Here is a question to the blog clinic from Kim who is a tenant
We moved into our property 11 months ago (rented via a letting agency).
Two weeks ago we discovered a fairly large mould problem affecting the whole wall of our bedroom, inside the built-in wardrobes.
We immediately informed the landlord, as the walls were so damp we were concerned that there was a leak in the roof. The agency sent someone round to assess the problem, who informed us that it was likely a condensation problem (but also advised that the landlord needed new guttering), and the wall/wardrobe interiors would need to be treated with industrial bleach and painted with mould-proof paint.
They said that the landlord would pay for the repairs on this occasion because he had previously had a “small” mould problem, which was “completely resolved by opening the windows for 5 minutes each morning and intermittently leaving open the wardrobe doors”. He had not had the mould properly treated at that time; I therefore feel that we were just “sitting ducks” for mould to develop.
However, when we asked for (a tiny) amount of compensation – just enough to cover a replacement suitcase, since ours became covered in mould and have had to be taken away to be cleaned – we had a rude email back from the letting agency, insinuating that the mould was our fault as “whenever they had visited the property the windows were closed and curtains drawn”.
The windows do not lock at a partially-open level, so we are unable to leave them open when we are out (which are the only times they have visited); I routinely leave the curtains closed when I am out to keep in the heat/prevent sun damage/”prevent” burglars etc. The room has no air vents, and the wardrobes do not have air vents either.
The room, and indeed house, is otherwise well ventilated – the bedroom door is always left open to ensure airflow, we regularly open the windows when we are home, often leaving the bedroom windows open throughout the night as I do not like sleeping in a stuffy room, and the house is also well heated with heating set to come on with a timer twice a day in winter – we often have it on all day if we are in.
We had not wanted to take this to court, but the rude email from the agency has infuriated me; they could be liable for much more compensation than I had informally asked for, since we are also likely to be eligible for rent abatement for loss of use of our property, compensation for loss of working time while I dealt with the problem and various contractors, compensation for medical problems (I am allergic to the mould spores, which have given me rhinitis, asthma and chronic headaches), and to cover costs due to damage to all our goods and belongings, which runs into hundreds/thousands.
Any advice on whether this would be worth it, or how to proceed from here, would be very welcome.
Condensation problems are always difficult. There are a couple of posts on this subject on the blog such as this one here. Generally you can only claim compensation if the condensation is due to the landlord being in breach of his statutory repairing covenants. Unfortunately this means that if the condensation /disrepair is due to poor design of the property, then the tenant cannot normally claim.
So if in this case the problems are caused by the roof and guttering not being in proper repair you have a claim. If it is caused by the lack of proper air vents, it may be that you are not.
Assuming that it is the roof/guttering which is the cause, then I suggest you make a detailed list of all your losses and send them off to the agents saying that if it is not possible to come to an amicable arrangement regarding your claim, you will be considering making a claim through the courts for the items set out on your list.
You could add that you are still unhappy with the problem (if it is still ongoing) and say that you are also considering asking the Local Authority to carry out an inspection under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
They will probably want to avoid this, as if the Local Authority inspection finds there is a hazard regarding condensation and mould they can serve an improvement order on the landlord. This could prove expensive for the landlord.
Hopefully if the agents / landlord realise that it will be less trouble to pay you your original compensation claim they are are more likely to action this.
If however the agents / landlords ignore this, I suggest you take legal advice before actually going to court. You may be able to find a solicitors firm willing to help you on a no win no fee basis, particularly regarding your personal injury claim.