Here is a question to the blog clinic from Rhiannon who is a tenant
I am currently 5 months into a tenancy of an “upside down” house if you will, where the kitchen, bathroom and storage room are downstairs with bedrooms upstairs.
The downstairs rooms are underground. We noticed a few weeks into moving in the storage room was getting very damp and noticed damp on the walls getting dark.
We asked the landlord and his excuse was “someone’s moved a sheet on the path during building nothing I can do”. No offer of damp proof paint etc.
Since then (a few months) the kitchen cupboards have started to smell, putting smells on our plates and other items, the bathroom is becoming almost toxic after showers and the storage room has had to be almost emptied after I took a suitcase out and it was covered in stains and mould.
Our agency said as long as he’s done everything he can (which is realistically nothing but wait for someone somewhere to “move a sheet”) then we have no case. Yet I’ve lost over £50 worth of suitcases and also things I had stored in them. We also believe this damp killed our pet hamster as we kept his bedding in there at the start. Overall it’s quite stressful.
Are we wrong to think we have a case?
It depends. The law is a bit complex here and damp is a notoriously difficult issue.
If you are thinking of bringing a claim for compensation in the County Court under the landlords statutory repairing obligations (set out in s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985) then this will depend on whether the damp is caused by the landlord failing to carry out repairs which he is obliged to do under the act.
For example under the act the landlord is obliged to keep the structure and exterior of the property in repair. But has he failed to do this and if so, is this the cause of the damp?
I am not a surveyor but it sounds to me as if the damp could be connected to the fact that the rooms are underground. Unless this ‘sheet’ really is the problem. I have no idea what it could be. Do any readers know? And if it is the sheet – why can’t the landlord move it himself?
However, if the damp is due to the design of the property (e.g. the rooms being underground) rather than some repair issues which the landlord has failed to rectify, then this is not something you can claim for – not under s11 anyway.
You clearly have a problem though, and this will be a heath and safety issue. So I suggest that you arrange for the local authority Environmental Health Dept to do a Housing Health and Safety Rating Survey. They should come out and do this for you free of charge.
If they find any ‘category 1 hazards’ then they will serve an improvement notice on your landlord requiring him to rectify the situation. If he refuses, ultimately they will have the power to bring a prosecution in the Magistrates Court.
The is a solution but note that it will result (if no rectification work is done) in the landlord getting a criminal record, rather than an award for financial compensation being made in your favour (although sometimes small awards are made to victims).
It will also take quite a long time as Local Authority Environmental Health departments tend to be very busy. Long term, you may want to consider moving somewhere else.
Thanks to Sandra of QuaLETy Ltd for the picture