Advice re mould in property

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    Advice re mould in property

    Hello

    My flat was built in 2001 and I bought it in 2006 and lived there myself through to 2012. I moved in with my other half and decided to let the property out.

    Since early on in their tenancy, my tenants have complained of mould around windowsills and other areas on the outside walls. I inspected this early on and was advised it was due to the humidity in the property. The windows had heavy condensation which is a tell tale sign of high humidity I'm told (you could see where the condensation had built and dripped down to the floor, causing mould there, the same could be seen on the windows). I provided my tenants with cleaning products designed specifically for dealing with mould (for which they were very grateful), gave them a selection of moisture traps/dehumidifers to try and advised them to open the windows and balcony door from time to time to ventilate the flat. They said they were often too cold to open the windows but I explained the reasons why it would help and also gave them a factsheet provided by the local council which detailed how to combat mould in your property (it also mainly advised that windows should be left open to ventilate the property from time to time).

    The moisture traps/humidifers I provided for them filled with liquid fairly quickly, so I'm happy that the humidity is the cause of the problem.

    Lately they complained that some items of clothing were mouldy. These items were stored in a wardrobe which they have placed in front of a radiator right next to a window. Again I advised that they must allow the flat to ventilate by way of the windows etc. I gave them even more moisture traps (the kind designed specifically for wardrobes - they absorb moisture in the air, the beads change color and then you can microwave and reuse them). When I was last round, these were full and I again had to remind them to microwave them to re-use them.

    Today I have received a message from one of the tenants stating that shoes in the wardobe were mouldy again. I believe this is the other half of the wardrobe mentioned above. I already have a more 'meaty' dehumidifer on order and have advised her to microwave and re-use the moisture traps I had given them previously for the wardrobe.

    It's worth mentioning that in the six years I lived in the property I did not have a single issue with mould. I often had the windows open and balcony door though.

    I feel like I'm doing all I can. Am I meeting my obligations as a landlord? I have given them cleaning products, dehumidifers/moisture traps and provided advice on combatting the problem, but it appears to no avail.

    Is there anything else I can (or should) do?

    The flat is on the 1st floor, with other flats on all sides. It does get warm in there and I guess when it's cold out, and warm inside, you're going to get these issues, but I'm not sure what else I can do.

    I'm a reluctant landlord... I would have sold the property had it been worth what I paid, but I have ended up letting it out. My tenants at the moment are the only ones I have had. I'm doing my best but would appreciate any advice re the above.

    Thanks in advance.

    #2
    I think you have already gone above and beyond the call of duty..... esp given that the tenants aren't making proper use of the solutions you have provided.

    Seems clear that if you had no problems for 6 years and there are no structural deficits the damp is being caused by the tenants lifestyle.... they are probably drying clothes on radiators or boiling pans on the stove for hours on end without opening the kitchen window, same with showering/bathing and not using the extractor/ventilating afterwards. Only takes 5 minutes to let the steam out with an open window, they are hardly going to freeze to death if they shut the bathroom/kitchen door while they do it.

    I'd get new tenants as soon as you can tbh... the ones you have atm aren't acting in a 'tenant-like manner', which they are supposed to do.

    Have a search of the forum for other posts about damp, especially the ones from tenants. I'm pretty sure some of them would have happily participated in the Hunger Games for a landlord who took damp as seriously as you have been.
    I'm not a lawyer, what I say is the truth as I understand it. I offer no guarantee except good intentions.

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by darossi View Post
      Is there anything else I can (or should) do?
      The issue is clearly down to the tenant's lifestyle. The only other thing I can think of is to make sure all this stuff is well-documented, so that when you want to claim from the deposit for the damage to your property at the end of the tenancy, you've got all bases covered. Write to the tenant reminding them of their responsibility, what they should be doing to alleviate the problem; include dates and what you've done and said to help. (Focus your mind by trying to imagine that at the end if the tenancy the tenants deny all knowledge of the whole problem...)

      Comment


        #4
        Have you heard of a Section 21 notice?
        To save them chiming in, JPKeates, Theartfullodger, Boletus, Mindthegap, Macromia, Holy Cow & Ted.E.Bear think the opposite of me on almost every subject.

        Comment


          #5
          Same happened to me years ago, I went abroad for a while and let out to another young person.
          He would leave clothes hanging to dry in a sealed room.
          Wallpaper was hanging off the walls in no time and sills mouldy.
          Mind you there are loads of owner-occupiers who have a religious belief in not airing the house too, you'll see their posts bout damp on the DIY forums.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by JerzyBalowski View Post
            Mind you there are loads of owner-occupiers who have a religious belief in not airing the house too, you'll see their posts bout damp on the DIY forums.
            My daughter isn't one of them... she came home from uni the weekend before last for a visit; when she went back she closed her bedroom door, presumably to dissuade the cats from furring up her bed while she's away.

