Tenants complaining of damp but haven't used heating since moving in

Hi everyone - I am a very new landlord (6 months to be exact), and am currently experiencing my first major issue with my tenants.

I own a ground floor, 2 bedroom Victorian flat - so as you can imagine the property is old and requires a certain amount of care. Before renting, I lived in the flat on my own and was aware of how to mitigate condensation build up due to the property being that of a brick build. In this time I never had experience of damp / mould.

In the past 6 months of renting to my tenants (a young couple), they have complained about how long clothes are taking to dry and a build up of condensation when using the kitchen / shower / around the windowsills of the main bedroom. The shower is fitted with an extractor fan which also functions for the attached kitchen. All windows are double glazed and can be left on a latch for circulation.

As far as I was aware, the couple had been ventilating the property properly following the instructions left in their handover and contract - however, on a check this past weekend, I have entered the flat to find the walls of the kitchen wet with trails of water marks and damp walls / the start of mould building up around the walls of the windows in the bedroom. It appears that they have not had the heating on at all since moving into the property in August, and therefore the condensation has been building upon damp walls with no way of drying.

I am looking for some advice - as when I mentioned about having the heating on they met me with worries of finances (they have been trying to get by as long as they can without turning the heating on), however this surely goes against their responsibility to keep the property well ventilated and warm? I am now worried that without proper intervention, my beautiful property will fall into major repair. Can anyone help share their thoughts or offer insight into what I’m legally allowed to request of the tenants?

Thanks from a worried, new landlord.

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You are correct that it is tenants responsibility to heat a property to help prevent damp. Given energy prices this is very common at the moment.

You cant really force them to heat it other than say you will have to end tenancy by serving notice (assuming you did a 6 month ast) if they dont heat it.

You could consider helping them with heating bills if you are getting a good rent as poorly insulated (which yours presumably is) are more impacted by current energy costs, I’ve helped out tenants where heating is electric as i didn’t feel it was reasonable to insist on them heating due to current costs but the property does need to be heated. Make a judgement on whether the incomes disclosed would becable to support energy costs and allow a reasonable life.

Personally, i wouldn’t rent out very old houses, they do require more care and are more expensive to fix and a lot of tenants simply wont do what’s required, not blaming them, its not their property and they dont want to spend a high amount of their income in protecting it.

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Hopefully your tenancy agreement will list the responsibilities of both your tenants and yourself. Please read your tenancy agreement very carefully to see if anything they are doing/or failing to do puts them in breach of contract.
I’ve personally no experience of eviction tenants, but based on the above, please add further comments in this thread and I’m sure others will advise more.

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I have exactly the same situation; never had a problem before with other tenants but current young couple are drying their wet laundry on radiators which I believe is causing mould and condensation. I told them to stop doing this and reminded them of the mould info I gave them at start of tenancy, I also purchased a dehumidifier to dry laundry and help remove condensation. Problem has now vastly improved.

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Yes my tenancy agreement lists the following terms:

Tenants are expected to keep the property well ventilated and heated to
avoid any condensation build-up i.e.:

  • opening bathroom window when showering
  • opening kitchen window for ventilation when cooking
  • using bathroom fan when showering
  • keeping bedroom window on latch during colder months to avoid
    any condensation build-up on windowsills
  • wiping down any water residue around window frame

They are supposedly following all bulleted terms but have neglected to heat the property due to wanting to save costs. Unfortunately this decision could end up costing them more to help any repair should I choose to take action for their breach.

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My tenants were provided with information and a dehumidifier on their induction into the property. I am about to send a stern email detailing which habits I expect them to adapt with a time frame for us to work on to get the property back to a suitable standard.

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Hi, sorry to hear you’re having this problem. I see people constantly asking for help with mould in their homes on social media. I think a lot of people simply don’t understand how it happens and as already said, it’s just got worse as people try not to use their heating.

A few years ago we had the same issue with one of our properties after a tenant had had the loft re-insulated without our knowledge. We ended up putting a Positive Input Ventilation system in the house to combat the problem. It may be worth looking into this. Good luck

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One tip, put a quiet continuously running fan in bathroom which shuts off when dampness is low.
Explain that drying clothes on radiator is like throwing a bucket of water on the wall
Make sure you have a 4” core cut so they can use a tumble dryer and vent it properly

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its a humidity operated fan that goes on and off on its own

I had a positive input system fitted to one property. The tenant knitted it a large woolly cover!
Make sure that the bathroom and kitchen have extractors that run when they sense moisture not just if the light is on.

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Shoot Them ! ! Old houses are high maintenance ‘but’ they are usually a little drafty that you wouldn’t notice which is a good thing! Electric convector heaters (which everyone condemns) can help as they dry the air a little as well as provide heat and set on a low setting is ideal

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Maybe you shouldn’t charge them so much rent and they would be able to afford to put the heating on.

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i have not put my heating on yet I simply wear an extra layer. It is not because I cannot afford it ,it is because I begrudge putting extra money into the energy suppliers pockets . We do not know what rent they pay so who can say if it is too much?

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How much is too much Marcus2? Can you advise? It is always the rent which is too much and unnecessary expense! I called my tenants to access the property and they were not able to accommodate my request as they were abroad on holiday!!! Very same people were giving me a hard time for a rent increase after three years of no rent change. I am not saying that people do not deserve any holiday abroad but not sure why I am always at the bottom of the list! I have not been given that house for free!

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Rent amount/value and heating affordability are not related.

With your logic you could say maybe tenants should buy cheaper food, or have cheaper holidays.

Plus we don’t even know if the rent is cheap or expensive.

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Tell them to get a dehumidifier. It will help keep the house dey and damp free

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I provide a dehumidifyer whenever I find damp as its hard to change tenants behaviour. If that does not work, then give notice.

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after 50 years as a builder and 40 years a landlord If you want no mould do the following. Trickle vents on all plastic windows,> Insulate all external walls on The INSIDE ,plbd and skim > Humidity fans to kichen and bathrooms> Insulate timber floors>Keep tiling to a minimum in kitchen and bathroom. I know that it is harder to do retrospectively. and even harder to educate the tenants about heating and drying of clothes

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Just to add to all the other advice, which I agree with, your only responsibility as a landlord is if there’s a structural issue causing the damp e.g. rising damp, cracked external walls, ingress of water from guttering etc. You should be able to get the freeholder to check this, although it’s much more likely down to the tenants’ lifestyle.

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I had a similar issue (studio flat in Victorian house, lots of condensation, increasing mould), and I had a Positive Input Ventilation system installed, which seems to have sorted the problem. It’s not cheap, and it means having a large pipe installed near the ceiling and through the wall. But it might be worth considering.

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