Mould and damp endanger the health of tenants and pose a particular challenge in rented homes. UK law stipulates that landlords have certain duties to make sure rented properties are both safe and liveable, which often includes dealing with mould or other health hazards. If you’re grappling with this problem, act promptly and report it to your landlord. Should your landlord prove unresponsive, you might have to consider legal options.
In this guide, we outline the landlord’s responsibilities, your rights as a tenant, and the steps you can take to deal with subpar living conditions.
Recognising mould types and their health impacts
Knowing how to spot various types of mould based on their appearance and colour can be invaluable for assessing the health risks involved and knowing how urgently you need to act. Here’s how to identify common mould types often found in UK homes:
- Black or dark green and slimy: if you encounter a mould of this colour and texture, especially in perpetually damp areas like bathrooms, you’re likely dealing with Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as black mould. It’s highly toxic and can lead to respiratory issues and skin conditions.
- White, yellow, or green and powdery: this is often Aspergillus. Primarily found on walls and other surfaces, it can cause respiratory problems and even severe lung infections for those with weakened immune systems.
- Blue or green and fuzzy: this is likely Penicillium. It is less harmful than others but still a cause for concern, particularly for those with allergies or asthma. It is commonly found on water-damaged materials.
- Black or brown with a velvety texture: this is typically Alternaria, a mould type that can trigger allergies and asthma. Often found in bathrooms and kitchens, it requires swift removal due to its ability to spread rapidly.
- Mould on painted wooden surfaces: if you find mould on painted wooden surfaces in your home, you’re most probably dealing with Cladosporium. This mould usually causes allergies, manifesting as itchy eyes, skin rashes, and a sore throat.
- White or pink in colour: often seen in soil and plants, Fusarium can cause skin infections and allergic reactions when found indoors. Some species can produce toxins that affect the immune system.
- White and patchy: if you see mould patches of this description, particularly in damp areas, this could be Mucor. This mould can lead to severe fungal infections, especially in those with compromised immune systems.
If you notice any of these mould types, it’s essential to notify your landlord immediately. These moulds can pose significant health risks and should be addressed promptly. Document your landlord’s response and any action they take to make sure they meet their responsibilities and act quickly to protect your health, and keep all correspondence with your landlord.
According to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, landlords must:
- Keep a rented property free from damp and mould.
- Address any structural and exterior issues, including windows, drains, gutters and external pipes.
- Ensure proper ventilation.
- Keep the supply of water, gas and electricity in working order.
- Keep basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences in working order.
The scope of these responsibilities may vary based on the nature of the rental agreement, but the overarching principles are constant.
Generally, allow landlords 14 days to address the issue using their respective reporting methods and complaints procedures. If they fail to act appropriately within this period, consult a solicitor.
Tenant rights and actions
If your landlord is neglectful, there are a number of steps you can take:
- Report the issue: do this in writing, preferably via email or any online portal your landlord uses.
- Gather evidence: take photos, seek advice from your GP if your health is affected.
- Seek legal advice: if no repairs are completed within 12 weeks of first reporting to your landlord. consult a housing disrepair solicitor at Graham Coffey & Co. Solicitors before taking any legal steps.
Steps for a housing disrepair claim
If you find yourself in the position of needing to make a claim against your landlord, you should take the following steps:
- Written notification: begin by formally informing your landlord of the disrepair.
- Documentation evidence: maintain thorough records of the affected areas and many health impacts.
- Consult a solicitor: discuss the specifics of your situation with a professional solicitor to get tailored advice, and for guidance through the entire process of making a claim.
- Send a formal letter: your solicitor will send a ‘Letter of Claim’ to your landlord.
- Obtain evidence: your solicitor will instruct a qualified expert, such as a building surveyor, to inspect your property. The surveyor will prepare a report identifying the disrepair and works required for your landlord to consider.
- Alternative dispute resolution: before court action, explore mediation options.
- Legal proceedings: if no settlement is reached, initiate legal action.
- Resolution: the goal is to ensure your landlord agrees the necessary repairs and claim any due compensation.
- Post-claim review: ensure all agreed-upon repairs are completed.
While a housing disrepair claim might appear overwhelming, proper guidance and detailed documentation can make the process simpler and help you to hold your landlord accountable. Your solicitor will offer necessary support, giving you the best chance at making a successful claim.
If you’re facing inaction from your landlord concerning damp or mould, legal action might be your best option, and you should speak to a solicitor who specialises in housing disrepair claims to learn about the next steps you can take.