more restricted, but it can still be useful to contact them.

Find out how to complain to environmental health about repairs and poor conditions.

Consider taking legal action

Legal action may be an option if your landlord doesn't deal with repairs after you've reported them.

In some cases a court could order your landlord to do repairs or improvement work.

A court can also order your landlord to pay you compensation for inconvenience and any damage to your property or health.

Find out about legal action to deal with repairs problems.

Get advice about revenge eviction

Some private landlords may take steps to evict you if you complain about the condition of your home to them or the council. The law gives protection to some tenants.

Find out more about revenge eviction.

Get advice from Shelter

Get advice if your home is in a bad condition and you are not sure what to do.

Call Shelter's free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Last updated 20 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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