Tenants can sue landlords for damp homes under new laws introduced

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Tenants now have the right to sue their landlords for cold or damp homes under new laws that have come into force.

If a landlord does not carry out necessary repairs or maintenance, the tenant will be able to take them to court where a judge can issue an injunction forcing the work to be carried out, under the government’s new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitations) Act 2018.

With changes applicable in England only, landlords must ensure their properties meet the law’s habitable standards. Failure to do so means they may face the possibility of being taken to court by their own renters.

Around 5.8 million renters in the UK experience damp and condensation issues, and 2 million believe they have developed an illness as a result of their living conditions, according to new research by Rentokil Property Care.

The study found that despite one third of tenants – 33% – contacting their landlord to help them rectify these issues, in more than half – 51% – of those cases, no help was given.

The investigation revealed that while many landlords do assist occupants, it takes an average of 84 days to rectify the problem.

Rentokil Property Care says that less than one in five – 17% – of tenants in England are aware that they can force through changes to their homes and ensure they are fit for habitation via the Homes Act from today.

The study of renters found that 44% of rented properties had no extractor fan in the bathroom, and a further 31% said the bathroom had no window either. It is these sorts of issues that can have a direct impact on the growth of mould and proliferation of damp.

But tenants must take responsibility for their living environment, according to Nicholas Donnithorne, UK technical manager at Rentokil Property Care.

He said: “An average family of four can produce up to 24 pints [14 litres] of water vapour in just 24 hours, and all that moisture has to go somewhere. When the air cools, condensation forms on cold surfaces at what is known as the ‘Dew Point’.”

The research by Rentokil Property Care revealed that 20% of UK renters do not use the trickle vents in their double glazing, and over one third – 36% – of tenants admitted to wearing more clothes instead of turning the central heating on, so that they save money.

Letting fresh air in and heating a property properly is crucial when thinking about the prevention of mould growth on cold wall surfaces and stopping damp from becoming a problem.  

Drying clothes in unsuitable areas may also be impacting the experience renters have with condensation, damp and mould. Results have indicated that around 30% of tenants regularly dry their clothes on radiators, with 11% admitting they do this all the time.

Some 12% of renters also dry their clothes in the bathroom, an area where a lot of moisture already exists. If ventilation is not present, the water vapour released from the drying clothes can condense on cold surfaces and lead to mould growth.

Donnithorne added: “It’s important the homes people live in have adequate ventilation and heating facilities that enable the occupiers to take control of the amount of moisture they produce. Occupants must also better understand that their behaviour may be affecting the formation of condensation and damp.

“Simple lifestyle changes such as drying clothes outside or leaving the window ajar could go a long way in helping to reduce issues and prevent mould growth.”

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Written by: Houseladder