Series 2, Episode 12
Hosted: 18/11/2020 07:00:00 pm
To open the window or not to open the window? That is the question.
Damp has been the bane of landlords’ lives for such a long time, it really can feel like it’s been going on since Shakespearean times. With a lot of mixed advice in this area, we thought it was about time to address this issue head on. To do this, we brought on Damp and Remedial Surveyor, Chris Reynolds, to give us the lowdown.
You can view the webinar in full above, or simply scroll down to read the key talking points.
Cause and Effect
So let’s begin by finding out what damp actually is. We’ll be honest here: it’s not rocket science. Excessive moisture plus a lack of proper ventilation equals damp. So that’s the easy part, but this simple equation can be affected by a multitude of factors and it’s all about striking the right balance. There are two main categories of damp:
Structural damp is caused by the presence of unwanted moisture in the structure of a building. This is either the result of moisture from outside or condensation from within the structure.
Surface condensation occurs on the visible surfaces of a construction, rather than between the layers.
And as you might expect, these two categories have even more subcategories below them and a whole different host of remedies is needed depending on your root cause.
Let’s ask ourselves a rather impolite question: how would we feel if private landlords were given ‘product’ ratings, as many other businesses receive? Think about it, would this change how you managed your properties?
An awful lot of responsibility for the regular maintenance of many aspects of our properties are often left in the hands of managing agents and tenants. But the reality is training and qualifications to perform these necessary duties is often lacking.
Moving forward, the most important thing you can do is to build up a relationship with tenants. Not to the extent that you’re popping in for a daily cup of tea, but set out reasonable expectations of the use of provided ventilation. Educate them on the importance of ventilation, for them and yourself, and what they need to do if they start to spot a problem.This should ensure that they’re not afraid to report back to you straight away.
If you were making cups of tea for your tenants though, that would certainly boost your imaginary landlord rating!
Catching A Case
There’s a lot of things you could worry about catching this winter, make sure one of them isn’t a court case from your tenants! Often during these webinars, we relate back to adhering to regulation – so you should’ve got the gist by now that it’s fairly important.
In this case, it’s your duty to follow the regulations, but we know they can be a nightmare to keep up to date with. Don’t get caught out though, here’s the key information.
The most black and white form of regulation is the Homes Fitness for Human Habitations Act (2018). This states that it is your responsibility to provide a dwelling free from damp, with efficient ventilation and heating.
A resource we would also like to draw your attention to is Section F of Building Regulations (2010), which is all about ventilation. The document is 63 pages long, and contains all the main changes in legal requirements and technical guidance in this area. Of course, as regulation it must be followed but that doesn’t come without its problems.The regulation’s fatal flaw is that it’s not fit for purpose for older properties. It’s useful for new builds, but the lines become blurred for a lot of households.
Whatever age your properties are, our best bit of advice is to not just to do the bare minimum to pass the regulations. Instead, look to future proof your properties, in order to protect your tenants and your investments from damp in the long-term.
If you’re a bit of a contemporary landlord, you’ll know that open plan properties are hot at the minute. Well they’re hot, because they’re not getting enough ventilation.It’s no surprise they’re on the up though. Not only do they look brilliant, but they also now have a high market value. However, you should be prepared for a damp problem before choosing to invest – we’re sure you’ll know how to make this trade-off though.
The reason damp becomes such a problem in multi-use rooms is because of the sheer amount of time spent in them. With so much going on, they’re a logistical nightmare! When the window is closed, often the only source of ventilation in these big rooms is from the fan in the cooker hood. And this doesn’t even get turned on, because the tenants would rather hear the tv!
With the oven on and washing drying all in the same room, on a day-to-day basis, you can see why moisture builds up.
Whatever the property type though, don’t bury your head in the sand. The longer damp is left, the worse it gets. Left unreported for too long, it could lead to a dry rot outbreak, resulting in structural damage to your properties. Now that’s something you really don’t want on your head (quite literally).
You know enough about accountability and causes, now let’s actually do something about it.
The Process of Prevention
Each property is different, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all policy. Instead preventative measures should be based on: construction method, materials, location, and type of household.
For some property types, providing a positive input ventilation goes a long way to solving this problem. This is an energy-efficient method of pushing out and replacing stale unhealthy air with fresh air, done through a unit usually installed in a loft. The key information here though being some property types. Unfortunately, the way some properties are designed, the clean air is unable to reach some rooms. For example, HMO properties have self-closing doors to comply with fire regulations, which would therefore block the circulation of clean air.
Found in most properties, extractor fans are useful for prevention, but they’re usually placed in kitchens and bathrooms. Because of this, damp is still an issue in other areas of the property, such as bedrooms. If your tenants don’t turn on the fans, you’re better off investing in fans triggered by turning the lights on,or even those triggered by humidity itself.
Now time for a less airbourne solution. Providing you have identified the problem correctly, anti-condensation paint does what it says on the tin.However, if you’ve wrongly identified damp as condensation, it can simply just push other types of damp elsewhere in the property.
The above are all decent options, but it’s about proper diagnosis to find the right solution. Put it this way, you wouldn’t take antihistamine to solve a headache!