            I went in there today for the first time since then; I found her window open wide and radiator on maximum (ie overriding the thermostat). Thanks for that...

            Comment


              #7
              Ericthelobster,

              Sounds like my missus!

              Comment


                #8
                I agree the problem is down to their lifestyle. If they are spending a lot of time in the property with the windows closed, this will add to the problem. The average human omits 4 pints of moisture per day just by sweating and breathing!

                With that in mind those moisture traps aren't going to really do very much.

                I have found that top quality extractor fans and/or ventilation systems can be very effective. Envirovent (no connection other than satisfied customer) do a fan which is on all the time at a low rate and automatically goes into boost when it detects moisture. The pull on one of these fans is (they claim) x50 greater than your average bathroom/kitchen fan. Solved my problem with mould & condensation.
                IANAL (I am not a lawyer). Anything I say here is just an opinion, so should not be relied upon! Always check your facts with a professional who really knows their onions.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I'm at my wit's end with this now.....

                  Over the weekend I've had 11 text messages and a voicemail from my tenants about the mould issue. They sent me picture messages of mouldy shoes, boots, clothes and furniture - all from the bedroom.

                  I forgot to mention in my first post that the bathroom fan has been broken for approximatley one month, which may have helped worsen the problem. I had arranged to have someone round to fix the fan a couple of weeks ago but was told no-one would be home to let the contractor in and I couldn't get time off work, but now someone is coming out today to do it.

                  But the mould problem has been present more or less since about 6 months after they moved in, so although the bathroom fan has not worked for a month or so, it's not the cause of the issue as it was reported many months previously (although I accept it may have contributed to making it worse in the last couple of weeks).

                  My tenants have now stated that they are fearing for their health and have been sleeping in the living room and may possibly be moving back to one of their parents until this issue is resolved. I have said to them that for any days they have to spend away from the flat die to the mould issue, I will adjust the rent accordingly. Not sure if I'm obliged to do that or not but it seemed like the right thing to do.

                  The wardrobe that was against one of the bedroom walls is covered in mould (only at the bottom though) and most of the things inside it were covered in mould also (shoes etc). This wardrobe was actually against a wall which faces out into the stairwell. The other areas of mould are on the outside wall. I can't see any areas of damp, just mould. My upstairs neighbour has confirmed he has had no leaks or anything.

                  I'm convinced that it must be down to the tenants' lifestyle. However, they tell me they are now ventilating the room but in the last week the mould has become unbearable.

                  To summarise:

                  1. Mould initially reported in early 2013.
                  2. I visited the property and noticed the condensation pooling on the windowsills and advised tenants they must open the windows and allow air to circulate. I gave them a couple of moisture traps I got from Robert Dyas and sent them a link to an advice page on the local authority website about how to reduce condensation in the home. I also provided mould cleaning products (inc. special mould cleaner, gloves, goggles, clothes, sponges etc).
                  3. The tenants were intially pleased with the response they got from the products mentioned above but gradually throughout 2013 they periodically reported further issues with the mould.
                  4. I reiterated my advice regarding ventialation as upon visits to the property I noticed that the windows were dripping wet and pools were forming on windowsills. I gave them more moisture traps, including some specifically for wardrobes as they had complained to me that some of their shoes had signs of mould.
                  5. In Jan 2014 they complained that the bathroom fan had stopepd working. The switch for the fan had broken from the wall. I arranged for this to be fixed.
                  6. In Feb 2014 they comaplined that the mould had suddenly got far worse. Clothes in wardrobe ruined, breathing problems etc.
                  7. I have today contacted the building insurance as I would like them to investigate if there is a problem externally that is somehosw leaking into my flat walls? However, I am on the first floor or a 4 storey block and no other flats above or below me have any similar issues.

                  I want to ensure that I have fulfilled my obligations as a landlord. I will be contacting MoreThan today to see if my Landlord insurance will cover investigation/repair as to the source of the mould and damage to the walls.

                  The majority of the advice I have received leans toward the tenant's lifestyle being the issue - and even if they are now venting the property, the mould that appeared previously will spread regardless.

                  I'm at a bit of a loss as what to do. When it's resolved, I will more than likely give them their notice and have the place professionally cleaned/repaired and ready for sale. It's been too much of a headache and happy to accept I am not cut out to be a landlord!!!

                  Where do I stand with their deposit? If the professionals don;t find any external factor that could cause the mould, is nit acceptable to use their deposit to go towards cleaning all the mould off? Could I argue the damage to the walls was caused by their lifestyle and thus they will be fotting the bill? They have hinted that would like me to replace their damaged furniture, but surely this is something they should claim on their own contents insurance (which I don't think they have).

