Says Nick Bizley, Operations Director at Aspect:
“From first-hand experience, this imbalance can be directly related to the younger age group not being confident enough to bring maintenance issues up with their landlord. They are more likely to not mention small issues to them and over time, these issues can escalate and before they know it the problem is much bigger, potentially more harmful to themselves and other housemates and tenants and also far more costly to the landlord to correct. Whenever renting a property, no matter what age group you’re in or type of property you live in, it is always advisable to feed any maintenance issues back to the managing agent or landlord so they can be addressed as soon as possible and ultimately all parties concerned will benefit in the long run.
“It’s alarming but not surprising that so many UK tenants are reporting health problems directly related to the condition of their home. Our tradespeople regularly see and report examples of corner-cutting on maintenance, especially where properties have been converted into homes of multiple occupancy, such as a large houses converted into flats, but also at the higher end of the property market too.
“One of our tradespeople recently discovered a homeowner’s drinking water was being fed from a water storage tank rather than being connected directly to a mains supply. This had been done during extensive refurbishment work at the property. You should never drink water from a storage tank as tanks provide the right conditions for bacteria, such as legionella, to exist. Our tradespeople warned the customer they should change their plumbing as soon as possible and to not drink water from their taps on the meantime.
“Our people also regularly see poorly ventilated homes as a direct result of landlords converting large properties into flats without allowing for sufficient ventilation in each subsequent property. This leads to warm, moist air within a property. When condensation forms it becomes a perfect breeding ground for many types of mould, which is proven to have a detrimental impact on health. In all bathrooms, shower rooms and utility rooms it is always advisable to install the correct extractor fans and also have trickle vents installed into window frames where required.
“Other causes of water ingress and damp we see a lot are due to poorly maintained timber windows. As soon as you see the window paint cracking or flaking off, the bare timber is exposed to the elements and the window starts drawing water into the frame and subsequently inside the property, culminating in a damp patch around or below the window.
“A common cause of damp and mould we find within rental properties is not always linked to the property’s condition though but rather the living habits of the tenants. Tenants drying clothes directly over radiators with no windows open, rather than in a utility room or outside on the washing line can result in mould growth. Water from the wet clothes evaporates into the air due to the heat from the radiator and remains within the room due to a lack of ventilation. This will then quickly turn into condensation on walls or skirting board or window frames where black mould will grow if not addressed.
“Another cause of damage to rental properties we witness on a day to day basis is from leaking taps or pipework that are just ignored. We often come across kitchen worktops and base units that have been severely damaged and require replacement as a result of drips from a tap handle which damages laminate worktops and causes them to swell or rot. Sometimes the leak is from the underside of the tap (tap connector) where it constantly drips into a base unit and destroys it over time. The damp, organic and stagnant air conditions provide the perfect environment for mould to grow. If addressed at first instance these situations could be fixed quickly, efficiently and with minimal disruption to all parties involved.
“This time of year especially, we receive a high volume of calls regarding overflowing and leaking rainwater guttering and downpipes, which allows large amounts of water to cascade down a building’s brickwork and over time, saturate it and cause a damp or wet patch to appear on the inside of a property.
“We also experience a lot of callouts relating to water leaks underneath floors. We then find out from the tenant that the central heating system has been losing pressure over a period of time, sometimes weeks or months, but nothing has been done to rectify it until the visible damage gets too bad to live with.
“Aspect tradespeople have also reported non-isolated gas lines where the entire gas supply was located in the ground floor flat in a block of four. Another shortcut we regularly see is landlord-supplied appliances that haven’t been PAT tested. I think some landlords try to avoid their obligations so we hope this new legislation will clarify their obligation to ensure homes are fit for habitation and lead to a general improvement for living conditions across the rental sector.”