No matter what I do I can't stop condensation, avoid damp and prevent mould in my rented home
Why is this happening?
Condensation, damp and mould all happen because water is getting into your home and not getting out. Homes are supposed to be designed to get water out effectively, so there's something wrong going on. It could relate either to how well your home is heated and ventilated, or to a structural problem with the property.
In the course of living in your home you'll use water to wash, cook and do laundry. Water that doesn't go down the sink evaporates and, if it can't escape, condenses on cold walls or windows and creates problems.
It's worth remembering that warmer air can hold more water vapour so the colder your home, the more condensation you'll have.
Water doesn't always enter your home through things you control like a tap or the washing machine. For example, a leaking drainpipe could spray water on to your external wall, saturating it so badly that it creates a damp internal wall. This is called penetrating damp. Another type is rising damp, which comes from the ground but does not get stopped by a "damp proof course" that is supposed to be built into your home.
The first sign of a damp problem is discoloration or mould appearing near the bottom of walls on the ground floor, or near the top of external-facing walls in upper levels. Have a look outside for any cracked brickwork or loose tiles which may be letting water in. External walls may appear damp or discoloured with white. When it rains you could look at the guttering to see if there is any dripping from places that shouldn't be dripping. Damp could also be caused by poor plumbing - one sign is the problem occurring below or near the bathroom or kitchen.
What are my landlord's responsibilities?
Your landlord must keep your home in good repair and investigate cases of damp and mould.
They should ensure that excessive moisture in the air can be ventilated out by extractor fans in your bathroom and kitchen, or "trickle vents" in your windows. (Sometimes extractor fans get clogged up but can be cleaned yourself if you feel confident.)
Your landlord is legally required to insulate your home enough to allow you to keep your home warm at reasonable cost. This is more of a risk in homes with energy efficiency ratings between D and G. Your landlord is also legally required to have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and an energy efficiency rating of between A and E. You can view yours on Simple Energy Advice, a government website, which will also provide recommendations about how you and your landlord could improve your home's energy efficiency.
Air may be cooler by windows without effective double glazing. If your double glazing has condensation between the panes it may be time the window was replaced.
Your boiler should be able to heat your home to a safe temperature (18-21 degrees) and be in good working condition. Gas safety inspectors will spot a dangerous/faulty boiler but won't always spot a safe boiler that is not/no longer suitable for heating your home.
If you are unable to dry your clothes outside and have a persistent damp problem, a tumble dryer may be the solution.
If your home is rated F or G then your landlord is breaking Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards and you should contact your local council's environmental health team. If your home doesn't have an EPC you may be protected from a Section 21 eviction (read more).
Tell your landlord if you have evidence of inadequate ventilation, lack of insulation or damp. If you suspect rising damp you could ask for details of the property's damp proof course. If you are worried about how your landlord might react, contact your council's environmental health team. If they inspect your home, find unsafe conditions and serve the landlord with an improvement notice, you will be protected if the landlord serves you with a Section 21 eviction notice.
What can I do?
Chances are you've already told your landlord about this and they've told you to do the following, which can help - but doesn't absolve them of their responsibilities.
- Put lids on pans. This means food cooks quicker, so less steam is produced.
- Open windows. This is a good thing to do for short periods anyway, to allow fresh air to circulate. Opening windows and closing doors to bathrooms and kitchens during and after showering and cooking also helps minimise water vapour in your home. However, it is unacceptable for you to have to keep windows open to ventilate the home that you're trying to keep warm in winter.
- Use a dehumidifer and mop up condensation. This is only a sticking plaster until you find a more sustainable solution. If you use a towel, wring it out into the sink or bath as otherwise the water will just dry off into the air again.
- Dry clothes outside, or in a room you can keep ventilated and keep shut to the rest of the property.
- Check out this page for information about saving money on energy bills.
Complaining to your landlord is still not risk-free - join our campaign to end Section 21 "no fault" evictions