£6,000 damages for tenants living with damp & mould
Our clients moved into a council-owned, one bedroom, ground floor flat in July 2020 and first reported the presence of damp to their landlord in September 2020.
Black mould was growing along the full width of the lower walls in the bedroom and hallway, located along the external wall. Our clients had bought moisture traps as the lower walls felt damp to the touch. They reported this to their landlord’s repairs phone line, explaining that their fingers had chalky paint pigment on them after touching the wall. Their landlord completed a damp survey in November 2020, the findings of which indicated that the damp and mould growth were the result of condensation due to the flat not being properly heated or ventilated. Their landlord provided advice on how to manage condensation.
They came to us in February 2021 after reporting that the damp and subsequent black mould growth had worsened and was no longer manageable with mould cleaning sprays.
Condensation is often the root cause of damp and mould but our housing disrepair team are highly aware of the impact of living in a mouldy environment on tenants’ health. We follow the view published in October 2021 by The Housing Ombudsman Spotlight report on damp and mould, following their post-COVID-19 investigations into the issues of damp and mould in social housing. The Ombudsman concluded that landlords need to move away from the systemic culture of blaming tenants’ lifestyles for the presence of damp and mould in a home and become more reactive about finding solutions to prevent further occurrences, rather than reacting to mould once it has re-grown.
Upon receipt of the repair logs held in our clients’ tenancy file, it was clear that their landlord had tried to respond to the reports of mould but had been impeded by local lockdown rules due to COVID-19. This could clearly be seen with multiple work orders raised and subsequently cancelled prior to appointments being booked. Although the landlord was not negligent in their response to their tenant’s reports in this case, they had failed to keep their tenants updated regarding the situation. The tenants only knew that their landlord had not sent any contractors round, the windows were not working correctly, and the damp and mould were getting worse.
The surveyor who inspected our clients’ home found that the construction of the building was thermally inefficient, resulting in cold spots where condensation formed causing mould growth. The property was deemed uninhabitable under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the landlord was in breach of Section 11(1) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The surveyor recommended that the disrepair be remedied by a damp-proof specialist applying a chemical damp-proof course then treating the mould growth and re-decorating using mould inhibiting paint.
The landlord denied all liability under the guise that this was an inherent building design and as such any repairs completed would be an improvement to the building and not a repair, and as such they were not in breach of the Landlords and Tenants Act 1985. They agreed to complete a mould wash and complete both a damp survey and a heating survey in addition to awarding £300 compensation.
A damp inspection was not completed. The landlord provided the same report that had been produced in November 2020 and contractors turned up without appointments to complete their work. The landlord stopped responding to negotiations and Imperium Law issued the claim to court. The landlord failed to submit their defence to the court and re-opened negotiations with damages awarded at £5,993 and all repairs raised in the report completed within 56 days. Imperium Law successfully argued the impact of living in a mouldy environment.