When temperatures start to plummet the number of complaints landlords receive from tenants saying that they have damp starts to increase. It is likely that they will say that they have black mould appearing in corners of external walls; although there could be a damp issue many tenants may be experiencing the effects of condensation.
Condensation is caused when moisture from the air within the property comes into contact with a cold surface, such as a window, however, although it can easily be wiped up from windows it can be quickly absorbed into cold wall paper, carpets and clothes causing a musty smell and the growth of mould. Two factors that can exacerbate the problem are:
- Poor ventilation – this means that when someone creates steam by cooking or running a hot shower there is no way of the moisture leaving the property.
- Insufficient heating – if the building is cold this means that the moisture from the air will condense on cold surfaces.
So, why is this a particular issue in rented properties? Tenants may not want to ventilate their property by having windows open in winter, as they fear that this will cost them more in heating expenses and some people will go as far as blocking vents with newspaper or rags to prevent heat loss. Sometimes tenants are not heating the property adequately because they cannot afford to have the heating on. Many people will have heating off all day and then put the heating on and use hot water etc when they arrive home which creates the ideal conditions for condensation to occur. Other properties which do not have adequate heating, or perhaps the property would benefit from insulation. Another issue may be that tenants are drying clothes on radiators as the property doesn’t have a condensing tumble drier or external drying facilities.
Although condensation can be caused by the lifestyle of the tenant some properties are prone to condensation, so what can landlords do to rectify the situation?
- Contact a reputable damp specialist who will carry out a survey to make sure that the problem is condensation and not rising dampness. (These are very different issues and have different ‘cures’). They may well suggest fitting extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom and if necessary, Positive Input Ventilation (PIV).
- Make sure that the property has adequate insulation.
- Ensure that the heating system is adequate and suggest to the tenant that having the heating on low over longer periods of time may not only prevent condensation but also cost less than having to heat a house up from cold every evening.
- Make sure that any black mould is cleaned up using a mouldicide. This can be bought at reputable DIY stores. Be careful as you clean up mould as the spores can be a health risk for anyone suffering from asthma or respiratory conditions.