Phil Harrison, Head of Domestic at EnviroVent, looks at how landlords are recognising indoor air quality as an increasingly important issue.
“Research carried out recently by independent property expert Kate Faulkner, one of the UK’s leading property experts on behalf of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, stated that landlords should be encouraged to tackle damp, condensation and mould, after 41 per cent of tenants reported it as an issue.
The report states that the main cause of condensation and mould growth is poor ventilation – particularly in bathrooms. As any landlord or tenant knows, bathing and showering create moisture and if it there is insufficient ventilation to remove the excess moisture it will condensate, creating droplets of water when it comes into contact with a colder surface.
Tenants drying washing indoors in unventilated places can also exacerbate the problem. As washing dries, moisture is released into the air and if it cannot escape outside, it again settles on colder surfaces, forming condensation which can lead to mould growth. To add to this, the report points to how homes are being sealed up as a result of energy efficient upgrades that can lead to increased moisture and humidity in the indoor air. This lack of ventilation results in condensation that within a short time can cause mould growth on walls, ceilings and around windows.
Kate Faulkner states in the report that agents and landlords should prioritise treating condensation and mould growth in the interests of tenants. Not only does this look unsightly, but it has been proven that poor indoor air quality caused by airborne spores and detritus from mould and dust mites, which proliferate in poorly ventilated properties, can worsen existing respiratory and dermatological conditions.
Since the Deregulation Act 2015 (Retaliatory Eviction Regulations relating to Section 21), landlords have been increasingly aware of the need to respond to tenant complaints about damp and moisture. If the landlord fails to respond within 14 days or to implement a solution, they may subsequently be unable to evict the tenant. Therefore, it is not only a legal requirement but also in the interests of the landlord to remedy damp, condensation and mould issues. If action is not taken, a tenant has the right to contact the council’s Environmental Health department whereby an officer can attend the property and take action as necessary. This could mean serving the landlord is served with an improvement notice, instructing them to carry out repairs or improvements or that the council carries out the work themselves and then charges the landlord.
Landlords are increasingly taking a whole house approach to ventilation, which is helping to eliminate problems with condensation and mould. Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) systems are becoming more popular with landlords as they provide a long term solution to the problem. PIV systems work by drawing in fresh, filtered, clean air from the outside and gently ventilating the home from a central position, usually in the loft, above a landing in a house, or a central hallway in a flat or bungalow. They dilute moisture laden air, displacing it and replacing it to control humidity levels between 45 and 60 per cent, where condensation does not form.
This form of low-level background ventilation also has low energy usage too and is a viable solution to avoiding heat loss and draughts.
With whole house ventilation systems, landlords are finding this can result in fewer call-outs to their maintenance teams, better relationships with tenants and a positive impact on people’s health.
Indoor air quality is recognised as being increasingly important and the onus is on landlords to improve ventilation within a property to prevent issues escalating. The Government is clearly focused on this issue with the Health Minister recently saying that it may in the future look to support local authorities in addressing the problem of mould in homes.
Mould eradication sprays and treatments have been found to be unsatisfactory, temporary solutions and it is not surprising that more permanent solutions are being sought. Landlords too are recognising that with today’s affordable and highly effective ventilation technology there really is no need for tenants to live in damp and mouldy conditions.”