It is winter, so, like clockwork, mould is sprouting on renters' walls and, in response, letting agents are dishing out spurious advice like this:
Our letting agent sent us this letter, to remind us that “lifestyle activities” such as “breathing” may be the cause of condensation in our home. 🙃🙃🙃 pic.twitter.com/U0zgSCbGGY— Lucy Mort (@Lucyhbmort) November 17, 2020
More responsible landlords will look to their professional bodies for guidance to improve their tenants' living conditions. The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) are sharing this factsheet with its members to pass on to renters who are complaining about condensation, damp and mould.
We decided to take a look - and found that it is unfortunately little better than the cowboys' efforts.
Firstly, it is interesting to note that we could not find a single webpage dedicated to information on mould. The factsheet only addresses condensation, which is only one cause (and only in high concentrations) of damp and mould.
The only mention of mould was exactly in this context – high amounts of condensation can result in the build-up of mould, which of course is correct (points for them there). The details however about their tips in reducing condensation ranged from largely useful, to technically correct but oversimplified, to downright unfair.
The NRLA declare that “The good news is there are things that both landlords and tenants can do to help reduce the issue.”
However, the advice that is accessible to the public only mentions things that tenants can do – never once does it mention ways landlords can reduce condensation or their responsibilities in handling cases of mould in their properties. If your landlord gave you this factsheet, you would never guess that they had anything to do with providing a dry home.
The NRLA also say that “Condensation can make the property less pleasant to live in and cause damage to a property. To avoid unnecessary costs, it is important that you take steps to limit condensation build-up.”
This isn’t ‘incorrect’ as much as it is missing out a lot of information and ignoring the important things. Yes condensation can make the property less pleasant to live in, but it can also make it unsafe and terrible to live in. If condensation forms into mould it can have adverse impacts on your health. The NHS says “Moulds produce allergens (substances that can cause an allergic reaction), irritants and, sometimes, toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mould spores may cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and skin rash. Moulds can also cause asthma attacks.”
Simply put, the effects of condensation have more of an impact than making “the property less pleasant to live in”. It may also lead to the damage of a property – but it misses out that it can cause damage to people too!
To be completely fair to the NRLA, they do give some tips that are useful to keep in mind. These include putting lids on pans to reduce cooking times, but you can find these tips and more on our own website.
We then move into the realms of more, erm, interesting advice. “Don’t leave kettles boiling longer than necessary.” We have to ask, who has kettles that don’t turn off automatically?
“Avoid using paraffin and portable bottle gas heaters.” If the central heating is working as it should, renters wouldn’t have to rely on these. It might even indicate that the home's energy efficiency rating is F or G, in which case the landlord could be breaking the law.
“Dry washing outdoors. If it’s raining, use a clothes airer in the bathroom with the door closed and the window or fan open.” What if your home only has a small bathroom that is used regularly or by lots of people? This becomes impossible.
“Do not dry washing directly on room radiators… Ask yourself. Where will all the water vapour from the drying clothes go?” I’ll answer that question with a question. Where do you think all the water vapour will go when you don't put your clothes on the radiator? It all ends up in the air!
“Closing the kitchen and bathroom doors when the rooms are in use to stop the warm moist air producing condensation in other cooler rooms.” This is a fair tip, however we also have to ask how easy this is to do in a house of multiple occupancy (especially when so many of us are spending more time at home).
“Don’t clutter wardrobes and cupboards”. Renters have very little control over storage space - you don't rent a home that is a little too big for you and your stuff just in case the landlord has not installed adequate ventilation.
“Dry your windows and window sills every morning.” It’s interesting that the NRLA think all renters have the time in the mornings to dry off every window in their home. We must also ask, how do we dry these towels?
And finally, the age old favourite: “Keep the heat on low all day in very cold weather, condensation is less likely to form in warm houses.”
In an ideal world this tip would be completely acceptable. However, not all renters can afford to do this. Especially if they work or are out during the day and need to save money. Especially if they are saving to pay the rent. Especially if the EPC rating is poor – at D or lower the problem is likely due to poor insulation and/or no working thermostat, which is something renters cannot control.
Nothing the NRLA say is factually incorrect. There are even some tips that we can wholeheartedly agree with – although as previously stated you can find these and more on our own info page. However, the NRLA fail to acknowledge the responsibilities of landlords, the huge impacts condensation and mould can have on renters, and lay the blame on tenants who are often fighting an impossible battle against condensation and mould. Their tips are often unhelpful, problematic or downright impossible to carry-out. Overall, if you are looking for information, head to our FAQ, or check out these other useful sources of information.