Damp in rented accommodation

If you are a tenant who is renting a house, your landlord has a legal duty to ensure that the house is maintained to a level that is safe and habitable for you to live in.

Rising damp is a common issue of poorly maintained houses, and your landlord is legally obligated to ensure that any required repairs are made to your home. If you have reported any issues regarding damp, and your landlord has failed to take the appropriate action, our housing solicitors may be able to claim against them on your behalf for both compensation and for the repairs in question.

How damp can affect your health

Living in a damp home can be damaging to both yours, and your family’s, health and wellbeing, and can put you more at risk of respiratory problems, allergies, respiratory infections, and asthma.

Living with damp can also affect the immune system; particularly in babies, small children, elderly people and vulnerable adults.

Symptoms of exposure to damp may include:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Skin rashes
  • Chesty coughs
  • A runny nose and red, watery eyes
  • Asthma attacks.

Is your landlord not fixing issues with damp?

At CEL Solicitors, we take landlord’s legal obligations very seriously, as we believe that everyone deserves to live in a safe property.

We understand that you may be nervous when it comes to claiming against your landlord, but you don’t have to suffer unnecessarily. To find out your rights as a tenant if your landlord is not fixing any problems or issues with rising damp, contact our expert team of friendly solicitors today on 0808 273 0900 or 0203 925 4551; or email info@celsolicitors.co.uk.

Common questions and advice about damp issues

What is damp?

In a building, damp is basically moisture that has either formed due to water intruding from outside, or condensation from inside. Once enough moisture has built up, it usually forms visible patches on the surface of the wall or ceiling. If the problem isn’t rectified quickly, the damp can spread and mould can grow on the surface too.

What causes damp?

Damp can be caused by a few different things. If the damp is being caused by moisture entering the property from outside, such as rain coming through worn brickwork, it is called penetrating damp.

If the damp is forming at the bottom of walls on the ground floor, then it is known as rising damp. This usually happens when a damp proof course has not been done or has been bridged or failed.

If the damp is caused by condensation from within the house rather than water from the outside, it is often a sign of poor ventilation. Condensation damp is often first noticed when black mould starts to grow, generally around windows or on walls that lead outside, as the moisture collects when warm, moisture-filled air inside the home meets a colder surface.

What is rising damp?

Rising damp is a type of damp that is caused by natural moisture from the outside being drawn into the house and appears at the bottom of walls, often leaving ‘tide marks’ visible, up a metre high. This can also cause wallpaper to peel off and sometimes a white, chalky substance is drawn out of the wall too.

Most houses in the UK will have had a damp proof course or membrane installed, either when it was built, or at some point since if the property is older and has undergone renovation. However, occasionally this treatment fails or the membrane is damaged and starts to allow moisture into the home again. It can cause timber to rot and is unsightly, possibly even causing health issues for those living if the problem is not fixed.

Is damp dangerous?

Damp and mould in the home can be dangerous, especially to babies and young children, elderly people and those with skin problems, respiratory conditions or a weakened immune system.

Having an untreated damp problem at home can have a big negative impact on the health of those who live there, potentially causing asthma attacks, allergic reactions, skin rashes, sneezing, runny nose and irritated eyes. If left long term, damp and mould can cause quite serious health issues for the household and make existing conditions much worse, such as eczema, asthma and other skin or respiratory problems, when mould spores are breathed in or come in contact with the body.

How to fix damp

The way in which to fix a damp problem will depend on what has caused the damp in the first place. Simply replacing any damaged plaster and redecorating will only be a temporary fix, as the damp will soon return if the original cause isn’t addressed.

For rising damp, the structure will usually need a new damp proof membrane installing or other suitable methods, depending on the exact nature of the problem.

Penetrative damp will require a diagnosis of where the original problem lies, whether a wall requires restorative work, guttering needs to be fixed or work done on the roof. Once this is fixed and the wall has dried out, it can be redecorated.

Condensation damp may require a change in habits, such as drying laundry indoors and ensuring that any room with a condensation problem is adequately ventilated, by opening windows, or installing an extractor fan in some cases.

How to get rid of the damp smell

Once the root cause of the damp issue has been fixed, the smell of damp should automatically lessen, but in many cases, a musty odour can remain for a while, which isn’t pleasant to live with. Some top tips for getting rid of the smell include:

  • Washing any fabrics (beddings, curtains etc.) or clothes that have been kept in the room can help ensure that the smell doesn’t linger on them.
  • Using a washcloth dampened with a water/baking soda mix to gently wipe over hard surfaces in the room, such as furniture and window frames, which may be retaining some of the mouldy smell.

How to stop damp coming through walls

There are a few different reasons why damp could be coming through the walls, and the root cause of the problem will determine how best to stop the damp.

If the damp is showing at the bottom of walls, leaving a tide mark as it goes up, this could be rising damp. This can be stopped by installing a damp proof membrane, or damp proof course, to stop moisture from getting through from outside.

If the damp is showing up in the middle of walls or at the top, near a corner or the ceiling, it is probably penetrating damp coming through the brickwork from outside. If the bricks or stone are worn, or the cement between them has deteriorated to allow rainwater in, this can cause damp to show on the inside of walls. It can be fixed by repointing the brickwork and possibly by treating the area with professional water-repellent products.

Other damp on the walls may be due to broken or faulty guttering or drainage pipes on the outside of the house directing water directly onto the bricks instead of taking it down to the ground as it should. This can be resolved by fixing the pipework or guttering that is causing the issue.

If your house has cavity wall insulation that has been incorrectly installed, water can sometimes bridge the gap between walls and lead to damp on the interior walls. This can be resolved with remedial work being done on the cavity wall to ensure that rainwater can’t pass through.

How to treat damp walls

The right treatment for damp walls will depend on the cause of the damp. If you’re not sure what exactly is causing the problem, the best course of action is to find an experienced damp specialist to assess the issue and find the root cause.

If you rent your home, it is your landlord’s responsibility to deal with structural damp. As a tenant, you have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to avoid condensation damp from forming, by opening windows to ventilate rooms and using dehumidifiers, if provided by your landlord.

How much is a damp proof course?

The cost of a new damp proof course or the installation of a waterproof membrane will vary, depending on the size and location of your property, and the extent of the problem. Terraced houses will cost less than detached homes, and a single wall can cost anywhere from a few hundred pounds, to several thousand, to put right.

If you are a tenant, it is your landlord’s responsibility to pay for a damp proof course, if it is required. Usually, a damp expert is consulted to determine the work that is needed and whether a new damp course is the route to go.

If your landlord is not dealing with a damp problem that you have reported to them, you might be eligible to make a claim for compensation. Contact CEL Solicitors on 0808 273 0900 or 0203 925 4551; or email info@celsolicitors.co.uk, to find out more.