Damp, Mould & Disrepair in Student Accommodation

Damp, Mould & Disrepair Guide
A damp window with a smile drawn into the water droplets by someone's finger
The information set out in this Guide is general guidance for students. It should not be seen as definitive or legal advice 

Your Guide to Damp, Mould & Disrepair in Student Accommodation

Welcome to 'Falifornia', where charming old houses and tropical gardens meet the challenge of damp, mould, and potential disrepair. But fear not, because with our guide, you'll tackle these issues like a pro!

What to Do If You Encounter Damp, Mould, or Disrepair:

The first step is crucial: inform your landlord/agent immediately. They can't fix a problem they don't know about, and regardless of fault, your landlord should work with you to find the best solution.

Key Points:

  • Inform Your Landlord:
  • Let your landlord inspect your home.
  • Record Everything: Keep a detailed record of communication and actions taken.
  • Tenant Responsibilities: Maintain cleanliness and ventilation to prevent issues.
  • Collaborate with Landlord: Landlords must investigate and address underlying causes.
  • If issues persist:
    • Environmental health departments within your local council can assess properties for hazards under the HHSRS (Health & Safety Rating System)
    • You can take your landlord to court if needed.
    • The housing Ombudsman can also be utilised once you have exhausted the landlord's complaints process.

Your Landlord’s Responsibilities:

Landlords must ensure their properties are fit for habitation, this means they need to be free from hazards such as damp and mould. It is their duty to take your complaints seriously and act promptly to protect your health and safety.

Landlord's Repairing Obligations (as per section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985):

  • Repair structural issues promptly.
  • Ensure proper functioning of water, gas, electricity, and heating installations.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation is available.
  • Act within a reasonable period upon notice of disrepair.
  • TIP – Always check your tenancy agreement for any extra repair responsibilities the landlord may have agreed to.
- See our ‘Housing Rights’ Guide for more info

Your Responsibilities as a tenant:

As a tenant, it is your responsibility to ‘Act in a Tenant-like Manner’, this means maintaining the property in a reasonable state to try to prevent issues like damp and mould, and repairing any damage you cause.

This includes regular cleaning, checking appliance safety, ventilating regularly to prevent condensation, keeping outdoor areas tidy, and handling minor maintenance tasks like changing light bulbs or smoke alarm batteries and unblocking drains etc.

There are some basic things you can do as a tenant to help prevent Damp and Mould specifically, but when this isn’t enough to keep damp and mould at bay, your landlord needs to work with you to find a solution:

  • Be aware of the things that cause excess moisture in the air (condensation) such as cooking, showering/bathing, drying clothes indoors…
  • Open windows regularly for airflow.
  • Avoid drying clothes indoors if possible as this is one of the biggest culprits creating a large amount of moisture in the air (condensation) that can lead to damp and mould.
  • If you must dry clothes indoors, consider using a dehumidifier if possible.
  • Try using budget-friendly ‘reusable de-humidifier bags’ to pull excess moisture out of the air - these work really well as long as you recharge regularly.
  • Try to ensure that the heating is kept at a steady temperature to prevent condensation. Research indicates that setting the thermostat to a consistent level (between 17 & 21 degrees) helps maintain a stable temperature in the property. This prevents abrupt temperature fluctuations that can lead to condensation and mould growth. Additionally, maintaining a steady temperature can help save money on heating bills.
  • Promptly address small mould or condensation issues before they become bigger.

What Not to Do:

Don't withhold rent!

  • It's tempting to stop paying rent if your landlord isn't doing repairs, but this can lead to serious consequences.
  • Even if crucial things like your boiler or toilet are broken, or if repairs are taking too long, withholding rent could result in eviction.
  • If you can't live in your home or use certain rooms, or if your health is at risk due to conditions in your home, it's important to try to address these issues without resorting to withholding rent.
Instead of withholding rent, consider asking for a rent reduction if delays or repair work are causing disruption in your life. Check out this resource from Shelter for more information: Link to Shelter's advice on rent reduction

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

Is a tool designed to help local authorities identify and address potential health and safety risks in residential properties. It was established under the Housing Act 2004 and is applicable to properties in England and Wales. This system categorizes hazards found in dwellings to determine if they render a property unfit for habitation.

Under the HHSRS, local authorities have the authority to:

  • Conduct inspections to assess properties for hazards.
  • Identify specific hazards present in a property.
  • Categorize these hazards based on objective criteria outlined in the rating system.
  • Classify hazards into 29 categories, with Category 1 hazards being the most severe, requiring immediate action from the local authority.
  • Recognize hazards such as damp and mould growth as one of these categories.

You can download a copy of the HHSRS from the government website herepage 53 is entitled 'Damp and mould growth'.

Equlity Act
Landlords have to make reasonable adjustments for protected characteristics – this might mean taking steps that a landlord wouldn't normally do to ensure a tenant isn’t at risk.

Read more about reasonable adjustments in rented property on the Shelter website here.

The Role of the Housing Ombudsman

The Housing Ombudsman plays a vital role in resolving disputes between tenants and landlords. Here's what you need to know:

How it Works:

  • Before lodging a complaint with the Housing Ombudsman, you must first go through your landlord or agent's formal complaint procedure.
  • If you're dissatisfied with the outcome of this procedure, you have the option to escalate your complaint to the Housing Ombudsman.
  • It's important to note that complaints must be submitted within 12 months of the landlord's decision.

Early Resolution Process:

  • The Housing Ombudsman offers an 'early resolution' process as an alternative to formal complaints.
  • This process aims to resolve disputes within 2 months, providing a quicker route to resolution for both tenants and landlords.

The Housing Ombudsmanserves as an impartial mediator, ensuring that both parties have access to a fair and efficient resolution process for their housing-related grievances.

Seeking Assistance:

Remember, addressing damp, mould, and disrepair requires cooperation between landlords/agents and tenants. By understanding your rights and responsibilities, you can effectively tackle these challenges and maintain a healthy living environment in your student accommodation.

And guess what? We're here to lend a helping hand, too! Just email us at advice@thesu.org.uk or book an appointment using our booking system here if you need some backup in the battle against dampness.

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Falmouth & Exeter Students' Union
Penryn Campus
Penryn, Cornwall
TR10 9FE

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