Housing Ombudsman investigates damp and mould

In its first investigation, the Housing Ombudsman has chosen to investigate damp and mould issues. The Ombudsman’s remit includes investigating and identifying key issues that impact on residents and landlords’ services but it has no jurisdiction where the landlord is not a member of the scheme.

The Ombudsman is appointed by the Secretary of State to resolve disputes involving tenants and leaseholders of housing associations and local authorities, as well as voluntary members – private landlords and letting agents who elect to be governed by the scheme.

Over the last two years, 112 cases of damp and mould have been considered by the Ombudsman and it estimates that around 55% were not dealt with properly in the first instance by the landlord, leading the tenant to complain to the Ombudsman in search of redress or compensation. A total of £68,000 has been awarded in compensation over the two years.

Evidence is now being sought from member landlords, residents and social housing providers with an aim to help landlords deal with this complex issue. The call to evidence closes on 4th June 2021.

Severe damp and mould can be life threatening, particularly for those with respiratory problems or vulnerable tenants and the very young – especially in these Covid times.

Condensation and damp are not the same thing – dampness arises from, amongst other sources, water outside the building penetrating the fabric of the building through the walls or rising up from the ground. It can also be the fault of the way the property was designed.

Condensation occurs when warm and moist air comes into contact with a colder surface, causing moisture in the air to condense on the cold surface. More often than not, condensation is caused by the way people live in a property, but not necessarily the fault of the occupier.

A lack of air circulation causing warm moist air to build up within the building is exacerbated by homes becoming more air tight or the fabric of the building becoming warmer. This can be the result of a lack of insulation, ventilation or heating, but there are other factors to consider – such as the building’s orientation, shadow lines or the closure of air bricks.

Tenants can worry about complaining to their landlord about condensation, fearing that they may be blamed for the problem or even evicted. Dampness could be categorised by the Environmental Health department of the local council as a statutory nuisance, which means that living in the property is harmful, or a risk, to the health of the occupants. A statutory nuisance rating gives the local authority power to force the landlord to deal with the problem.

Local authority tenants can take court action if remedial action isn’t taken. However, it is important to be aware that it wouldn’t prevent a private landlord from what is known as ‘retaliatory eviction’ – evicting a private rental tenant rather than carry out the remedial work.

Read our advice on mould in the home.

Surveyors come across mould issues almost every week. If you’re concerned about mould formation, a damp patch or any other symptom of dampness don’t hesitate to speak to your local Property Surveying professional. They can guide you through the sensible steps to take and give advice tailored to your particular issue.

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