As we enter the autumn months, landlords will naturally begin to see an increase in the number of complaints they receive from tenants related to damp problems in their properties. This year, however, with the introduction of the Homes Act, landlords are under even more pressure to make sure that their properties are free from damp and condensation.
Of course, the action required to remedy damp problems depends entirely on the nature of the damp in the first place, so we have prepared this article to help landlords recognise the main causes of damp and understand how to effectively deal with them.
Damp Problems Caused by Condensation
Although seemingly innocuous, condensation is actually the most common cause of damp problems in the UK. We will all be familiar with tell-tale signs of condensation like water droplets forming on glass and tiled surfaces, but condensation can also lead to damp patches appearing on walls and the formation of unsightly black mould.
Thankfully, preventing condensation is often just a case of advising on some behaviour changes your tenants can make to avoid releasing so much moisture into the air, these changes include:
Increase ventilation: A simple but effective fix, opening windows and using extractor fans provides the ventilation required to flush out humid and damp air.
Dry clothes outside: Moisture given off from wet clothes can increase humidity in the home by 30% If it is not possible to dry outside, then make a designated drying area in an enclosed room with an open window.
Maintain a constant temperature in the property: Condensation is released when humid air meets a cold surface area, ensuring that there is a steady warm temperature in the property reduces the risk of condensation forming.
Unfortunately, some condensation problems can still persist even if your tenants enforce the measures noted above. In which case you may need to install an extractor fan with a ‘humidity sensor’ or another form of the whole-house ventilation system.
Rising Damp Complaints
Frequently misdiagnosed, when tenants complain that the property has rising damp then the first course of action is to determine whether this is actually the case or if the damp has been caused by something else.
Rising damp occurs when groundwater and moisture is drawn upwards through brickwork or mortar via a process called ‘capillary action.’ Rising damp is usually identifiable by a ‘tide-mark’ of dampness on the ground floor of the property that can reach up to 1m in height.
Typically rising damp is only caused by a failure in the buildings ‘damp proof course’ and as such, the landlord will be responsible for taking on the cost of damp proofing the property by installing a remedial damp proof course.
Penetrating Damp Problems
If your tenants’ damp problems are caused by water entering the home through a defect in the building such as a leaking roof, damaged downpipes and cracks or gaps in the structure itself, then this is known as penetrating damp and you will be responsible for ensuring that repairs are made to the property to prevent water ingress
Penetrating damp is frequently quite simple to fix, and in many cases, the issue can be addressed by applying a DIY fix such as repairing the render on the external wall to prevent water ingress or repairing and unblocking gutters and downpipes.
However, for more severe cases we would recommend that a thorough check of the area is conducted to make sure that the damp has not to lead to any more serious conditions like wet rot or dry rot.
What to do when your Tenant Reports a Damp Problem?
As we noted earlier in the article, you should educate your new tenants about their duty to take measures to minimise the risk of damp and condensation, however, once a problem has been reported then you have a maximum of 14 days to respond.
Visiting the property should reveal any obvious signs of water ingress, however, some damp problems are more difficult to evaluate, in which case we would recommend that you seek the services of a fully qualified and reputable damp proofing company who will be able to diagnose the cause of the problem and recommend a treatment plan to remedy the issue.
Guest blog supplied by Paul Lawless of property preservation specialists Peter Cox.
Date: 10th of October 2019