Research released today by Rentokil Property Care has found that 5.8 million British renters have experienced damp and condensation issues, as well as black spots on the walls of their homes. Despite one third of tenants (33%) contacting their landlord to help them rectify these issues, in over half of those cases (51%), no help was given. The investigation found that while many landlords do assist occupants, it takes an average of three months (84 days) to rectify the problem.
The Government’s new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitations) Act 2018 comes into force today, with changes applicable in England only, it means landlords must ensure their properties meet the law’s habitable standards. If they do not, they may face the possibility of being taken to court by their own renters. Rentokil Property Care found that just 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 the 20th March.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) says that for a property to be fit for human habitation, it must be suitable for occupation in respect of 29 criteria, including adequate natural lighting and ventilation, as well as freedom from damp and condensation.
The study of renters found that over two fifths (44%) rented properties had no extractor fan in the bathroom, and a further 31% said the bathroom had no window either. Issues like these can have a direct impact on the growth of mould and proliferation of damp, and over one fifth (23%) of renters said they have condensation forming all the time from using the shower or bath. More than a third (35%) said there was not enough natural light in their properties and 34% said there was no reliable central heating. It’s important for homes to be sufficiently ventilated and heated, as this helps prevent condensation from forming.
Landlords will only be liable for design defects in the building, and there remains an onus on occupants to understand how their behaviour affects living conditions. One fifth (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 tenants are regularly drying their clothes on radiators (30%), with 11% admitting they do this all the time. While this is often the only option in the absence of a tumble dryer or outside clothes line, a radiator cannot dry clothes and heat a room at the same time. One in ten (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.
Nicholas Donnithorne, UK Technical Manager at Rentokil Property Care 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’.
“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.”
The Homes Act impact
The majority of landlords who currently fulfil their duties will be unaffected by the Acts’ amendments. Though it’s new, it doesn’t change any property standards or provide additional regulation, but it does allow tenants the ability to enforce existing standards that landlords are expected to meet.
As a result of damp, condensation, mould or pest-related issues, 2 million renters believe that they have become ill, with over half (58%) of those needing to visit a doctor as a result. As The Homes Act comes into law, landlords will be more accountable for property maintenance, and hopefully as a result less renters will suffer as a result of damp-related issues.
For further advice on property care or to arrange a free visit from a Rentokil Surveyor please visit http://www.rentokil.co.uk/property-care-services or call: 0808 149 5385