Disrepair & Damp
Following the lifting of the most recent Covid-19 restrictions on 2nd December 2020 the Prime Minister has announced that West Sussex including Arun District has been placed under Tier 2 restrictions. What this means generally can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-2-high-alert
During this period the Private Sector Housing & Public Health team will however again be undertaking some site visits and property inspections where appropriate precautions are in place including appropriate distancing measures; however, the site visit and inspection regime will be on a more reduced basis than it is normally. Most visits and inspections will require the completion and return of an “Inspection Access Declaration Form” prior to the visit, which will help the team risk assess each situation and whether a site visit or inspection is appropriate and safe to be undertaken.
Any visits arranged during the pandemic may be subject to cancellation or change at short notice if there are changes to National, local or Council-directed policy, legislation or requirements or instigation of further or additional restrictions, or where it is considered that appropriate precautions and/or social-distancing cannot be achieved (and Officers’ have the discretion to end an inspection if they believe that any breaches or precautions aren’t being met). Staff continue to work from home and have limited or delayed access to incoming and outgoing postal mail, and correspondence is best via e-mail where possible.
These changes have been made to protect customers and staff and to try to reduce the likelihood of contracting or spreading the virus during these difficult times, and although this will not be a permanent arrangement it will continue for the foreseeable future.
As well as advice on Coronavirus available via other links on the Arun District Council website, the following links may also be of particular use in regards to Housing issues: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-services-for-people-experiencing-rough-sleeping/covid-19-guidance-for-hostel-or-day-centre-providers-of-services-for-people-experiencing-rough-sleeping
Housing Disrepair issues
Landlords: Repairs and annual inspections, such as Gas Safety checks, should continue to be undertaken where possible and it is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure these are completed when necessary. The Council has been advised that it should continue to enforce on the relevant Housing legislation and where appropriate serve formal Notices, so you should continue as far as is practicable to ensure that the property you rent out provides a safe and healthy environment for your tenants.
Disrepair or amenity issues
If you are a tenant experiencing disrepair or amenities issues in your rented property, we may be able to contact your landlord and, in some circumstances, request works to be undertaken. Initially you will need to contact your landlord in writing to try to resolve the matter amicably between the two parties. The Council will only be able to help if the below process is completed properly.
In the first instance you should discuss the issues which are of concern to you with your landlord or agent. On the whole it is their responsibility to deal with any disrepair or maintenance issues. If they do not respond or they do not intend to undertake any remedial works to deal with the matter you should write to them asking for a written response within a specified period. This should provide at least fourteen days’ response time. You will need to keep copies of all correspondence as this will need to be shown to any officers who may deal with the case in the future. Letters and emails with dates are considered as acceptable forms of written contact; however texts, tweets, Facebook messages or other open social media message systems are not considered as appropriate written contact.
If you do not receive a suitable response by the date you have specified, we may be able to help. When you contact us you will be asked for further details regarding the issues and the type of accommodation you reside in. You will also be asked if you have copies of written correspondence sent to the landlord. You will need to supply the address and/or other contact details for your landlord and/or agent. If you do not have your landlord or agent's address details the council will be unable to help until you can provide them.
The outcome of any involvement by the council is to improve the condition of the accommodation you live in so it meets the minimum housing standards and you can continue to live there. Involvement by the council will not result in any changes to your Council Housing application or banding.
In issues regarding your rented property being cold or about heating and/or insulation, the Council has a Home Energy Visitor who may be able to provide advice on ways to help use your heating system more efficiently and reduce the cost of your fuel bills. Please call 01903 737941. Please note that we cannot help in incidences where a working heating system is present but is expensive to operate.
Condensation and mould growth
Condensation and associated mould growth is a very common complaint. Mould growth is generally due to condensation formation caused by internally produced moisture. It is very rarely associated with true dampness.
Condensation is produced when excess moisture is present within a property and cannot readily escape to the outside. Excess moisture can be produced by drying clothes inside, not ventilating sufficiently, not using heating sufficiently or appropriately, large amounts of cooking and over-occupation of rooms or properties. It can also be due to the position of a property (e.g. if it is in the shade), building construction and even the weather. Condensation issues always increase during the winter when external temperatures are low and internal temperatures tend to be high.
Condensation can also occur when the internal temperature of a building is higher than the external temperature. This causes warm water vapour within the air inside the property to cool and land on internal surfaces and return to a water droplet state. The internal warm water vapour is trying to exit the property via the coolest point, which in most cases will be windows and external walls. When this route is blocked the water vapour cannot escape the building and will result in condensation. When a surface becomes moist and has condensation on it this can provide the ideal conditions for growth of mould spores. There are three principal features common to the broad range of mould fungi:
- Requires moisture to grow
- Able to exist on non-nutrient materials such as dust, plaster and brick which have traces of contaminating organic matter and especially natural fibres such as wood, leather, and suede
- Can grow very quickly under suitable conditions.
