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Disclaimer: This article is not intended as legal advice. Writers at thedampbuster.com are not a legal professional. You should check your lease and speak with a qualified legal professional. This article is just information gathered from our own research and experience.
If you live in a leasehold property, you may know that the laws surrounding these properties are confusing at the best of times. When there is an issue with a leasehold flat, this can make things even more complicated. In this article, we are going to explain damp in leasehold flats. We are also going to look at the dangers of not treating damp and more. Let’s start off with who is responsible for the damp, shall we?
Who’s obligated to sort out damp in a leasehold flat?
Most commonly, it is the freeholder’s responsibility to sort out any issues with the exterior of a leasehold property. This means that if you have rising damp or penetrating damp, the freeholder should sort this out. However, that isn’t always the case. Responsibility for repairs of a leasehold property is set out in the lease itself. You will need to read your lease to determine who is responsible for sorting out your damp issues.
If your lease states that the freeholder has to repair exterior damage, for example. This means that the freeholder will have to repair or replace a damp proof course if it is causing rising damp. However, the freeholder will not have to repair any plaster, furniture or flooring that has been damaged by the rising damage. If the damp in your property has been caused by a leaking pipe inside the property, the freeholder isn’t responsible in most cases. If the property has any shared spaces (communal stairways, etc.), repairs in these areas can also be the freeholder’s responsibility.
Your lease will outline who’s responsible for any and all repairs. If you’re in a dispute with the freeholder over damp issues, check your lease. You’ll also want to confirm what type of damp is affecting the property. If the damp is caused by an issue inside the flat, it could be your responsibility to solve.
When should you call the freeholder?
Noticed any signs of damp in your flat? Call the freeholder straight away. The quicker you diagnose damp and sort out the issues causing it, the better. The signs of damp in a property do depend on the type of damp you have. Still, here are some general signs of damp:
- Peeling wallpaper
- Damp patches on the walls
- A mouldy/musty smell
- Walls, ceilings and floors feeling cold or damp
- Condensation on the windows
These are all indicators of damp. You don’t need to see all of these signs to have damp in your home. In fact, some of these signs of damp point to different types. For example, if you notice isolated patches of damp on your wall, chances are that’s penetrating damp. If you see damp floorboards, that is likely rising damp. Different types of damp require different treatment. If you notice damp patches on your ceiling, for example, that could be a burst pipe. Your first call, in that case, should be to a plumber.
Identifying the cause of damp
If you have damp in a leasehold flat, finding out the cause of it is vital. Without knowing what is causing the damp, you can’t treat it. Neither can the freeholder if it is their responsibility. Here is a brief breakdown of the common types of damp.
Rising damp – This damp will only affect ground floor flats. This damp occurs when the mortar and brickwork in a building soak up water from the ground. This is due to either having a faulty damp proof course or not having one at all. If you notice damp in the floor or lower portion of the walls, it is likely rising damp.
Penetrating damp – This damp can affect any property. Moisture can get into the brickwork of a property through cracks in mortar and damaged bricks. Penetrating damp almost always gets worse with heavy, driving rain. As more moisture is pushed into the building, more signs should become apparent. Like the patches of damp we mentioned earlier.
Condensation – Excessive condensation can mean that a property has poor ventilation. It can also mean that the roof isn’t insulated correctly. Condensation is a sign that there is too much water vapour in your home. There are many reasons for this, though. It can be poor ventilation. However, it can also be because the house is too cold, for example.
If you notice any signs of damp in your property, you should let the freeholder know. Whether they are responsible or not, it is worth making them aware. If you live in a block of flats, also let your neighbours know. You might not be the only people who have damp.
The danger of leaving damp untreated
If you notice damp and do not do anything about it, you’re risking a lot. Firstly, things like rising damp can rot away floorboards and floor joists. This can mean that the floor will cave in. However, any type of damp can cause mould. Black mould, the type of mould that all damp causes, is life-threatening. If you have a pre-existing lung problem, you smoke, you have young kids or elderly relatives, your damp could be extremely dangerous.
Damp is a serious problem but is often quite easy to fix. Once you know the damp causing your issues, you can easily fix it with a host of DIY treatments. Ignoring it though, may end with some hazardous side-effects. If you notice any mould in your leasehold property, you have damp, and you need to sort it out.
What if the freeholder won’t fix the damp issues?
If the freeholder refuses to fix your damp issues, you can take them to court. However, check your lease before you do this! As we said, it might not be the freeholder’s responsibility to fix the damp. The freeholder may only be responsible for repairing the exterior of your property. If your damp was caused by something inside your property, the freeholder doesn’t need to fix it.
When you know the cause of your damp (if it’s been diagnosed by experts) that’s a different matter. If your damp issues are being caused by something that the freeholder is responsible for fixing, you may be able to take them to court. Just remember, though, court costs might be a lot higher than fixing the issue yourself. As we said, there are plenty of DIY options for fixing damp. It might be better to treat the damp yourself than go through the courts. Of course, that’s entirely up to you.
There you have it. That is everything that a leaseholder in a flat need to know about damp. Finding out what type of damp is causing your issue is the best place to start. Then, look at your lease. Find out what the freeholder is responsible for. Then, decide what actions to take. If it is your responsibility, there are plenty of ways to solve your damp issues that don’t cost the earth. If you see symptoms of damp in your leasehold property, take steps to solve it as quickly as you can!