Dispute case study - damp and mould

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We offer an independent and impartial resolution service for landlords, agents and tenants who are unable to agree on how to distribute the deposit when the tenancy ends.

We look at a recent case and break it down. Our Lead Adjudicator, Emma Louka helps you to understand our approach which in this case.

Deposit details

Deposit                                £1,200.00

Disputed amount               £550.00

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What happened?

The tenant said:

  • The mould was in the bathroom when they moved in
  • I reported this to the agent who came and told me just to keep wiping it down but it just got worse over time because the extractor fan did not work
  • Mould started showing in the bedroom a few months into the tenancy
  • When I reported the mould to the agent no one came to see it or do anything about it
  • I did my best to air the property and clean the mould away, but it kept coming back

 

The agent responded, saying:

  • The landlord was aware of the mould in the bathroom but it has got significantly worse while the tenant lived there, so the landlord would like a contribution towards removing the mould and re-painting
  • They have no record of the tenant reporting the mould in the bedroom. This was only discovered at the pre-checkout inspection, when it was too late to sort the problem out before the tenancy ended
  • The decorator has said that the mould in the bedroom appears to have been caused from a lack of ventilation and not allowing airflow between items of furniture and the walls

 

What evidence was provided?

Tenancy agreement, check-in and check-out reports with photographs, mid-term inspection reports, quote

 

What was decided and why?

  1. The check-in report recorded mould spots on the right-hand side of the bathroom ceiling at the start of the tenancy. Décor in all other areas was recorded as being in good condition and the bathroom extractor fan was ‘not tested’
  2. The check-out report commented on there being mould spots over the whole of the bathroom ceiling and that the extractor fan was not working, as well as large damp patches in the bedroom, beneath the window and on the far wall. These were all supported by photographs

 

Bathroom

  1. The adjudicator was satisfied from the evidence that the bathroom ceiling was left in worse condition than at the start of the tenancy. However, mould was there at the start and mid-term property visits reported on the slow spread of the spots, which would be expected from unattended mould spores and normal use of the bathroom. In addition, the extractor fan was not working and had been reported early in the tenancy
  2. While damp and mould can occur through a lack of ventilation and/or a structural defect, the fact that there was no evidence of the extractor fan being fixed or any other investigation or work carried out at any point to address the problem, meant that the tenant was not found responsible and no award was made

 

Bedroom

  1. The difference between the check-in and check-out reports clearly showed the deterioration, however it was also clear that the walls had some level of wear at the start
  2. The tenant did not provide any evidence of reporting the mould on the bedroom walls when it started
  3. The decorator reported in their quote that, in their opinion, the mould was due to a lack of ventilation and that the furniture had been pushed too close to the wall
  4. On balance, the adjudicator decided that the tenant not reporting the problem had allowed it to escalate, resulting in increased costs for the landlord. For this reason, it was reasonable for the tenant to contribute to the work required
  5. While there was no specialist surveyor’s report to show whether there was any other cause, the tenant was found responsible for not reporting the issue. Considering the level of wear at the start, the landlord was compensated with 45% towards redecorating the bedroom

 

Decision:

Tenant: £438.00

Landlord: £112.00

 

How can you avoid this happening in future?

  • Any issues highlighted on check-in, or at any point in the tenancy, should be addressed by the landlord as soon as possible to avoid the problem escalating and potentially increased costs
  • Tenants should be encouraged to always report any issues they find at any point during the tenancy, to give the landlord an opportunity to investigate and address the problem at the time and to avoid it getting worse. It is important to do this in writing so there is an audit trail if the problem does, at any point, become an issue
  • Carrying out mid-term property visits is a great way to spot anything out of the ordinary, that should have been reported and is affecting the property
  • Where there is an issue such as mould, the landlord is responsible for showing that it was caused by something the tenant did or did not do, which should be objectively assessed by a specialist with expertise in this area. Damp/mould can occur through a lack of ventilation, insulation and/or a structural defect, and adjudicators are not qualified to assess the root cause. Good evidence must be provided to show why the problem has arisen and why the tenant should be held responsible