Mould spores are present in the air all around us but it is only when the conditions are right – temperature, moisture level, lack of ventilation and a growing medium – that the mould spores will settle and grow on surfaces. More surface growing mould will result in more spores being produced and in turn result in more settled mould growth.
Mould growth can be identified as condensation related when:
- It grows in the corners of rooms and along ceiling edges
- Water droplets (condensation) show on windows, window sills and frames
- Mould grows behind furniture and on belongings and clothes
The external walls and windows of a property are nearly always going to be the coldest and will therefore attract excess moisture more than other areas. This is why mould will usually be absent from internal walls.
The best way to deal with condensation is to ensure proper and suitable heating and ventilation. Turning radiators on a low temperature for long periods will evaporate excess moisture consistently, rather than for short periods when heating may be turned on in “bursts”. This will also help to warm the walls of the property and reduce cold areas. Suitable ventilation must then be combined with this heating: opening windows, even slightly, will allow the newly evaporated moisture to escape from the property and prevent it settling on internal surfaces. This is particularly important at night and on windows which do not benefit from direct sun during the day. It is acknowledged that this can sometimes be difficult with current energy prices but is likely to be the only way to consistently remove excess moisture from the property. You may need to test a little with heating and ventilation rates to find the most effective balance for your individual property.
The addition of trickle/passive vents in the windows, passyfier vents in affected areas and/or installation of air bricks, combined with effective use of heaters, may help to increase the natural ventilation within the property and enable excess moisture to more readily escape.
In some cases an upgrade to the heating system, installation of double glazing and cavity wall and loft insulation can also help the situation. As these are thermal efficiency improvements properties can become more sealed and moisture can be more easily trapped, so any of these upgrades will need to be combined with other behavioural changes and living actions.
Actions by both tenants and landlords may be needed to resolve condensation-related issues; however in the first instance changes in living behaviour may be required to initially reduce moisture formation within the property.
Only by reducing or eliminating the amount of excess moisture within a property will the amount of mould growth be reduced or eliminated. The use of anti-fungal spray will help to reduce the amount of mould growth and with prolonged usage should build up some level of protection on the wall surface. This may take multiple applications of the spray and its use should be started as soon as any mould growth is observed. Don’t wait until the mould has taken hold and spread as this will always make it more difficult to deal with satisfactorily.
The use of anti-fungal or anti-mould paint on affected area can also help to prevent mould growth on these surfaces and should keep them free of new growth but this is a significantly more intensive response or treatment to undertake. Treated walls should be fully cleaned and mould eliminated before painting with any specialist paint and will need to cover the entire wall surface properly and not be painted over with normal paint afterwards.
Wiping excess water off windows with paper towels and disposing of the towels will remove excess moisture as well. Wiping water off with a flannel or sponge which is then dried out within the property just results in the water re-evaporating and re-entering the internal cycle of moisture creation.
Condensation can often be a difficult problem to rectify and in some properties may never be fully conquered and will depend on a combination of factors including those detailed above. Ultimately it will be largely dependent on ensuring appropriate and effective heating and ventilation are provided. If there is no excess moisture present then there should be no or much reduced associated mould growth. I have enclosed some information sheets on this matter which I hope may also be of some use.
Mould growth is seldom associated with rising damp or penetrating damp (which are usually related to structural disrepair) as this is caused by external water entering a property and mould spores will often be killed by salts within the building structure and the water temperature and humidity levels are less suitable for mould spore growth. Rising and penetrating damp are also relatively rare occurrences and in most cases internal moisture is as a result of condensation.
Help to reduce condensation & mould growth:
- Don’t dry clothes inside unless proper ventilation is used in the same room
- Use heating suitably
- Ventilate appropriately
- Cover pots when cooking
- Close bathroom doors when bathing/showering
- Vent tumble dryers to outside
- Avoid bottle gas and paraffin heaters
- Install trickle vents/vents/air bricks
- Insulate the property effectively
- Circulate air around the property
- Keep furniture away from external walls, where possible
- Clean mould off walls as soon as it appears with anti-fungal spray
- Treat walls with anti-mould paint
You may want to print this leaflet as a reference Keep your home free from condensation and mould growth.pdf [pdf] 990KB
If you would like to report these conditions in a privately rented property please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01903 737755.