When rented properties are damaged by mould, who pays for the cleanup?
Late last month, inews.co.uk reported that landlords and letting agents are “using a loophole” to bill tenants over and above their deposits for work done to repair mould damage.
Landlords can legally claim more than the deposit amount at the end of a tenancy, but must either go through their deposit scheme’s Alternative Dispute Resolution system or take the tenant to court. To do this, a landlord must be able to prove that the damage cost more than the deposit to fix, and that the tenant was responsible.
According to Hamptons, the letting agency managing the property, the mould was caused by insufficient ventilation – although the tenants disputed this. Hamptons produces guides for tenants reminding them of the importance of opening doors and windows.
But according to housing law expert Giles Peaker, who was quoted in the inews.co.uk article, tenants should only be held responsible for mould damage if they have taken steps to make it worse, like blocking trickle vents.
A growing issue
Housing experts have been warning for months that mould issues are getting more common because of rising energy bills. Keeping mould at bay requires sufficient heating and ventilation, both of which have become more expensive, putting an estimated 13.4% of English households into fuel poverty.
Energy costs may now have peaked. According to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, falls in wholesale electricity and gas prices should be reflected in household bills in about six weeks. But even after taking into account the Energy Bills Support Scheme, prices are still about triple what they were in 2021.
Until energy bills come down, either through market changes or government support, mould is likely to keep causing friction between landlords and tenants.
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