Yes, Really – Here’s How Many Of Us Are Renting Mouldy Flats In The UK

Welcome to episode 2,322 of "grim UK renting news."

I moved to the U.K. four years ago, and since then, I’ve grown to expect three things from British homes: one (only ever one) Sports Direct mug, a cupboard with at least three empty Gü pots, and finally, endless and ever-present damp.

In fact, damp officially affects as much as 3.8% of all homes in the U.K., according to Statista.

But while the number of overall homes affected by damp has fallen significantly since 2003, not all black-speckled bathroom walls of shame are created equal, it seems.

Citizen’s Advice says that in the private rented sector, “more than half of private renters in England – 2.7 million households – are struggling” with cold and damp.

Government stats from 2021 state that a whopping 11% of private rented homes in the UK suffer from damp, compared to just 2% of owner-occupied properties. That’s a hefty 550% (yes, you read that right) difference.

Got kids? You’re more likely to have mould

Those same government figures show that “households with children are more likely than others to have damp in their home” – especially troubling, seeing as they state that “children and young people, the elderly or people with pre-existing illness, are at a greater risk of ill health associated with cold or damp homes”.

In fact, “new research from Citizens Advice shows 1.6 million children currently live in privately rented homes with damp, mould or excessive cold.”

Damp affects different ethnic groups disproportionately

While 3% of white British households faced mould between 2017 and 2019, the figures were 13% for mixed and Black Caribbean households, 10% for Bangladeshi homes, 9% for Black African households, and 8% for Pakistani homes.

The cost of damp, well, rises

Citizen’s Advice says that “the average private sector tenant in England is paying £350 more a year on heating because of poorly insulated and damp homes, while those in the least efficient properties are paying an extra £950.”

And with energy price hikes, the cost could reach as much as “a terrifying £1,190” per annum – oof.

Damp can cause some serious health issues

Of course, this discriminative damp doesn’t just affect the guest-friendliness of your loo.

Mould can have a significant impact on our health, affecting everything from our lungs to our eyes and skin.

According to the NHS, “if you have damp and mould in your home you’re more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma. Damp and mould can also affect the immune system.”

Damp, mouldy homes can also cause “sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash(es). Mould can also cause asthma attacks.”

The NHS spent an estimated £1.4 billion on illnesses associated with cold and damp in 2021.

So what can I do?

If you’re a renter, the bad news is that a lot of the power is very much in your landlord’s hands.

And as Citizen’s Advice says, “Landlords are currently only required to bring their properties up to an E rating.

What’s more, landlords currently don’t have to make any improvements if it’s going to cost them more than £3,500.”

Though there are steps you can take to lower your exposure to mould – for instance, by keeping your bathroom and kitchen windows open, nabbing a dehumidifier, and pulling wardrobes, cabinets, and beds out from your walls – ultimately, the best way to tackle the problem is by improving the heat retention and decreasing the moisture in your home.

Ah, renting in the UK – the joys continue.