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Mould/Damp Landlord asking for £1200 or more Please HELP!

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308 views 2 replies latest reply: 30 December 2015

We’re two Canadians living in London, and we met out landlord through airbnb while staying there temporarily to get a feel for the city while we flat hunted. She took a job overseas and decided we could let her flat on a longer term basis. We put a deposit of £750 with no third party holding company because she told us this would save us money.

It is a former council flat. When we moved in there was some water damage on one of the walls that she was trying to get sorted with the council.

While out of town we returned and noticed the water damage looked like it was worsening. We immediately took pictures and sent them to her, and she said she would get in touch with the council. This was on Nov 28th.

A few days later we noticed small bit of mold building up near our window frame. We searched online for what to do and followed some advice that suggested giving it a good cleaning with some vinegar and water, which seemed to take care of the problem. A week later it came back with a venegence and the water damaged wall was getting worse as well. We checked out flatmates room as well and he was getting mould too. We emailed her again on the Dec11th with pictures of the water damaged wall and mentioned that there was a bunch of mold building up in our room on the window.(This is when it returned after the cleaning). She didn’t do anything and said she would deal with it when she returned Dec 19th.

When she got back she freaked out. Saying it was all our fault. Eventually after having calmed down she had a mold specialist come who claimed that it was due to poor ventilation and our room was the origin point. (She was the only person present during this specialists visit)

Our flatmate kept his windows open and the hallway bathroom window open. We opened our windows fairly frequently slept with our door open a crack, and used an oscillating tower fan when we slept every night (many times the fan was on for more than 8 hours a day). We also had the heat programmed to be on for about 8 hours a day during the coldest parts of the day.

When she handed over the property to us she made no mention of any special way that we were to keep the place ventilated however our tenancy agreement stated vaguely we were to keep it well ventilated. Which we thought we did.

She is currently holding onto both our and our flatmates deposit totalling £2750, and placing the blame solely on us. She has opted to go with the more expensive mold removal company, and wants us to pay upwards of £1200 for having the entire flat fumigated, as well as removal of the mold in the two bedrooms and the water damaged wall, plus “redecorating” which involves hiring painters to repaint the effected areas. We’re really at a loss of what to do and are flying to Canada this afternoon. She seems to be trying to squeeze us for every penny, and because we are not from the UK we’re not entirely sure what our rights are. I’ve done some research online with mixed results.

Any help in this matter is really appreciated as this is really taxing thing to deal with over the holidays.

Thanks for your time.


Hi Keith

Do you have a tenancy agreement? If you do, and it’s an assured shorthold tenancy then your landlord must legally have protected the deposits with one of the government deposit protection schemes. If this is the case and it hasn’t been done then you can make a claim against the landlord for the return of the entire deposit and 1-3 times the amount in compensation, regardless of the issue with the damp. Even if you don’t have a tenancy agreement in writing or one that doesn’t call itself an assured shorthold tenancy, it will be an assured shorthold tenancy if:

It’s a private landlord 

the tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989

the property is the tenants’ main accommodation

the landlord doesn’t live in the property


A tenancy can’t be an AST if:

it began or was agreed before 15 January 1989

the rent is more than £100,000 a year

the rent is less than £250 a year (less than £1,000 in London)

it’s a business tenancy or tenancy of licensed premises

it’s a holiday let

the landlord is a local council


I’m assuming that this wouldn’t fall under the category of a holiday let but it might be worth checking with a law centre of Citizens Advice (I’m not a lawyer).

So, that’s probably your first step, to work out whether you can make that claim against the landlord and, if you can, to let her know you will unless she returns the deposits in tact. 

If there’s an issue with doing that then, as far as I know, in these kinds of situations if the damp is caused by the tenant then it’s up to you to pay and if it’s structural it’s the landlord. It would seem that as she already had an issue with water damage that she had raised with the council that it would be difficult to blame this on you. Can you contact the council and ask for information on that? And did you have an inventory when you moved in that noted any issues? It might also be worth asking to see the copy of the report from the specialist so you can check their credentials and actually see what was said (if the report exists. If she can’t produce it then she can’t rely on it).

On a practical level, if she keeps your money when you leave then you’d have to make a small claim through the courts to get it back. It’s not actually that difficult to do and sometimes even threatening to do it can make the other person think twice. She would have to prove that this damage was down to you and she wouldn’t have an inventory (?) to prove that the flat was spotless before you arrived so that would be hard. Keep all your correspondence so that you have a record of all the times you tried to get her to deal with it and make sure any future correspondence is in writing. If you want info on making a  small there’s info here on how to do it and you can also ask Citizens Advice, as previously mentioned. 

As I said, I’m not a lawyer or an expert but it does sound a lot like this is a structural issue she should pay for and she’s hoping if she bullies you enough she can keep your cash to deal with it.



You are incredibly lucky to have not had your deposit formally protected, because not only will you get your deposit back in full, you will likely get an compensation payment as well. Your evidence of emails and photos to the landlady will almost certainly guarantee that a small claims court will award you the compensation. She knowingly broke the law in not protecting your deposit. This is not to save you money, but almost certainly to avoid coming to the attention of the taxman or having to comply with other rules that landlords need to.

You may not wish to go down that route, in which case you can ask the landlady to return the deposit in full or threaten that you will go to court, in which case she will have to return it in full and make a payments of between 1 and 3 times the rent. As posted above, this is a very easy process, open to all.

In terms of getting your own back, I would guess that she has not been paying tax on the rental income – feel free to notify HMRC using the online facility, that she has been letting to you and state the amount. If she has a mortgage, it is probably not a buy-to-let or even consent to let mortgage, so you could notify the lender and she will be in breach of contract. The lender is likely to respond by increasing the mortgage rate to the equivalent of a rental mortgage.

The other alternative is to stop paying rent until you get your £1200 back. If she is living abroad, what is she going to do?

If you are content to carry on living there, I suggest you do not do anything now, but do not agree in writing to the £1200 (although it does not sound like she cares whether you agree this or not).


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