If a home is badly designed so that the walls end up covered in mould growth, the tenant is unlikely to have a claim in civil proceedings.
However, they may be able to bring a private prosecution against their landlord under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 if the property is “prejudicial to health”. Often tenants will report that they have developed breathing problems as a result of the mould or that rooms have become completely unusable.
Landlords will often come and remove the mould or advise the tenant to do so but the mould will return within a matter of days or weeks and the landlord won’t carry out works to fix the cause of the mould. A private prosecution can be brought to make the landlord both remove the mould and take steps to stop it from coming back. This can include making improvements to a property, such as improving ventilation and insulating walls.
In civil proceedings you can only make a landlord fix things that are broken, not improve the design of the property. Therefore, by bringing a private prosecution, you can make a landlord carry out more extensive works.
Proceedings are brought in a magistrates’ court and the court also has a discretion to award some compensation. They can also fine the landlord.
Private prosecutions are commenced by serving a notice on the landlord telling them that unless they carry out works within 21 days to get rid of the mould and stop it from coming back then the tenant will bring a prosecution. The Housing Team at Anthony Gold have had quite a few successes in these kinds of cases in recent years.
I recently had success in a case where I served a notice on Southwark Council, who were my client’s landlord. The walls of my client’s flat were covered in mould growth and the client had been bidding for alternative accommodation. Shortly after getting the notice, the Council gave my client emergency re-housing priority and within 2 weeks he had successfully bid for alternative accommodation. We did not need to even bring the claim to Court.
If the landlord hasn’t taken action after 21 days, you can take the claim to the magistrates’ court. I recently commenced a case against Barnet Council. My client’s flat was covered in mould and the whole family were sleeping in the living room as the bedrooms were uninhabitable. The Council maintained up until a few days before trial that they were not guilty. They started carrying out works. A few days before trial, they agreed to complete all the works my client’s expert had recommended and to pay my client compensation and her legal costs. My client and her family are now back sleeping in their bedrooms and the flat is mould-free.