Shropshire Council

Damp, mould and condensation

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Everyone has the right to a warm, secure and decent home. Landlords must ensure that the accommodation they provide is free from serious hazards. Excessive moisture can promote the growth of microorganisms such as mould and other fungi, certain species of house dust mites, bacteria or viruses. The more serious the damp and mould problem and the longer it is left untreated, the worse the health impacts and risks are likely to be. The respiratory effects of damp and mould can cause serious illness and, in the most severe cases, even death. Most people come into contact with the substances produced by damp and mould by breathing them in. This means they predominantly affect the airways and lungs. Damp and mould can cause disease and ill health in anyone, but especially in higher risk groups, such as:

  • People with a pre-existing health condition (for example allergies, asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, other lung diseases and cardiovascular disease
  • People of all ages who have a weakened immune system, such as people who have cancer or are undergoing chemotherapy
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • Older people
  • People who are bedbound, housebound or have mobility problems making it more difficult for them to get out of a home with damp and mould and into fresh air

Mental health effects

Some people who are exposed to damp and mould might experience poor mental health as a result of living in a home with damp and mould. This could be due to:

  • the effects of mould on property and belongings
  • being blamed for damp and mould
  • social isolation as a result of not wanting visitors in the home
  • delays in response or repairs following reporting of damp and mould and/or poor quality of repairs

Taking a proactive approach to reduce the risk of damp and mould

Landlords, irrespective of whether they own one or multiple homes must adopt a proactive approach to the identification and tackling of damp and mould. This should include regular inspections to identify any repairs issue in the property. Some homes are more at risk of damp and mould, they include:

  • Homes where residents feel unable to open windows due to concerns about loss of heat, security, noise, or high outdoor air pollution
  • Homes that are poorly or inadequately insulated
  • Homes with inefficient or ineffective and expensive to run heating systems
  • Homes that are poorly ventilated
  • Homes without adequate damp proof courses
  • Homes that are poorly maintained
  • Homes that are overcrowded

It's important for landlords to support tenants to understand what they can do to reduce damp and mould, but this must never be a substitute for addressing the underlying causes of damp and mould.

Legal standards for landlords

Landlords must treat cases of damp and mould with the utmost seriousness and act promptly to protect their tenants’ health. Damp and mould cannot just be dismissed as a result of tenants ‘lifestyle choices’, and it is the responsibility of all landlords to identify and address the underlying causes of the problem, such as structural issues or inadequate ventilation. It is vital to build relationships with tenants, ensuring that tenants feel encouraged to report damp. They should work together to get to root causes of why damp is occurring and what changes can be made by both the tenant and the landlord to ensure that damp and mould is addressed and does not reoccur. Reinspection is needed after remedial action to check that the mould has not reappeared.

Private and social landlords must adhere to a number of regulations related to damp and mould. A lack of compliance can place a landlord at risk of prosecution or financial penalties. There are five main legal standards that relate to damp and mould in rented homes.

  1. All homes must be free from hazards at the most dangerous ‘category 1’ level. The Housing Act 2004 states that properties must be free from hazards at the most dangerous ‘category 1’ level, as assessed using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), a risk-based evaluation tool. This includes mould and all types of dampness. Generally, a ‘category 1’ hazard means that an occupier of or visitor to the property may require some form of medical attention over the course of a year. Local councils also have a power to take action when they identify hazards at the ‘category 2’ level.
  2. All homes must not contain conditions that are prejudicial to health. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 gives tenants and local councils powers to take legal action where homes contain a ‘statutory nuisance’, which includes where they are in such a state as to be prejudicial to health. To be a statutory nuisance, the damp and mould must be harmful to the health of the tenant or a nuisance.
  3. Homes must be fit to live in. New provisions in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 added by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 require that properties are free of hazards, including damp and mould, which are so serious that the dwelling is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition. The current occupier may be taken into consideration when determining whether the property is suitable. A home that is fit for human habitation is safe and healthy, which would mean free from damp and mould that could cause significant harm. Tenants may wish to take action if their property is unfit for human habitation or the landlord has failed to keep it in repair, under defined circumstances, under Section 9A and Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. While there is currently no legal requirement to undertake remedial work within a specific period of time, landlords should nonetheless respond to complaints about repairs promptly.
  4. Social housing specifically must meet the Decent Homes Standard (DHS). To meet the Decent Homes Standard, social housing must be free from dangerous ‘category 1’ hazards and also states that social housing must be in a reasonable state of repair and provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort. Either disrepair or inadequate thermal comfort, or both, may result in damp and mould. Where the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) determines a provider has breached standards, it has a range of legal powers it can use, including enforcement powers.
  5. Privately rented homes must meet minimum energy efficiency standards. The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 require that privately rented homes must meet the Minimum Level of Energy Efficiency standard of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band E (unless exempt). The regulations do not make reference to damp and mould, but an energy efficient property is less likely to be affected by condensation, one cause of damp and mould, provided it is adequately ventilated. The government has committed to consult on the energy efficiency of social housing.
    Complying with the standards

As a first step landlords should regularly inspect their properties and ensure that they have a regular programme of maintenance and management. Landlords have a right to enter their properties, with reasonable notice to inspect the conditions of the premises and to carry out repairs.

