Ministers Promise Damp and Mould Czar

Ministers have handed the job of policing private rented homes for damp and mould problems to the yet-to-be-appointed housing ombudsman.

The job has been on the cards for six months after Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove published a fairer renting white paper outlining government reforms to renting privately.

The housing ombudsman will oversee complaints from renters - including those about dampness and mould, but the ombudsman’s arrival may take a year or more.

The announcement came just before a deadline set by the coroner during the inquest of toddler Awaab Ishak. The coroner blamed extensive mould in the family’s rented social home as a significant contributory factor in the child’s death and demanded action from the government by last weekend.

The joint statement from Gove and Health Secretary Steve Barclays said:

“Awaab’s case has thrown into sharp relief the need for renewed action to ensure that every landlord in the country makes certain that their tenants are housed in decent homes, and they are treated with dignity and fairness.”

How dangerous is mould?

Their statement added that mould would become a part of the new housing health rating for privately rented homes. The rating sets time limits for repairs once a complaint is made.

Awaab’s family lived in social housing in Rochdale. His father repeatedly complained about mould in their home without response.

Meanwhile, social housing ombudsman Richard Blakeway went on ITV’s Good Morning Britain to explain that landlords are wrong to blame tenants for creating mould from how they manage their homes.

But how dangerous is mould, and whose responsibility is keeping a home mould-free?

Mould is a fungus which grows in damp conditions. The fungus releases spores (airborne seeds) into the air, which may lead to illness, allergies or asthma. Children, the elderly and others suffering from respiratory illnesses suffer from exposure to mould at home - mould can lead to an illness that causes death.

What causes mould in homes?

Landlords and tenants often argue about the cause of mould in homes - condensation.

Condensation occurs in kitchens and bathrooms when the moisture level in the air is high, when the temperature reaches the dew point, condensation forms where water droplets touch walls or windows which are cooler than the dew point.

If condensation continues, the surface becomes damp, and mould can grow if untreated.

Landlords argue tenants trigger condensation and mould by failing to ventilate the property correctly. In contrast, tenants claim their landlord is to blame by providing poor heating and nowhere to dry clothes.

Most condensation is generated from everyday tasks, like cooking, showering and washing clothes.

Mould can also come from rising or penetrating dampness.

Rising damp comes from moisture bridging the damp course.

Penetrating damp comes from a leak or plumbing issue.

Both are maintenance problems for landlords to tackle.

How to stop damp and mould

Some issues, like penetrating and rising damp, need expert remedies by professional tradespeople.

Renters can play their part by keeping their homes warm and ventilated so mould does not increase.

_Government and housing expert advice_ suggests keeping a home heated to 15 degrees centigrade. Still, many renters face financial difficulties due to the cost of energy and cannot afford to heat their homes.

Some simple remedies include wiping down a shower rather than allowing water to evaporate, leading to condensation. Opening windows for a while or switching on extractor fans also helps.

Whose responsibility is mould?

Landlords must ensure a rented home is fit to live in and does not harbour any health risks.

If a maintenance issue causes mould, the landlord should fix the problem.

However, if a renter is not adequately ventilating a home, the repair responsibility and cost lie with them.

When will the law about damp in homes change?

_The government has promised to reform how private tenants rent homes for some time_.

A white paper - a precursor to legislation - was published in June last year, which explained many of the government’s new policy decisions.

Besides introducing rules that rented homes must be fit to live in, the proposed bill also abolishes Section 21 no-fault evictions and creates the new private rented housing ombudsman.

The bill is expected during this year, but no date has been set, so the provisions are unlikely to become law before April 2025.

View Related Handbook Page

Condensation, Damp and Mould

Understand your responsibilities as a landlord for preventing damp and mould issues in your rental properties, while protecting your tenants' health.