07 Jan 2021

New research has revealed that almost two thirds (62%) of people claim to have had an issue with mould in their home at least once, with conditions in the home the most common reason for the spread of mould, says a new research study commissioned by Uswitch.  

It may be no surprise that London’s the city where people have experienced mould the most. Over a quarter of respondents who declared they had mould found it in properties in London. This is followed by Birmingham, the only other city where the percentage of people finding mould reached double figures (10%). 

The four most populous cities in the UK (London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds) also take the top four spots for mouldiest cities, raising questions over accommodation conditions and overcrowding.

Surprisingly, some of the smaller cities in terms of population such as Bristol, Brighton and Norwich are more notorious for mould than the larger metropolises of Sheffield and Liverpool.

Over a quarter of mould victims agreed that mould had affected their health in some way. While being around mould may cause minor illnesses like a runny nose or coughing, for those with asthma, mould allergies, and weakened immune systems, it can trigger a much stronger reaction. In our survey, 9% of respondents shockingly believe that the mould in their home led to them having an asthma attack and 10% of people believe that it compromised their immune system. But aside from the physical issues people have encountered due to their mouldy homes, mental health has also been affected with 13% of people stating that it’s made them depressed.

Graphic from the Uswitch Research Report. You can read the full report at here

Holly Shaw, Nurse Advisor at Allergy UK advises those who’ve experienced symptoms due to mould: “Contrary to popular misperceptions it’s not mould itself that’s the problem for those with a mould allergy, but the spores it produces. So if you’re allergic to mould spores you may have symptoms like a runny nose, coughing, wheezing, sneezing and/or watery eyes. If you also have other respiratory allergies like allergic rhinitis and asthma, mould spores may act as a trigger and exacerbate these conditions.” 

“If you have these symptoms and find mould, avoidance is recommended in the first instance. It’s advised that you do not attempt to clean the mould yourself, but pass this task on to a willing relative or friend.” 

As the number of people in private rental accommodation increases, so does the rift between landlords and tenants. Tenants may find that they don’t want to spend their money on fixing issues with a property that isn’t really theirs. Whereas landlords will not want to see their properties neglected, and without having easy access to sort it themselves, arguments can ensue. 

In the study, 40% of people stated they wouldn’t clean mould themselves if they were in a rented home, with 64% of people believing mould is solely the landlord or letting agency’s responsibility. However, it’s not a black and white issue, with responsibility falling on both parties. 

Landlord responsibilities:

  • To fix and repair problems causing mould (leaks, broken damp proof course, inadequate insulation).
  • Mould affecting a tenant’s health and safety.

Tenant responsibilities:

  • To adequately ventilate the property within reasonable means. 
  • Maintain cleanliness of the property.

The research has shown that those who are younger are more likely to have been blamed for mould growing in their home (44% of 16-24 year olds compared to 11% of over 55’s), with men (57%) bearing the brunt of this. But as for the reasons these people have been blamed, it may be due to the following:

  • 40% of those who’ve had mould dried their clothes indoors.
  • 11% confessed to keeping the shower curtain folded when wet.
  • 22% left the kitchen or bathroom door open when cooking or showering.
  • 12% admitted to having a cluttered home.

Many of these things can be easily avoided.

Keeping the heating on is too expensive

Sadly for those that have had mould, 46% of people struggled to pay their heating bills and may have not been able to keep their home adequately warm to prevent it. Out of this group, young adults aged between 25-34 struggled most, whereas those aged 55+ struggled least. 5% of people admitted to not having the heating on at all when they had mould.

Landlords at risk of council fines

Commenting on the report, Phil Turtle, HHSRS and Fire compliance director at Landlord Licensing and Defence said, “Damp and mould are perennial problems in Uk housing stock and whilst without doubt some of the problems are tenant lifestyle related, a lot of the problem is poor structural quart and lack of investment / improvement by landlords. 

“A massive amount of Uk rental property is badly insulated or not at all. Victorian and even younger properties have solid walls which have inadequate or no insulation and are permanently cold. It takes a massive amount of heating in the room to warm the walls sufficiently to stop condensation and landlords need to recognise that tenants simply cannot afford that.

“You simply cannot install cavity wall insulation in such properties, because there is no cavity. Instead, and its not simple but needs doing, hack of plaster on external walls and fit 50-60mm cellotex-backed plaster boards and skim. The difference in comfort and heating bills is amazing. And because insulation keeps the wall surface warm, theres little likelihood of condensation which is the case of most mould.

“The other structural element that landlords sadly fail to consider is adequate ventilation. I don’t mean just trickle vents (assuming they’ve bothered to upgrade the windows to double glazing) I mean double-airbrick sized ventialltino in each room. But NOT old-fashioned naughty air bricks that cause cold draughts and tenants block up but either draught-free passive moisture extraction vents, room by room active ventialltion or a whole house positive air pressure vent system.”

Turtle concluded, “One thing that Landlords need to understand is that their prosecution focused and revenue-hungry councils will hold the landlord totally responsible and issue many £1000s of Civil Financial Penalty fines for failing to eradicate damp and mould”

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