Guttering caused a leak and mould, tenants now hysterical

On our property (a first floor maisonette in an Edwardian terrace), the guttering completely failed during a recent storm, causing water to literally run down the walls. We immediately called round local roofers to quote and fix the problem. This unfortunately took over a month to resolve (as roofers are inevitably in high demand after a storm!). In the meantime, the weather was very wet and so there was ingress which has lead to damp and mould.

We have replaced all the gutters, installed new fascias and eave trays and so the cause of the damp is now fixed. However, there are spots of black mould in the corners of one of the rooms. The tenants refused to use the room, and seemingly left it unheated. As a result, their furniture and belongings (mostly suitcases) also have started getting a touch of green mildew (typically what you see in a damp garage or loft for example).

We have purchased a 12l/day dehumidifier to make sure they can dry out the room as quickly as possible. We have provided them with several types of mould killer spray to keep it under control. We even sent a damp and mould contractor round who confirmed that the cause is the damp from the leaks that are now fixed, and that the first (and pretty much only) thing to do is dry it out.

The tenants are not happy with this resolution. They seem to have gotten it into their minds that the building is structurally unsound and that there is another cause of the mould (e.g. rising damp). They are now making an ever increasing list of demands, and I’d like to know where the boundary of “reasonable” is on my part.

They cannot currently use the room, and I have agreed to:

  • help pay the cost to move their furniture around
  • reduce the rent to the equivalent of a one-bed in the area

They are making the following demands:

  • I pay for someone to clean the mould as they refuse to touch it (it is small spots, not an entire black wall)
  • I pay 50% of their utility bills as they have to heat the flat more and run the dehumidifier
  • I pay for a surveyor to inspect and confirm that the building is safe (there is nothing to suggest it isn’t; no cracks, no signs of subsidence etc.)
  • I install internal wall insulation in the room (the room is slightly cooler as it has two exposed walls which are solid brick construction, however, the EPC rating is more than adequate for the local regs)

To my mind, none of this is reasonable and that the costs and reductions I have agreed to are already sufficient. Anything else is on them if they want to pay for it.

Am I being reasonable, or should I be accepting any of this additional liability?

I think it’s reasonable that they dont want to clean mould that wasn’t caused by them. I also think a contribution to energy costs to cover dehumidifier and heating a room they cant use is fair, 50% feels too high though, I’d probably say 20% but can depend.

The last 2 are unreasonable. It isnt possible to have rising damp in first floor, the highest it can get is 1.2 metres above ground level. Get them to google rising damp upstairs.

Thanks for the input Richard!

I can see where you’re coming from. One point I’d add about the heating / running costs is that they have a small baby (as do I currently!). We have our heating on more than we used to as it is necessary. The fact that they have not been heating the property has exasperated the mildew problem in my opinion, so they bear some responsibility. Does that make sense?

They were given the EPC certificate on the advert which would have given them an indication of running costs, and they should be doing so already for their baby’s wellbeing. So I am also more inclined to calculate the cost of running the dehumidifier and only cover that cost. If I offer to pay a percentage, be it 50% or 20%, then that gives them a blank cheque to run up the bills.

Rising damp on the first floor ? Never Never

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