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Damp and mould in council and housing association homes

Advice on this page is for council and housing association tenants.

Read this instead if you have damp in a private rented home.

Deal with damp in your home

Tell your landlord about the problem

Government guidance says councils and housing associations must take complaints about damp and mould seriously.

Keep a record of all conversations, emails and text messages.

Use our letter template to report damp to your landlord.

Let your landlord inspect

Your landlord must try and find out what's causing damp and mould.

You should give your landlord access to your home.

They can:

  • contact you to agree a suitable date and time to visit

  • send a contractor or a damp expert to inspect your home

Check your landlord's damp or repairs policy to find out how soon they must act.

How fast they must act could depend on:

  • how serious the problem is

  • if anyone who lives with you is vulnerable to damp and mould

Your landlord should get back to you urgently if your health is at risk.

Getting an expert opinion

Your landlord should:

  • decide early if an expert opinion is needed

  • act on the expert's advice

  • use a qualified expert

They should share the report with you and help you understand things that are not clear.

You could get your own expert opinion if:

  • your landlord refuses to get one

  • you disagree with their findings

Getting an expert opinion can be expensive. You could ask your landlord to give you the expert fee back when you complain to them. But they could refuse.

You can search for a surveyor on the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website.

RICS is a professional body that regulates surveyors and building experts.

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Damp and mould your landlord must fix

Your landlord must fix problems that cause damp, such as a:

  • structural problem

  • faulty installation

Your landlord must also fix damp and mould if it makes your home unfit to live in.

Other things your landlord must fix include:

  • leaking internal pipes

  • broken boilers and heating systems

  • cracked walls or rotten window frames

  • leaking roofs, missing roof tiles or faulty guttering

Your landlord is also responsible for extractor fans they've installed.

Your landlord should check if damp and mould return at least 6 weeks after the repairs.

They should also fix any damage caused by doing the repairs, for example redecorate, replace any damaged plaster, skirting boards or carpets.

Signs of problems with the structure

Damp patches on external walls can be a sign of penetrating damp.

Penetrating damp is when water gets into the property from outside. For example, through gaps and cracks in the brickwork.

Your landlord may have to replace the old mortar to fix the problem.

Improvements to fix damp and mould

Improvements are different to repairs.

Landlords do not usually have to make improvements.

But your landlord may have to make improvements if repairs do not fix the problem.

For example, your landlord may have to:

  • insulate the walls and roof

  • improve ventilation by installing a ventilation system

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Condensation problems

Condensation is the most common cause of mould.

It happens when moisture in the air meets a cold surface, like a window or an external wall.

Your landlord should not:

  • tell you that damp problems are just condensation without checking

  • paint over damp and mould that keeps coming back

  • tell you to stop doing everyday things such as cooking or showering

Steps you can take

It can help if you:

  • open windows regularly

  • cover pans when you're cooking

  • dry clothes outdoors or in a dryer

  • use extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom

  • leave a gap between furniture and external walls

  • wipe condensation from window sills each morning

  • close internal doors when you're cooking or showering

You can use the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings online tool to check what else you could do to keep moisture low in your home.

Condensation is often worse in cold properties.

You could get help with bills if you are struggling with rising energy costs.

If you keep getting condensation

Tell your landlord if you've taken these steps but still have damp and mould.

Your landlord should:

  • check why the property cannot cope with everyday living

  • fixt the underlying problem, such as not enough insulation or ventilation

Example: How your landlord should work with you

Councils and housing associations should not blame tenants or dismiss complaints about condensation as a 'lifestyle problem'.

For example, if you live in a flat with no outside space to dry clothes, your landlord should:

  • check how to improve ventilation

  • consider how the cost of living crisis affects paying for heating and energy

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Make a complaint about damp

You can complain to your landlord if they do not fix the problem. If you have complained and the issue is still unresolved, you can ask the Housing Ombudsman to investigate.

Complain to your landlord first

You can make a formal complaint to your landlord if you think they have done something wrong.

For example, if they:

  • did not follow their policies

  • took too long to fix the problem

  • refused to deal with damp and mould

  • said you had to fix damp and mould problems

  • said they would deal with the problem but did nothing

  • carried out repairs that did not make things better or caused other problems

Keep a record of all conversations, emails and text messages.

Complain to the Housing Ombudsman

You can ask the Housing Ombudsman to look at your case.

They can tell your landlord:

  • how to put things right

  • to pay you compensation

  • to repay you the cost of getting an expert opinion

The Housing Ombudsman regulates council and housing association housing services.

They have said that councils and housing associations should:

  • be proactive and avoid blaming tenants

  • treat complaints about damp and mould seriously

  • train their staff to recognise early signs of damp and mould

Tell the Ombudsman if your landlord has not followed this advice.

You can read the Housing Ombudsman's report on damp and mould to find out more about your landlord's responsibilities.

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Court action for damp and mould

If the problems with damp and mould are serious, you could:

  • get free legal help if you get benefits or have a low income

  • look into a conditional fee agreement, also known as 'no win no fee'

The court could order the landlord to do the necessary work and pay you compensation.

Find out more about taking your landlord to court for repairs.

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Ask environmental health for help

You can ask the council for an environmental health inspection if you rent from a housing association.

The council can order your landlord to fix damp and mould.

But they are unlikely to help unless the problem with damp and mould is serious. Make sure you have evidence of this when you contact them.

You should be able to find environmental health contact details on your council's website.

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If your landlord asks you to move out to do repairs

Your landlord may ask you to move into another property until the repairs are finished.

This is sometimes called being decanted.

Check your tenancy agreement and ask your landlord for a copy of their decanting or repairs policy to see what should happen.

Let your landlord know if the temporary property they've offered is not suitable, for example because:

  • you live with small children or a disabled person

  • it's too far from work or school

  • it's too expensive

Keep evidence of your landlord's response.

In most cases you should be able to move back in as soon as repairs are completed.

Paying rent for two homes

You could argue it's not reasonable to charge you rent on both properties.

But do not stop paying your rent.

Tell your landlord if you cannot afford to pay. Your landlord might have to think about a different solution.

Get benefits advice. You could get benefits to pay rent on two homes.

If you're asked to move out permanently

Your landlord might decide that you need to move out permanently because:

  • the repairs are very serious

  • your home is going to be rebuilt or knocked down

They will usually offer you another home. But they do not always have to do this.

You can ask:

  • why it is not possible to return to your home after the work is done

  • what other housing they could offer

Always check if your landlord has to offer you another property.

Your landlord might have to do it if either:

  • you have a secure or flexible tenancy

  • your tenancy agreement says so

If your landlord starts court action to evict you, they:

  • must show that the works cannot be done while you live there

  • might have to show they offered you a suitable alternative home

You could get home loss or disturbance payments and removal expenses.

Get legal advice if your landlord applies to court.

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If you want to move out because of damp and mould

You could get more priority:

Do not give up a council or housing association home to rent privately.

You would:

  • pay more rent

  • have less protection from eviction

  • find it even harder to get problems fixed

If it is not safe or reasonable to live there, you can ask the council's homeless team for help.

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Last updated: 2 October 2023

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