Dampness and Landlords’ Responsibilities Under the New Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force in March 2018. One aspect of the Homes Act that has caused concern amongst landlords is the tenants’ right to expect “freedom from damp.”
Diagnosing the causes of dampness in buildings is a complex area, and some landlords are concerned that they may be blamed for dampness issues that have, in fact, been caused by the tenant.
Types of Dampness Affecting Buildings
The majority of damp problems in buildings can effectively be categorised in three distinct groups:
This category covers dampness that penetrates into the structure of the building either from the ground or from rainwater. Examples include rising damp, rain penetration, groundwater penetration into basements and leaking roofs.
Most structural damp issues due to lack of maintenance, poor detailing when buildings have been extended or modified or from buildings being poorly designed in the first place. For this reason, in most cases, it is reasonable to say that it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that this type of dampness is dealt with.
Unfortunately, there are a multitude of routes through which rainwater or groundwater can enter a building and cause damp, especially in the case of older solid-walled buildings such as those from the Victorian era.
- Lack of damp-proof course
- Porous masonry such as under-fired bricks, porous stone or porous mortar allowing dampness to soak in
- Cracks in masonry or brickwork allow dampness and water ingress
- Defective pointing
- Unfilled joints and perpends
- Defective seals around doors and windows
- Holes in walls where cables or pipes protrude
- Defective render
- Missing roof tiles
- Defective or blocked guttering
Escape of water
Dampness caused by escape of water most commonly derives from leaking plumbing or appliances such as:
- Water tanks
- Water pipes
- Central Heating
- Domestic appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers
Ascertaining whether fault lies with the landlord or tenant requires the use of a bit of common sense. Generally, if the water damage and dampness has occurred due to a lack of maintenance, the fault will lie with the landlord. In many cases, damage caused by escape of water will be covered under home insurance policies.
Dampness caused by condensation and the resulting mould problems, are likely to be the most contentious issues raised by the Fitness for Human Habitation Act.
There are a number of factors that contribute towards condensation risk in buildings, some of which are likely to be regarded as the responsibility of the landlord. However, tenant behaviour also plays a major role.
Condensation occurs when moisture laden air comes into contact with cold surfaces, causing the moisture within the air to condense into water. Although it is a problem in its own right, it is the resultant mould growth that causes the most concern.
Due to their inherent design, some buildings are more susceptible to condensation issues than others and it can even affect modern buildings. Landlords can help minimise the risk of condensation by ensuring that walls are well insulated, as increased wall surface temperatures mean that condensation is less likely to occur. Supplying adequate ventilation is also essential, as it replaces moisture laden air from inside the building with air from outside the building, which is drier throughout most of the year.
However, for condensation problems to be resolved, a certain degree of co-operation from the occupants of a building will usually be required. Insulation measures will be of little use if tenants do not heat a building at all, which sadly, is a common occurrence due to fuel poverty. Mechanical ventilation systems are also of little use if tenants turn them off due to concerns about running costs or noise.
JWSurveys provide independent damp surveys specialising in identifying the cause of suspected dampness or mould issues.
JWSurveys are totally independent of contracting companies and product manufacturers thus inspections are conducted without bias or favour, meaning that you will receive an objective opinion based upon evidence and facts.
Services available include:
- Pre-tenancy damp & mould assessment with written report
- Advisory survey for damp and mould issues during tenancy with written report
- CPR part 35 compliant reports for any court proceedings
Please contact us to discuss how JWSurveys can help you identify and deal with dampness issues in property and buildings.