Damp and mould in rented homes

Find out about the causes of damp and mould, what your landlord should do to resolve a damp problem and what you can do if they don't.

What you can do about damp and mould in your home

Types of damp 

Your home could be affected by any of the 3 common types of damp:

  • condensation
  • penetrating damp
  • rising damp

Sometimes it's easy to spot the cause of damp. Your landlord might need the help of a damp expert if they don't know what's causing the problem.

Condensation 

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

It appears when excess moisture in the air comes into contact with a cold surface, such as a window or a cold wall. It can lead to mould growth and tends to be worse in winter.

It's made worse by inadequate ventilation, heating or insulation.

Penetrating damp

Penetrating damp is caused by water coming through external walls or the roof. It can also happen when there is an internal leak or plumbing problem.

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.

Report a damp problem to your landlord

Tell your landlord about the damp problem and any:

  • repair issues in the property
  • damage to furniture and belongings
  • impact on your health

Make sure you follow up an initial phone call or email with a letter:

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

Once you've reported the problem, your landlord should organise an inspection and carry out any repairs they are responsible for.

Some private landlords would rather evict their tenants than carry out repairs. Find out if you're protected from revenge eviction in this situation.

What your landlord should do about damp

If damp is caused by an underlying repair issue, your landlord should arrange for the repairs to be done within a reasonable time.

Common examples of problems your landlord must fix include:

  • leaking internal pipes
  • cracked walls or rotten window frames
  • missing roof tiles or faulty guttering

Your landlord should also replace any damaged plaster, skirting boards or flooring and redecorate if needed once the problem is fixed.

Dealing with condensation 

Your landlord must repair anything causing a condensation problem, for example, a broken heating system or faulty extractor fan.

If the problem isn't resolved through repairs, your landlord should consider improving:

  • ventilation 
  • heating 
  • insulation

What your landlord has to do depends on how bad the problem is. Some landlords provide dehumidifiers rather than make expensive improvements. 

Damp proofing

Damp proof courses can prevent rising damp.

Your landlord must arrange repair or replacement of an existing damp proof course that isn't working and make good any damage caused by the damp.

If your home doesn't have a damp proof course, your landlord may have to install one if rising damp causes ongoing problems which need repeated repairs.

What you can do to reduce condensation

Everyday activities like cooking, showering, drying clothes and even sleeping create moisture in your home which can lead to condensation.

It can help if you:

  • open bedroom windows for 5-10 minutes when you get up  
  • use extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms 
  • close internal doors when cooking or showering
  • cover pans when cooking 
  • dry clothes outdoors or use a vented tumble dryer
  • leave a gap between furniture and external walls

Heating your home

Try to keep your home properly heated. It usually helps to have a low background temperature of at least 15 degrees in all rooms.

Find out more from the Money Advice Service about saving money on heating

Dealing 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. 

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

How environmental health can help

You can contact environmental health or the housing standards team at the council if your landlord doesn't fix the damp problem.

Environmental health can inspect your home and assess the risk to your health under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

They can mediate with your landlord and if the problem is serious they can:

  • order your landlord to carry out repairs or improvements
  • do the work themselves and charge the landlord   

If you're a council tenant, the council can't take action against itself but environmental health can still inspect and tell the housing department what work is needed.  

Consider legal action

Court action is sometimes possible if your landlord fails to deal with a damp problem. You may be able to get work done and ask for compensation. 

Legal action through the courts can be costly and will take time. It should only be considered as a last resort.

Find out more about taking legal action if your landlord won't do repairs.

Still need help?

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

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person.


Last updated 24 May 2018 | © Shelter

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