Student housing has a bad reputation, when it comes to damp and mould. However, landlords are often unfairly blamed when, in reality, the problem is caused by lifestyle issues.
It’s important to ensure your property is in good repair – not least because regular maintenance works out far cheaper than ignoring a damp problem and letting it escalate. From an ethical point of view, the moulds associated with damp can cause health issues, particularly in asthmatics, and shouldn’t just be ignored.
Dealing with dampness in student housing may be the landlord’s responsibility, particularly if it is related to poor heating, ventilation or insulation. If the house is a new-build, damp can happen as a result of water used in the construction (such as in plaster) still drying out. There may be structural issues such as leaking pipes or holes in the roof, or issues with rising damp (look for a ‘tide mark’ midway up ground floor rooms).
However, don’t make the mistake of assuming landlords are responsible for all damp issues. Tenants also have a responsibility to look after their home. To help your tenants avoid damp problems, make sure that they are aware of lifestyle factors that affect damp. Providing them with a leaflet or checklist may help you to minimise damp issues and ensure that your property is well maintained.
Ventilating Student Housing
- Open windows during/after bathing or showering, or use an extractor fan if you have one. Don’t leave the door open when you have finished in the bathroom, as otherwise the damp air can spread to other rooms more easily.
- Open windows while you are cooking, particularly if you’re boiling big pans of pasta. Putting lids on pots and pans will help reduce condensation (which can lead to damp).
- Don’t put furniture too close to the walls. Leave an air gap between furniture and the walls. If you’re taking your time about unpacking, don’t pile bags and boxes against the walls as mould can form behind them.
Heating Student Housing
- Don’t leave buildings unheated for long periods (e.g. over the holidays) Otherwise, you risk returning to damp or mould.
- Don’t turn radiators off. Save money by turning down the thermostat rather than turning off radiators as they’re designed to work as a complete system.
- Don’t heat the building with paraffin or butane heaters as these can encourage condensation.
Being Damp Aware
- Avoid drying clothes on radiators. If you don’t have space to dry things outside, use a drying rack as this will lead to less condensation than drying clothes on radiators. Open windows to allow the moisture to escape.
- Be damp-aware if you have lots of plants, or a fish tank. These can add moisture to the air which may lead to condensation. Make sure you air out the room regularly.
- Avoid living in a house with more occupants than it’s designed for. Humans are damp-producing machines: on average, people breathe out around ½ litre moisture per day, before you even take bathing, cooking and other lifestyle factors into account.
- Check blocked guttering. It can lead to leaks so make sure yours is clear. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to clear gutters but your responsibility to let them know it needs doing.
- Remember that damp can spread fast if it’s ignored so don’t just put posters up to hide the damp and forget about it – not least because it could limit your chances of getting your deposit back.
If you avoid making these lifestyle mistakes and still have damp issues with your student housing, it could be a structural problem. If there’s a dispute over damp, contact the Environmental Health Department of the Council who will investigate the problem.