Currently, it is estimated that across the UK more than one out five rented households are living in homes with a damp problem.
Last year the charity Shelter highlighted how the worsening housing crisis was actually making millions of people sick. According to research, 26% of renters are estimated to be affected by living in a damp or mouldy environment.
Condensation is the most common type of damp found in rented properties, it is formed when excess moisture in the air comes into contact with a cold surface.
Polly Neate CBE, CEO of Shelter called upon Michael Gove to do more on the issue last year:
“The cost of poor housing is spilling out into overwhelmed GP surgeries, mental health services, and hours lost from work.”
The new Housing Secretary must get a grip on the housing crisis and tackle a major cause of ill health.
Unfortunately, with a cabinet reshuffle and a new Prime Minister looming, it remains unknown how such tenancy health issues will be tackled.
In 2020, The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force and made landlords obligated to ensure their properties met certain standards.
The rules apply to new tenancies under seven years; new secure, assured and introductory tenancies; and to tenancies renewed for a fixed term.
With this in mind, the Act empowered renters in England and Wales to take their landlords to court over problems which included cold and damp homes.
Nowadays a court can serve an injunction which obliges the landlord to carry out necessary work and in some instances also award compensation to the tenant.
The effects of damp
The negative health implications of damp can range from moderate discomfort to more severe conditions. For those with existing allergies to common triggers such as dust or pollen, a susceptibility to respiratory probelms from mould can be a problem.
Those living with allergies such as pet or pollen allergies will likely be most susceptible to the impact of mould on their respiratory system. Mould spores which are inhaled will agitate the nose, eyes and throat.
Symptoms of this mould irritation may range from sneezing or cause a more serious allergic reaction attacking the respiratory system.
For those with inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, mould exposure can cause an irritant reaction within the skin.
Direct contact with mould spores from a damp issue can manifest as itchy skin and exacerbate existing conditions and symptoms.
Mould and condensation can trigger the release of toxic substances which can cause problems for both people and their pets. In particular black mould is a general term used to describe the three most dangerous types known to grow in homes. Toxicity from black mould occurs when spores are ingested, as a result, when attempting to safely remove the substance, adequate PPE must be worn.
The full toxic effects of black mould are still being investigated but preliminary evidence suggests in serious instances it can negatively affect the neurological system and the immune system.
It may come as a surprise but the presence of mould and damp can cause physical harm to tenants due to potential structural vulnerability. For example, timber can rot as a result and the security of fittings can be compromised leading to damage.
Parents of young children and babies should be most aware of the health impact of mould as its effect is most notable in this vulnerable group. In addition, for the elderly population, living with mould can be a real problem due to the nature of existing health conditions.
Those living in cold and damp conditions can often suffer mentally too from the presence of this smelly and dangerous substance.
Many tenants end up trying to take mould removal into their own hands and there are many blogs and videos online to show how to remove it effectively. Unfortunately, this is often a temporary solution as the damp environment is harder to fix as a tennant and more invasive changes need to be implemented by the home owner.
How do renters get compensation?
Like all compensation, the amount of remuneration depends on the extent of the problem and how bad the consequences are.
Typically, the damages are calculated based on a percentage of the rent a tenant has paid whilst living within such conditions.
In a property where realistically it is actually uninhabitable, a tenant could be awarded the full rate of their fees, however this is almost unheard of..
It is much more common for damp compensation to range between a quarter and a half of a tenqants rent. Unfortunately, tenants in this position will have to consider the expense of court fees unless they are eligible for legal aid for free.
Post Brexit and covid and with foreign war uncertainty, necessities from food to petrol have became massively inflated. With this in mind, energy bills have also rocketed meaning a lack of heating for many families this coming winter. Damp notoriously thrives in cold wet conditions and will more than likely thrive in households who find themselves who cannot afford their heating bills this year.
If you’re considering making a housing disrepair claim, you should find out how much you could receive.
Read more and submit a claim on our Housing Disrepair page