                  The flat was built in 2001. I bought it in 2006. No issues on the survey at all relating to mould/damp or anything like that. I lived in the property from 2006-2012 and did not have a single issue with mould or damp whatsoever. They are 8 flats in my block all of which have had no issues of this kind. They are 127 flats in the development as a whole as as far as I am aware, no other flats have had issues like this either (I know this as I am also a Director of the RTM company for the development and get to hear about most reported issues).

                  So I'm at a loss as what to do. If anyone can help at all with advice on what next steps I can/should take, or if there's anything else I can or should have done or shoudl be doing now, please let me know. Sorry for the long post, but this is keeping me up at night.

                  Thanks so much.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    From what you describe it HAS to be down to their lifestyle - especially if no other flats have the problem.

                    The lack of bathroom fan will certainly have made he situation much worse and should have been attended to within hours of them reporting it. A standard fan won't even touch the problem. Please see my post #8 above.

                    Here are my suggestions.

                    1) get your building surveyed as planned and get the report in writing. Hopefully it will show that no external works are necessary. You will need this to prove you have taken necessary steps to address the problem. You should also get documentary evidence that there is no other condensation problem elsewhere in the block.

                    2) replace the bathroom fan with utmost urgency

                    3) forbid tenants from drying clothes in the flat unless windows open. If necessary (and if you feel generous) contribute to the cost of using a tumble dryer at the local laundrette.

                    4) consider bringing in the environmental health officer to comment on the problem (this will look better if you do it rather than them) and show that you are willing to address the problem. Hopefully they will agree that there is nothing you can do and that it's down to the tenants.

                    5) if they are within a fixed term, ask what they would like to do. If they want to move out say you are prepared to release them from the contract early. If not, issue a s21 as soon as you can.

                    6) if the reports (suggestions 1&4 above) say the building is to blame, do the work and be prepared to pay some compensation. If the reports say it is down to the tenants, do not pay compensation.
                    IANAL (I am not a lawyer). Anything I say here is just an opinion, so should not be relied upon! Always check your facts with a professional who really knows their onions.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Thanks for the advice, Grr. The only reason the fan wasn't fixed sooner is because they told me they would be in when I first arranged somebody to go round and then told me they would be out so I had to cancel (turned out they were in the whole time anyway). I had orignally thought that the switch was broken but the fan still worked (it's the isolator switch - they had no reason to ever switch it off anyway as the fan goes off a few minutes after the bathroom light goes out - which makes me wonder if they had been switching the fan off anyway?). Anyway, the fan is now fixed, somebody has been to do it today.

                      They're initial 6 month AST was up a while ago and they've been on a rolling month-to-month since then, so it's 1 month's notice from either party.

                      I'll call the Environmental Health today and get them round as early as possible to comment on the mould issue.

                      The tenancy agreement actually forbids them from drying cothes in the flat unless it is in an area 'adequatley ventilated and suitable for that purpose' - I suspect they have been drying the clothes in the living room (albeit with windows closed) but could this contribute to condensation elsewhere in the flat?

                      On top of all this, the neighbour has told me yesterday that he has had to visit them twice in recent months as my tenants (or possibly their guests) have been smoking cannabis on the balcony and it's been wafting into their flat upstairs... this is one other breach I could mention to them... plus another where they went on holiday and left the balcony door wide open (reported to me by a neighbour), another where they left their car blocking other residents in (they had been told the flat did not come with parking). Perhaps I've already put up with too much for too long :-)

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by darossi View Post

                        They're initial 6 month AST was up a while ago and they've been on a rolling month-to-month since then, so it's 1 month's notice from either party.
                        No - it's (at least) one month from the tenants (to tie in with a rent date) but LL must give (at least) two months' (following the s21 rules).

                        Personally, I'd send the s21 asap.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Can we have an "Issue S21 asap" custom emoticon made for threads like this?

                          Comment


                            #14
                            You'd have thought they would want to air the place properly even if just to get rid of the smell of cannabis!

                            And leaving the balcony doors open while they were away should have cured the mould problem!
                            IANAL (I am not a lawyer). Anything I say here is just an opinion, so should not be relied upon! Always check your facts with a professional who really knows their onions.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              It may well have done as they did say it got better during the summer months....

                              I've contacted this company for a free survey and after talking to them on the phone without even seeing it he said "condensation" but asked me to send across some photos which I have done.

                              Also emailed Environmental Health at the local council and aked them if they wouldn't mind coming out to assess the issue.

                              Will keep this thread up to date as it may be benficial to other landlords/tenants.

                              Comment

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