The Government have now decided that mould and damp is no longer known as a tenant issue and is now classed as a landlord issue. This was considered the case in social rented housing but not necessarily in private but has now been extended to this.
Guidance has been given by the Government to now include all private landlords and managing agents for property.
The guidance is to ensure that tenants are now no longer required to resolve the issue. It is down to the landlord. The guidance highlights the serious risk that damp and mould compose to tenants health, the imperative to respond quickly, and the practical steps that should be taken to both address damp and mould to prevent them.
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Health affects of damp and mould.
Damp and mould within the home can produce allergens, irritants, mould spores and other toxins that are harmful to health. Even if mould is visible but not present, dampness can alone increase the risk of health problems. This can include airways, lungs and respiratory for people.
People at risk of health issues from mould and damp.
Mould and damp impose a risk to anyone’s health and should be act upon quickly. It is particularly important that damp and mould is addressed with urgency for the following groups below as they are vulnerable to significant health issues;
- People with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma and other lung diseases.
- All ages with a weakened immune system.
- People living with mental health conditions.
- Pregnant women.
- Children and young people whose organs are developing and are therefore more likely to suffer from physical conditions.
- Elderly people.
- People whom are house bound or bed bound.
There are various different types of housing which can expose the risk of damp and mould. Each has its challenges. Landlords are responsible now to deal with all damp and mould issues. This includes dealing with problems with security where the tenants are concerned about opening windows. Poorly or inadequately insulated, insufficient or ineffective heating systems, poorly ventilated. Adequate damp proof courses, poorly maintained and overcrowded.
There are now a number of legal standards that are required by private and social landlords that must adhere too. A lack of compliance puts tenants at risk and places the landlord at risk of prosecution.
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There are five main legal standards that require damp and mould in rental homes.
All homes must be free from hazard at the dangerous (category 1) level.
Properties must be free from hazard at the most dangerous category 1 level. This includes all types of mould and damp. A category 1 property has a means that an occupier of or visitor to a property may require some form of medical attention over a course of a year.
All homes must not contain conditions that are presidential to health.
Homes must be fit to live in.
There are new provisions in the landlord and tenant act 1985 as now amended by the homes for fitness human habitation act 2018 that require all properties to be free of hazards, including damp and mould, which are so serious that dwelling is not suitable for accommodation.
A home that is fit for human habitation is safe and healthy, which would mean free from damp and mould that could cause significant harm. Tenants are entitled to take action under the unfit for human habitation bill and under section 11 of the landlord and tenant act 1985. Whilst there is no current legal requirement to undertake remedial work within a specific period of time, landlords must respond to complaints and repairs promptly. Tenants are entitled to apply for compensation in this regard.
Social housing must specifically meet the decent homes standard.
Private rented homes must meet minimum energy efficient standards.
Complying with the standards.
Landlords of all types of tenure must ensure that their homes have all the measures in place to ensure that damp and mould has been minimized. The landlord should regularly inspect their properties, remedy deficiencies promptly and make sure they have a regular programme for maintenance and management.
Landlords have the right to enter their properties, with reasonable notice, but only in specific circumstances may they include;
- To inspect the condition of the premises.
- Perform repairs.
- Access to provide services.
If a tenant reports damp and mould, landlords should establish the sources of damp, whether there is any defect to the property causing it and then carry out appropriate remedial work. While there is currently no specific time frame within which remedial to address damp and mould must be undertaken, landlords should always respond promptly. It is down to the question of the severity of the damp and mould.
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Enforcing the standards.
Councils now can enforce standards in private rented sector and social housing owned by housing association as well as private registered providers. They now have a duty of care to take enforcement action of the housing act 2004. The tenant also has the right to claim compensation.
The council have the ability to make a financial penalty of up to £30,000.
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