Be Prepared for Mould in the Winter Months

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A wonderful summer has ended; the complaints from tenants, or their neighbours, have been about rowdy parties and insects but not about mould and condensation. 

Well, as the weather cools, those subjects will become a matter of concern; as we have become accustomed to tropical temperatures, so we will feel the cold perhaps more than usual. 

The heating goes on, windows are kept closed to retain heat and bingo! Before you know it, walls are running with water, mould is creeping up external walls and the environment starts to smell.

At this point, the tenants start to complain that their clothes are being damaged, that children’s health is being affected and guess what, they blame the landlord. 

The landlord can present logic and scientific data – it will not matter; the tenant will believe they are a victim of a bad landlord.

The problem is of course condensation, but this is almost certainly down to how the property is treated by the tenant; if there are 4 people living in a household, they will each add to the atmosphere about 4 pints of water a day, simply by normal daily living of breathing, bathing and preparing drinks and food. Add in drying clothes, decking the radiators with them and it is easy to see how the problem develops. 

So how can landlords guard against this? With the usual remedy – by care, communication and anticipation.

Show care now. Visit all tenants and ask them if they have any concerns. Did they notice anything last year? How do they use the heating? Is it on every day or do they wait until the icicles are hanging from their noses? It may make a room seem smaller, but is there a reasonable air space between furniture items and walls? Discuss with the tenants and help them re-arrange the furniture if need be, to ensure there is sufficient ventilation around furniture.

The most important advice, but also the most unwelcome, will be to open windows. People on limited incomes, or with young children or elderly relatives, will not want to risk areas of the property becoming cold. Discuss with the tenant and inspect the property for any improvements you can make. This may involve some cash outlay but will be cheaper in that tenants will remain in situ rather than abandon, to say nothing of the fact that properties will not have the same re-decoration costs if mould is eradicated.

You’ve advised your tenants how to avoid condensation, looked at minor changes you can make in the property, but the tenant is still complaining. There is a way of curing condensation permanently, but many landlords may baulk at the cost. It moves from minor improvements like vents on windows, extractor fans which are fairly low cost, to installing a ventilation unit in the loft. It costs several hundred pounds. But don’t be put off! This is a permanent answer to condensation caused by our draught-proof homes – mould was not such a problem when windows were single glazed and there were open fires. (Though there were many other issues which we now relegate to the dark ages!)

Keeping your properties to the best standard you can are good management, can save money in the long run and make your properties more desirable. To say nothing of the hassle you’ll be saved if there have been issues in the past.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon


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