The number of 18-year olds in Britain applying for undergraduate courses at university reached an all-time high this year. More students than ever obtained their place through ‘clearing’ – a service designed for pupils who did not achieve the required grades for their first or second choice university, but still wish to attend further education.
Going through clearing means many students enrol at a campus they might not have visited before and they are often left trying to arrange accommodation at the last minute. As university halls are usually full by the time ‘clearing’ students confirm their places, private housing is often their most popular alternative accommodation.
This represents an opportunity for landlords across England to secure new tenants, but they must first take steps to ensure their accommodation passes new legislative requirements. Under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitations) Act 2018, rental homes must be suitable for occupation in respect of 29 criteria, including adequate natural lighting and ventilation, as well as freedom from damp and condensation. If they do not, landlords face the possibility of being taken to court by their renters.
Checking the property properly before students move in means that any issues can be addressed. In this blog we will explore how to spot signs of damp or rot.
Damp is one of the most common issues experienced by students living in private accommodation. In fact, research undertaken by Rentokil Property Care in February 2019 found that 5.8 million British renters have experienced damp and condensation issues in their home. It is often identified by damp patches or blistering appearing on walls and plaster.
Property defects such as gaps around windows, leaking roofs, gutters and downpipes can all lead to moisture entering the building, resulting in penetrating damp. If the property is exposed to the prevailing wind (usually south-westerly), this can also drive rain into the masonry, which can then pass through solid walls into the plaster and cause damp issues.
The most effective way to protect a property from penetrating damp is to rectify such defects immediately and apply a weather protection coating to the exterior of the property.
Condensation is another issue that commonly affects students. It forms when warm moisture laden air comes in contact with a cold surface, and is often a result of inadequate ventilation. Everyday activities such as cooking, boiling the kettle, taking a shower or bath, and drying clothes inside on radiators can contribute to condensation forming.
Installing efficient ventilation is one of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing it from forming. Rentokil Property Care’s research also found that 44% of renters don’t have an extractor fan in the bathroom and 31% said the bathroom had no window either.
The best way to overcome common this common cause of condensation is to ensure there’s an extractor fan with a ‘humidity sensor’ fitted in the bathroom and to ask tenants not to turn off the isolation switch when they have a bath or shower. Also encourage them to use the extractor fan on the hob when cooking or at the very least open a window.
You should also try to encourage tenants to remove any traces of condensation as and when they see it. Provide them with a squeegee so they can clean any water droplets from windows, mirrors and glass shower dividers when it starts to build up. A soft towel can be used to remove it from walls and other surfaces too.
It’s vital to check regularly for signs of damp, as leaks or moisture in the home can lead to larger structural problems, such as the outbreak of rot – wet and dry. Both are forms of fungal decay that can cause serious timber damage and require a significant financial investment to rectify.
Dry rot, in particular, is one of the most damaging conditions your property can face, so. identifying any damp issues or leaks at the earliest sign is always best. Internal issues such as leaking baths, burst pipes or faulty washing machines can also allow damp to spread over large areas so it’s worth checking and tightening any lose pipe connections before new tenant arrive, and to tell the, what to do should they suspect a leak. Check the outside of the building to ensure air bricks are cleaned out and free from blockages as poor ventilation under floors is also a major cause of Dry Rot.
With a record-breaking number of students set to attend university this year and changes to the updated Homes Act, providing a dry, well ventilated property is more important than ever.
Landlords will only be liable for design defects in the building, and there remains an onus on occupants to understand how their behaviour affects living conditions. However, completing regular checks on the property will increase the likelihood of a stress-free tenancy. If a problem large or small does materialise and you’re unsure of how to go about any of the preventative measures described, then it’s best to get in touch with the experts. Get in touch with us here or call 0808 256 6495
By Richard Walker, National Technical and Development Manager at Peter Cox