New guidance on damp and mould for landlords and letting agents
New guidance has been published for social and private landlords on how best to manage issues of damp and mould in rental properties.
The government has now released guidance for private and social landlords around how to best manage damp and mould issues in properties. A key change in this guidance is that tenants can't be blamed for damp and mould due to their "lifestyle choices". The document highlights that, as new legislation and standards are introduced, the guidance will be updated.
Here's what's covered in this guide:
- What are landlords and letting agents' legal obligations for damp and mould?
- What should landlords or agents do if they get a report of damp or mould in a property?
- How can agents and landlords reduce the risk of damp and mould in the first place?
- What are the top conditions that could lead to damp and mould?
What are landlords and letting agents' legal obligations for damp and mould?
The new guidance highlights the five standards that letting agents and landlords should follow to stay compliant with their damp and mould obligations.
1. Your properties should be free from "category 1" hazards
2. Homes should not have any conditions "prejudicial to health"
Damp and mould can be known as a "statutory nuisance under the the Environmental Protection Act 1990 if it harms the health of a tenant.
Councils can take legal action against the landlord, in these circumstances.
3. Your properties need to be fit to live in
Under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, properties need to be free from serious damp and mould that can harm a tenant's health for them to be fit to live in.
Currently, there is no timescale for when remedial work needs to be carried out, but landlords should respond to any reports of damp and mould issues "promptly".
4. Social housing - and soon private rented homes - should meet the Decent Homes Standard
As in the first point above, social housing needs to be free from Category 1 hazards under the Decent Homes Standard - again, assessed using the HHSRS.
This Standard also states that social housing must be in a "reasonable state of repair and provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort".
This standard will also soon apply to the private rented sector.
5. Private rented properties need to meet minimum energy efficiency standards
Although the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 don't explicitly cover damp and mould, good energy efficiency in a building can reduce the risk of condensation.
What should you do if they get a report of damp or mould in a property?
The government outlines the steps that landlords and agents need to take if they receive a report of damp and mould in one of their properties:
- Respond sensitively and identify quickly how serious the damp and mould issues are and their potential risks to tenants
- Tackle the underlying issue promptly, particularly if it's linked with a health complaint from the tenant
- Make sure you keep your tenants informed about the steps you'll take to remove mould and reduce damp issues, along with timeframes
- Take photos and write down the location of the mould, to identify the source of the issue
- Remove the mould with the help of a qualified professional, if necessary
- Identify and address any underlying causes of the damp and mould
- Inspect your property at least 6 weeks after you've fixed the problem, to make sure it doesn't come back. If it does, you'll need to investigate further
How can you reduce the risk of damp and mould in your rental properties?
To help you reduce the risk of mould in the first place, the government highlights these steps:
- Update your processes to "document, manage and act on reports of damp and mould"
- Check the condition of your properties, to recognise any risks and act before it becomes a problem (the next question covers some of those conditions)
- Highlight relevant support for your tenants if cost of living pressures of the building's energy efficiency makes damp more likely to be a problem
- Work with health and social care professionals to help identify any risk to your tenant's health
- Make sure your staff or contractors understand the importance of addressing damp and mould issues
- Encourage your tenants to report concerns around damp and mould
What are the top conditions that could lead to damp and mould in a property?
The government guidance has shared some of the things that can cause damp and mould in a property:
- Windows that don't open - or that tenants can't open due to safety concerns
- Poor insulation or ventilation
- Inefficient or expensive heating systems
- Homes that aren't property maintained
- Overcrowding or homes without "adequate damp proof courses"
The guidance shares that "it is totally unreasonable to blame damp and mould in the home on ‘lifestyle choices’". Landlords should instead work with tenants to help them make "small, reasonable adjustments to their behaviour".
This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. Visit gov.uk for more information.