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Dealing with dampness caused by condensation

As the weather turns colder and the days become darker and damper, many people are dreading the return of damp and mould to their homes. Condensation dampness is a menace and is frustrating as landlords’ responses to complaints of mould growth seem to be to just paint over the affected areas. This covers the mould but it promptly reappears, sometimes within days.

Condensation dampness is created by warm, moist air coming into contact with a cold surface like a wall or window. The air cools down and releases the moisture onto the cold surface, which takes the form of droplets of water.

Causes of condensation

Condensation dampness can be caused by many factors. This can include not ventilating or heating a property properly, overcrowding and also allowing steam from the kitchen or bathroom to travel into other rooms in the property.

What can tenants do?

You can help to reduce condensation by opening windows, keeping kitchen and bathroom doors closed, by keeping lids on pots when cooking and using extractor fans where available.

Of course sometimes, no matter what you do the dampness continues to get worse and the familiar black mould soon spreads across the walls. This may be due to a design defect in the property, or other issues, such as lack of insulation, single glazed windows, no extractor fans, draft excluders not fitted and so on.

Effects of condensation

Condensation dampness and the resulting mould growth is not just unsightly and unpleasant, it can have serious effects on the occupants’ health. It can aggravate or even cause asthma and other respiratory problems, it can cause skin irritations and can damage clothing and furniture.

If you are experiencing damp and mould, try the steps described above to reduce the condensation. If this doesn’t help then the cause may be an issue that your landlord is potentially liable for.

Your rights and options

Landlords often try to avoid taking action by saying that dealing with the condensation dampness is not their responsibility as it is not ‘disrepair’. Whilst strictly speaking it may not be disrepair, this does not mean that a landlord can escape responsibility for carrying out the necessary works to ensure that the property is safe for the tenants.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows for tenants to bring a private prosecution against their landlord if the conditions of their property are prejudicial to health. If you are a tenant of a private landlord, or a housing association, you can contact the council’s environmental health department to take action against your landlord. Unfortunately this process is sometimes very slow and drawn out. If you are a council tenant or you feel the council are not acting promptly in your case you can take action yourself or with the help of a solicitor to force your landlord to carry out the necessary works and you may be entitled to compensation.