If a tenant reports damp and mould, landlords should establish the source of the damp, whether there is any defect to the property that is causing it, and then carry out the appropriate remedial work. While there is currently no specific timeframe within which remedial work to address damp and mould must be undertaken, landlords should always respond promptly and address this issue as a matter of urgency when there is significant damp and mould and/or when there is a significant concern for tenant health. If all possible remedial action has been taken landlords need to document what they have done and the advice given to tenants.

If issues are not resolved

Your landlord must help resolve the issue, but if they refuse or fail to make improvements or repairs, you can contact our Housing Enforcement team.

If you live in a property owned by a Housing Association you should report the issue and allow them to investigate and address the issue. The Housing Enforcement team will not usually get involved unless you have followed your Housing Association’s complaints procedure. If after that you are not satisfied, contact the team

In all cases you should take photographs of the affected areas, to show the landlord and the Council what the problem is like, but as it is dangerous to breath in spores from mould, you should follow the guidance below to safely remove the mould. It is likely to return, but please do not delay in cleaning while the cause is identified, as mould can seriously affect your health.

How to remove black mould

While the issue is investigated and resolved you should clean off mould if it is a relatively minor issue.  If large areas are affected ask your landlord for professional contractors.

Care has to be taken to avoid contact with microscopic mould spores and not to further the spread of spores. In cleaning away mould wear rubber gloves, eye protection and a protective mask which covers your nose and mouth.

Open windows before, during and after the cleaning but close doors to prevent mould spores transferring to other areas of your home.

Do not brush the mould as it releases more spores. Next wipe down affected areas using a disposable cloth with diluted bleach or a fungicidal wash (Always follow the safety instructions on the bottle).

Allow the surface to dry and vacuum the room to remove any mould spores disturbed and transferred during removal, then empty your vacuum cleaner.  Before decorating it is important to understand why the mould has occurred and how to stop it coming back.


During the colder months condensation can become  a problem in many homes. It is caused when warm moist air hits a cold surface such as a window or external wall and condenses, causing mould to develop. This can be made worse if rooms are not adequately heated and ventilated

The water can then soak into paint or plasterwork and in time black mould may grow on the area. It normally happens during colder months and is often found in corners, on cold walls, around windows and where furniture is pushed up against external walls.

Condensation can be greatly reduced by changing what you do in your home.  Drying clothes indoors can add 10 to 15 litres of water a week to the air in your home and just by breathing a family of

four can add moisture to the air equivalent to 30 to 40 litres.  That is why ventilation is so important

Tips to reduce condensation

  • Though fuel costs are increasingly expensive try and keep temperatures at least 18 degrees in main living areas whilst indoors
  • Improve insulation – a privately rented property must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of A-E
  • Don’t block air bricks or air vents
  • Wipe down walls and window frames
  • Dry drying washing outside when possible
  • Try not to dry clothes on radiators. This can cause mould on walls behind radiators
  • Open window trickle vents
  • Close internal doors whilst cooking and open windows.
  • Put lids on pans (this also reduces boiling times and helps save you money)
  • Use an extractor fan if you have one.
  • Only boil as much water as you need in a kettle to reduce steam.
  • Open windows whilst bathing/showering washing and leave them open after, if it’s safe to do so.
  • Take shorter showers
  • Wipe down windows/mirrors/tiles/shower doors or open windows for at least 10 minutes every day.
  • Try and leave a gap between cold walls and furniture to allow airflow
  • If you use a tumble drier, vent it outside or buy a condensing type
  • Use a dehumidifier this will assist with maintaining the humidity levels in the property and reduce excess moisture in the air
  • Run cold water in to a bath before the hot

Penetrating damp

Penetrating damp is found on external walls or ceilings. It appears because of a problem in the building such as

  • Missing or damaged brickwork
  • Cracked rendering
  • Damaged or blocked guttering
  • Missing roof tiles
  • Badly fitting windows or doors
  • Damaged flashing
  • Defective plumbing - leaks

Issues are more noticeable after wet weather.  It is important that the source of the damp is identified and then addressed

Rising damp

Rising damp affects basements or ground floor rooms and usually rises no more than 30-60cms. Black mould can occur,  but there are often white salts and ‘tide marks’ in affected areas. It is caused by water rising from the ground through the brickwork due to a compromised damp proof course. It will be present all year round but may be worse in the winter. If left untreated it can cause plaster to crumble and wallpaper to lift. It is important that cause is identified and then addressed by a contractor.