Mould: Who’s responsible, landlord or tenant?

Mould is a frequent source of tension for many landlords and tenants, and if not dealt with properly it can quickly become a serious issue.

Property Maintenance

Nobody likes mould. It’s ugly, difficult to get rid of, and it can have genuine health implications.

Mould then is unsurprisingly a source of tension for many landlords and tenants. In autumn and winter, a prolific number of properties fall victim to mould spores, and if this is not dealt with promptly and properly it can spread rapidly and become a serious hazard.

Who’s responsible for mould, the landlord or the tenant?

Landlords have a responsibility to ensure the property is safe and habitable. Lingering or sizeable amounts of mould can become detrimental to a tenant’s health. Because of this, you might think that it would fall to the landlord to quickly remedy any outbreaks. However, that isn’t always the case. It depends on why the mould has formed and subsequently, who’s to blame.

Determining who’s at fault can be tricky unless you’re willing to undertake an often expensive survey with a damp expert. Sometimes though it’s fairly straightforward. For example, if mould has formed on the wall due to tenants frequently piling wet towels against it this would be the tenant’s fault. But if it’s a structural issue like a burst pipe, this would fall to the landlord to remedy.

The first thing to do then is to determine why the mould has formed.

Common reasons for mould

Ventilation and heating

The day-to-day maintenance of the property falls to the tenant. Things like keeping the property clean and tidy, ensuring that larger maintenance tasks are reported to the landlord, and that the property doesn’t fall into general disarray.

Mould can be caused by a variety of things. However, the most common cause is the property being poorly heated and/or not ventilated properly. Keeping windows open, using a dehumidifier and having the heating on during the colder months should largely prevent any recurring outbreaks.

This being said, if the property’s central heating doesn’t work well or is inefficient, and the weather is cold, tenants are likely going to use their heating as little as possible to keep bills down and windows shut to keep the heat in. There we have a problem and there isn’t much the tenant can do about it aside from being really cold.

Leaky Pipes – Structural Issues

If the mould is caused by something wrong with the property itself then it invariably falls to the landlord to sort it out. For example, the side of the house might need repointing which is allowing dap to seep in from outside. Or there is a broken gutter or leaky pipe which is causing damp issues in the property. There is little that the tenant can do in these scenarios and it’s likely the mould will keep returning until the structural issue is resolved.

cleaning mould in rental

Identifying the cause of mould in rental properties

As we talk about above, who is responsible for removing the mould depends on the cause. Unfortunately, working out the root cause of the mould is tricky at best. It’s hard to prove that there are structural issues with the building without doing an expensive survey, or without being in the property watching the actions of the tenants.

The key point here is that it’s always going to be very difficult to prove whether the mould was caused by inadequate heating or something else without getting an official assessment from a damp expert.

What does this mean?

Essentially, what this all means is that it falls to the tenant to sensibly deal with any mould that appears. They should report the mould to their landlord, take pictures and then without further ado clean it all off. Leaving any mould behind will likely mean it regrows. They should use bleach on all sites of the mould to thoroughly kill the mould colonies.

What if it returns?

The problem is we still don’t know the cause of the issue. I normally offer tenants advice along the lines of “open windows and turn the heating on more frequently” as well as offering to get the tenants a dehumidifier as an inexpensive placatory gesture. However, this won’t solve the problem if the issue is structural. If the mould is especially persistent it may be a sign of bigger issues and it’s probably worth investigating further.

The deposit

If it’s not obvious that the mould was caused by a leak or structural damage, then it’s most likely that the reason is due to the temperature and ventilation not being adequately controlled by the tenant, consequently, the cost of redecorating can be deducted from the tenant’s deposit.


In the absence of evidence to prove that the problem is structural then it can be assumed that the most likely cause is ventilation or heating. This makes it the tenant’s responsibility to clean the property and take appropriate actions such as heating the property more and opening windows.

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