Disrepair - condensation dampness
Dampness caused by condensation is a common problem which many tenants experience when renting accommodation. It's not always easy to get your landlord to deal with it and sometimes, you may be doing something which makes the problem worse.
This page explains what condensation dampness is, when your landlord should be doing something about it and how you can make sure that your lifestyle isn't contributing to the problem.
What's condensation dampness?
Condensation dampness generally happens when a property can't deal with normal levels of water vapour because of a lack of insulation, ventilation or heating, or a combination of all of these things. The excess moisture settles on cold surfaces.
Condensation dampness can occur anywhere on a wall. It may form at the base of wall, or from top to bottom. It can result in mould growth, damage to furniture and belongings and in some cases mite infestation.
There are other types of dampness as well as condensation dampness. These include rising damp, penetrating damp and construction damp.
Working out if your landlord is responsible for condensation dampness
Express term in your tenancy agreement
There may be an express term in your tenancy agreement which could make your landlord responsible for dealing with dampness. For example, if the agreement says your landlord is responsible for keeping your home 'fit to live in' or 'in good condition'. That sort of term may be broken if there's dampness and mould growth.
Implied term in your tenancy agreement
If there's no express term in your tenancy agreement your landlord may still be responsible under an implied term. There's an important term implied into tenancy agreements which says that a landlord is responsible for keeping a number of things in repair.
This means that your landlord is likely to be responsible for dealing with condensation dampness where it's caused by an underlying disrepair problem that they're responsible for. For example:
- your heating isn't working, or
- there isn't enough ventilation, for example, your windows won't open, or
- there's an excess of water vapour in your home because of another type of damp problem, such as rising damp.
Also, where the effects of condensation dampness can be shown to have caused disrepair, for example, it has caused window frames to rot or has damaged plasterwork, the landlord is likely to be responsible.
Reporting the problem to your landlord
Your landlord only becomes responsible for repairing a problem when they know about it.
Using your home in a reasonable way
If your home has condensation dampness then how you use your home is important. Some day-to-day things that you do could make it difficult to show that your landlord is responsible. The following things can create extra moisture or reduce ventilation:
- use of portable gas or paraffin heaters – these heaters put a lot of moisture into the air so you should try to avoid using them
- drying wet clothes on heaters – it's best to dry clothes outside or in the bathroom with the door closed and the window open or fan on
- using a tumble dryer with no outside vent – unless a tumble dryer is a self-condensing type, it should be vented to the outside
- blocking ventilation – for example, covering air vents, closing ventilators and switching off or disabling fans. Ventilation is needed in your home to get rid of moisture.
Taking action on damp
If you've reported problems with damp to your landlord and they haven't done anything about it, there is action that you can take.
In some cases, a private landlord may decide to evict a tenant rather than do repair work. Make sure you know whether you're at risk of eviction before taking action.
Contacting the local authority
Tenants in private rented accommodation and tenants of housing associations could contact the local authority's Environmental Health department.
If the dampness in your home is harmful to your health or is a nuisance, then it may be a statutory nuisance. Where there's a statutory nuisance, the local authority may be able to force your landlord to deal with the problem.
Or the dampness could be a risk to your health or safety and therefore a hazard under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
Taking court action
Some tenants take court action against their landlord because they've failed to deal with dampness. Taking court action can be costly and time consuming and you should only take it as a last resort.
If you're considering court action it's not enough just to show that your home is damp. You'll have to show that the damp is there because either:
- your landlord hasn't met their repair responsibilities, for example, your windows won't open so you can't ventilate your home, or
- a damp problem has caused damage to your home which your landlord is responsible for repairing, for example, dampness that has damaged the plasterwork in your home.
- More about taking court action because of disrepair for tenants in private rented accommodation
- More about taking court action because of disrepair for tenants in social housing
There are other options that you can consider when dealing with disrepair problems such as damp.
- More about other options for private rented tenants
- More about other options for social housing tenants
Help with heating and insulating your home
You may qualify for grants that are available for home insulation and heating improvements. You can also get useful information on effective ways to heat and insulate your home from the Energy Savings Trust.
Find a grant at www.energysavingsttust.org.uk