One of the biggest concerns to tenants is mould. Mould can be formed as a result of damp & condensation. Damp is usually the responsibility of the landlord to resolve, however tenants have a responsibility to prevent condensation which can cause mould.
‘Penetrating damp’ is moisture in the property caused by water ingress. This could be a roof leak, blocked guttering, damaged pipes, cracks in rendering or brickwork or other defects to the property. Should mould & damp be as a result of any of these issues, unless the damage was caused by the tenants, this is the landlord’s responsibility to resolve.
‘Rising damp’ is usually as a result of issues with the foundation or damp proofing in the property, and again is the landlord’s responsibility resolve.
However, when we receive reports of mould, by far the most common cause is condensation. It is the tenants’ responsibility to prevent condensation as it is caused by the way in which the property is used.
What is condensation?
At the colder parts of the year, the outside of the property is undoubtedly at a lower temperature than the inside. As a result, if the moisture content in the air inside the property gets to a certain level, the moisture will ‘stick’ to the cold walls of the house and revert from a gas to a liquid, causing water droplets on walls and windows. This is a big problem in Brighton given that the air is already very wet as we are near the sea!
How does condensation cause mould?
If left, this moisture is the perfect environment for mould spores to grow. Mould spreads very easily as it grows from spores, not seeds, which are microscopic, one celled organisms capable of reproducing rapidly. All they require is moisture & oxygen, so condensation must be prevented in order to prevent mould.
How do I prevent condensation?
The main thing is to put your heating on during the winter. We hear time and time again that students simply cannot afford to heat their homes, but heating a house is part and parcel of caring for the property and is one of your responsibilities as a tenant. You should always take bills into account when deciding whether or not you can afford to rent a certain property! You need to have your heating on for around three hours each morning and night, you can set your boiler to timed to do this. Alternatively, you can set the heating to come on at a low temperature constantly to maintain the heat.
Heating a house is crucial to its care, it prevents condensation as well as other problems such as frozen pipes which can cause a huge amount of damage. It is in your tenancy agreement that you must heat your home and you will be charged for any mould and condensation caused as a result of a lack of heating. It is recommended that you maintain the temperature of the house at around 18°C. And in case you’re wondering, agents & contractors are in and out of properties all day, and they can always tell when a house hasn’t had their heating on all winter!
You also need to make sure your home is sufficiently ventilated to ensure that the moist air is being let out and the fresh air is being let in. Make sure all extractor fans work – they will be in the kitchens and bathrooms – and report it immediately if they stop working or stop being effective. A good way to test their functionality is to hold a piece of tissue against the fan – if it sticks, it’s working. It’s also a good idea to close the kitchen or bathroom door when cooking or washing and open a window to let steam out.
It is also crucial that you never dry your washing on the radiators as this can increase the moisture content in the air by up to 30%. Also, if your radiator has thermostatic valves and the radiator is covered then they will not be able to detect the room temperature and the radiator may not heat up. If you can, dry your clothes outside. If that’s not possible, then dry them on a rack in a well ventilated room – it’s best to dry them in a bedroom with the window open. Hanging clothes on bannisters is also not ideal as the stairs and hallways are unlikely to have windows and the moisture will have nowhere to escape to.
What should I do if I have condensation & mould?
If you see condensation beginning to form then this needs to be wiped down once a day at a minimum. Try turning your heating up and increasing ventilation to prevent it from forming.
If you see mould beginning to form, then you will need to clean this off regularly. We recommend a mild bleach solution to do this but you can also buy mould sprays. It is important to clean the mould off as soon as it begins to form. When it first forms it is living in the moisture on the surface of the window or wall, however if left the spores can start to grow into the wall and penetrate beneath the paint which is much more timely and costly to resolve!
If all else fails, email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can instruct a contractor for you. The contractor that is instructed will report back on whether the problem is related to condensation or another issue (a specialist i.e. a roofer may be required to establish this). If the problem is as a result of condensation, you will be charged for any works undertaken.
Some useful links on the above: