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Damp, Mould & Health

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926 views 1 replies latest reply: 16 January 2015

We have been living in our property, a new build, for 6 months now. We don’t deal with landlord directly, we go through a letting agent called Tenant Network.

We live in Portsmouth and although friends had warned us with horror stories about Tenant Network, we stupidly ignored them because we were so in love with the property.

We never imagined damp and mould would be an issue in a new build because we were nowhere near the sea but as winter came the guttering collapsed and water started to leak through our roof.

It then started to spread up the walls of our property. We cleaned twice a week but it kept coming, covering entire walls. My partner’s health began to waver and he ended up in hospital with pneumonia. We explained his decline in health since the damp arrived and the doctor told us it was directly causing his bad health.

After telling Tenent Network this, they came round to the property and told us it was our fault because we hung washing out and would we like a leaflet on damp?

The property has no ventilation and no windows. We were then told to leave the doors open in the middle of winter and as it rained down heavily outside, were told to hang our washing out in the garden.

They have strung this out for months, doing absolutely nothing, passing the blame onto anyone but themselves and we’re feeling ill and stressed and very disheartened by the whole experience.

It was our first home together since getting engaged and we’re just distraught at what has happened to us.

They have ignored most of our emails, laughed in our faces when we speak to them and have failed to fix the back door to our flats so homeless people squat in our hallways and shout abuse at us as we leave for work.

This whole experience has put us off renting forever.

Please tell us there is a way out of this?

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Hi Teddy

What an awful situation to find yourselves in. Yes, there are steps you can take as this is not acceptable in renting terms.

Your landlord has a responsibility for the structure of the property and ensuring that it is water tight and secure – that includes repairing leaks within a reasonable timeframe. In a building with no windows and doors, I would imagine that instructing you to open the door for ventilation is not really acceptable (I wonder if the agents would like to live like that?). There’s some info here on dealing with damp and condensation yourself, however, it does sound like your problem is coming from the structure of the building and the repairs that are needed rather than anything you’re doing. There is information here from the Citizens Advice Bureau on who is responsible for what kind of damp.

 There are a few things you can do:

1. Make direct contact with the landlord. Many landlords simply don’t know what tenants are going through and sometimes if you tell them then they will get involved. Remember that if the property is being managed on behalf of a landlord that landlord is paying the agent management fees and if the agent isn’t doing their job properly (i.e. ensuring the landlord’s obligations under the tenancy agreement are being fulfilled) then the landlord isn’t getting value for money so it’s worth telling them what’s going on. You have a right to the name and address of your landlord – more info here.

2. Contact your local environmental health department at the council. They can compel the landlord to take action to deal with problems like this – if it’s a risk to your health and safety then it could be a hazard. If you have a letter from a doctor stating that a health condition has been directly caused by the state of the property then you have a strong case for getting help on the basis of the risk to health and safety.

3. Make a claim against the landlord. The tenancy agreement between you and the landlord is a contract and that requires the landlord to keep the property in a decent state of repair. If they don’t they are in breach of contract which is something you might be able to get compensation for. However, success depends on a lot of factors, including when the leaks started and what your losses etc are – you would need to seek some legal advice if you want to do this, either from a solicitor or a free law centre or the Citizens Advice Bureau. These are also resources you could use to get help with the problem of the squatters in the hall.

4. Make a complaint about the agent. Obviously if you think you might want to rent via this agency again then this may not be a good idea – unfortunately this is how these kind of agents get away with what they are doing. However, take a look at any memberships/accreditations that the agent has, for example the Property Ombudsman or the Association of Residential Letting Agents. These bodies have a code of conduct that members have to adhere to, including ethical standards of honesty and being professional, and a complaint against the agent might make them take some action to correct bad practices as few will want to lose that accreditation. 

5. Move out. If you get legal advice that says the landlord is in breach of the tenancy agreement as a result of failing on the repairs obligations then you might be able to move out. Speak to CAB or a legal brain at a law centre about this.

Whatever you do, try to get as much correspondence as possible in writing and keep copies of everything.

Don’t lose heart on the renting front, not all agents are like this! We’ve all had some horror experiences – there are far too many out there, which is one of the reasons The Tenants Voice was begun. If you do move and you want to find another agent, our approved agents have to adhere to our code of condct and we vet them thoroughly so our vetted agents database could be handy in future. You have every right to live in a home where damp is not hazardous to your health – that’s part of what you’re paying for, so don’t be afraid to take steps to enforce your rights.

Good luck


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