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How to prevent condensation & mould in your property

During the winter months, many properties suffer from damp and mould growth due to condensation.

Causes and signs of condensation

Air can hold moisture – the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. If moist air is cooled by contact with cold surfaces, such as walls, windows or mirrors, the moisture condenses into water droplets, known as condensation.

Mould often occurs because of condensation. It appears as pinpoint black spots, usually on the side surfaces of external walls, in corners and in poorly ventilated spaces, such as behind cupboards and wardrobes.

Condensation control

The control of condensation requires a combination of sufficient heating, ventilation and insulation.

Heating

By introducing low level heating, the temperature of internal surfaces will rise and will reduce cooling of any moisture-laden air, as a result, the amount of condensation.

Ideally, low level background heating should be continuous, as any short bursts of heat may not result in a suitable rise in surface temperatures.

Insulation

Thermal insulation, such as loft or cavity wall insulation, draught proofing and double glazing, will help to reduce the amount of heat lost from a property. This will not only help keep internal room temperatures higher, but will also help to keep fuel bills down.

Ventilation

Adequate ventilation is essential to allow moisture-laden air to escape from the home before condensation occurs. Extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom can prove very effective in reducing condensation, especially when fitted with an effective humidistat control.

How to reduce condensation

  • pull wardrobes and furniture away from walls, and keep tops of wardrobes clear, to allow air to circulate
  • close doors and open windows when cooking
  • keep lids on saucepans when cooking
  • keep bathroom doors closed when bathing, and open windows slightly afterwards
  • do not dry clothes on radiators, unless ventilation is increased
  • only use Liquid Petroleum Gas or paraffin heaters in ventilated rooms, as these fuels produce water vapour during combustion

Extreme cases

In extreme cases, try the following:

  • a dehumidifier, which extracts moisture from the air, can be bought or hired
  • wipe down surfaces affected by condensation regularly to prevent mould growth
  • mould can be removed by washing the surface with a disinfectant or a fungicidal wash. This must be used in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.

Mould-inhibiting paints and sprays can also help to reduce the effects of condensation.

Other causes of damp

  • all accessible plumbing for leaks
  • guttering and down pipes for cracks and blockages, for example, leaves
  • overflows and waste pipes under sinks for leaks
  • possible roof leaks
  • damaged outside walls or eroded pointing
  • high garden or path levels overlapping the damp proof course

This type of damp is called penetrating damp, and generally leaves ‘tide marks’ and mould growth around the area of defect.

 

Every person deserves to live in a home that is safe.

Ministerial foreword

Every person across this country deserves to live in a home that is safe, warm and dry.

The tragic death of 2-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020, due to mould in his family home, should never happen to another family.

The Coroner’s report into Awaab’s death describes a catalogue of failures, and a housing provider that abdicated its responsibilities to his family and hid behind legal processes.

This guidance is a direct response to the Coroner’s report, and has been developed with a multidisciplinary group of experts in housing and health. Members of the government’s expert Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants were also consulted. It makes sure that social and private sector landlords have a thorough understanding of their legal responsibilities, and of the serious health risks that damp and mould pose.

Landlords must ensure that the accommodation they provide is free from serious hazards, including damp and mould, and that homes are fit for habitation. They must treat cases of damp and mould with the utmost seriousness and act promptly to protect their tenants’ health.

As this guidance also makes clear, tenants should not be blamed for damp and mould. Damp and mould in the home are not the result of ‘lifestyle choices’, and it is the responsibility of landlords to identify and address the underlying causes of the problem, such as structural issues or inadequate ventilation.

The tragic death of Awaab Ishak should never have happened. His family’s complaints about their living conditions were repeatedly ignored – an experience that is familiar to many tenants.

This government is committed to ensuring a decent standard of housing for tenants in the social and private rented sectors. Through the Renters (Reform) Bill and Social Housing Regulation Act, legislative changes will improve housing standards. We will:

  • introduce ‘Awaab’s Law’ to set out new requirements for landlords to address hazards such as damp and mould in social homes. Following a consultation, we’ll bring these into force as soon as Parliamentary time allows
  • provide new powers for the Housing Ombudsman and change the law so that social housing residents can complain directly to the Ombudsman
  • review the Decent Homes Standard and apply it to private rented homes for the first time
  • introduce new professionalisation standards that will require senior housing staff to hold, or work towards, recognised housing management qualifications
  • introduce the new private rented property portal and give all private tenants access to an ombudsman if their landlord fails to resolve legitimate complaints

We urge landlords to read this guidance and adopt the best practices it sets out. This will protect tenants’ health and prevent avoidable tragedies like the death of Awaab Ishak happening to another family.

The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities