As the start of winter approaches, many tenants will dread what this means for their housing conditions.  Here are a few examples of the problems tenants can face as the seasons change:

  • Rain water leaking into upstairs rooms caused by missing roof slates or broken guttering
  • Black mould appearing in the corners of rooms and around the windows frames
  • Peeling wallpaper and blistering paint on the walls as rising damp creeps up the walls from the ground
  • Cold draughts caused by rotting window frames
  • Unaffordable heating bills caused by inefficient and unreliable boilers

Landlords are normally responsible for repairing defects to the roof, the walls, the windows, and the heating and water systems including the boiler.  If your property is affected by one of the problems above, your landlord may not be complying with their duties.

Here are some simple steps you can take if you are affected by  one of the problems listed above:

  1. Tell your landlord – report the problem. When you do, keep a record of it by keeping a copy of the email you sent or the letter you wrote, or keeping a copy of your phone bill showing when the call was made.
  2. Take photos or videos of the defects and keep them somewhere safe
  3. If your landlord doesn’t deal with the problem within a reasonable period, make a formal complaint. If you’re unsure what is a reasonable period and your landlord is a local authority or housing association, check your landlord’s repairs guidance which can normally be found online. This guidance normally gives time frames within which they will aim to respond to problems depending on the urgency.
  4. If your landlord still doesn’t deal with the problem, seek legal advice.

Condensation dampness

Damp and mould can have several different causes. Some properties, particularly blocks of flats built in the 1970s and 80s, were designed in a way which means they are prone to suffer from condensation dampness. If your windows drip with water (particularly in the winter) and there are black mould spots in the corners of rooms and around the windows, your property may be affected by condensation.  Landlords often refuse to take any steps to deal with such problems as there is a general rule that landlords can’t be forced to do works to remedy a problem with the way the property was designed. This kind of defect is treated differently to where, for example, there is a leak caused by damage to the roof.

However, if you are a tenant living with condensation, there may still be something you can do:

  1. If the condensation  dampness causes damage to the structure of the building, for example, the walls or windows of your property, your landlord should still repair the damage.
  2. Sometimes condensation dampness is made worse by a leak from outside or from a neighbouring flat which the tenants are unaware of. This is worth investigating.
  3. If the damp and mould is severe enough that it is classed as “prejudicial to health”, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 may apply. If the evidence of an environmental consultant concludes that the mould is prejudicial to health, the tenant may be able to bring a private prosecution against their landlord in the magistrates court under this Act. As part of that prosecution, the tenant can often force their landlords to do works to the property to get rid of the mould and stop it coming back.
  4. If your landlord is a private individual or company, your local authority may be able to assist by involving an Environmental  Health officer.

Other defects

If instead your landlord is breaching their obligations under the tenancy agreement by failing to repair, for example, the roof, gutters, windows, or treat rising damp affecting the walls, you may be able to bring a claim against your landlord in the county court. In this kind of claim, you can ask the court to order your landlords to do repairs and pay you compensation for the time you have had to live with the problems. As a general rule, the courts award between about £1000 and £4000 a year in compensation for the time that the tenant has had to put up with the problems.