If mould is caused by lifestyle, is it my problem?

If mould is caused by lifestyle, is it my problem?

Question

My tenant has reported mould in the bathroom of my property. It’ my old family home and I never had the problem when I was living there, so I can only assume something has either happened structurally to the building (eeek!) or it’s a lifestyle issue. What’s my position regarding responsibility?

Answer

It really depends on what is causing the mould growth, and as you rightly say, whether it is a property or lifestyle issue. It has happened though, and mould is a serious issue and must be treated promptly. Failure to manage the problem can lead to serious health problems.

If the mould has been caused by a rising or penetrating damp -a structural issue (dripping pipes, dodgy damp proof course, leaky roof) - the blame is likely to fall squarely at your feet, as you are responsible for the maintenance of the property under Section 11 of the Landlords and Tenants Act, and therefore anything that occurs as a natural roll on from that would be down to you – and rightly so.

However, if your tenant has been enjoying hot, steamy baths and showers, drying damp washing and generally creating moisture in the roof without allowing adequate ventilation, chances are they could have unwillingly help the mouldy patches bloom thanks to the creation of condensation.

Until you have made a full assessment of the situation, it will be very difficult to work out which is more likely. If you arrive at your property to find half the roof missing I think your tenant will have a fairly strong case to suggest you should shoulder the blame (although one would question why you weren’t notified sooner!) however if everything is in good repair, and there is no evidence of any damage or change to the property, you could assume that your tenant might not be being quite as sensible with ventilation or keeping the property well heated as you might hope.

However, deciding whether or not to manage the mould isn’t necessarily as clear cut as if you think you are responsible or not. Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) treating damp is a mandatory repair, and there can be serious consequences for failing to carry out these repairs properly.

Even if you are not convinced that the damp is your fault, you should still remedy the situation, but consider having a chat with your tenants about ongoing ventilation requirements when using the bathroom.

Before you make any changes to the mould, do make sure you take plenty of pictures to document the situation, and keep all correspondence from your tenant regarding it – especially an email requesting that they adequately ventilate the bathroom moving forwards once the situation has been resolved. Hopefully, you will never need this information, but should the situation arise again at the end of the tenancy and you choose to withhold any of your tenant’s deposit to deal with it, having evidence that you have managed this before may help your case if it is disputed by your tenant.


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