Annex B – To ensure the house is wind and water tight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation
B.1 The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 section 13(1)(a) requires that the house is wind and water tight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation.
B.2 When determining whether the privately rented house meets the standard of repair required by section 13(1)(a), the landlord should have regard to the extent (if any) to which the house, by reason of disrepair or sanitary defects, falls short of the provisions of any relevant building regulations. Building standards require that the climatic conditions in Scotland including temperature, snow, wind, driving rain and flooding and the impact of climate change should be carefully considered in the structural design of buildings. For more information about Scottish building standards see Building Standards for Homeowners - mygov.scot.
B.3 The test has been defined as "wind and watertight against what may be called the ordinary attacks of the elements, not against exceptional encroachments of water due to other causes" (Wolfson v Forrester 1910 SC 675). This could be expressed as "weathertight", that a house should be free from draughts and leaks under the current climatic conditions of the area where it was built. Windtight is not the same as airtight and needs to be compatible with the need for adequate ventilation.
B.4 Private landlords must be satisfied that any house they rent to tenants is fit for the tenants to live in. They should be confident that the essential fabric elements of the property (i.e. those parts of the physical structure which ensure the building's stability and resistance to the ordinary encroachments of weather) are in good repair. If essential fabric elements are not in good repair, then it is likely that the inside of the property will, in time, be adversely affected. The most common problems arise with rising or penetrating dampness in the property. Private landlords must ensure that the properties they rent to tenants are substantially free from rising and penetrating damp, which is also required by the Tolerable Standard (see annex A).
B.5 A problem with penetrating damp indicates that the house may not be weathertight. A problem with rising damp indicates a fabric defect that can affect habitability. Problems with damp constitute sanitary defects for this element of the Repairing Standard under sections 13(2) and 70(1) of the 2006 Act.
B.6 This annex identifies the issues private landlords must consider when assessing if the essential fabric elements of a property are in good repair. It looks at -
- Assessing if a house is substantially free from damp
- Rising damp - indicators and causes
- Penetrating damp – indicators and causes
- Dampness and condensation
Assessing if a house is substantially free from damp
B.7 Private landlords should be aware that dampness has historically been a significant housing problem in Scotland. It is, however, unacceptable for people to be living in houses with levels of rising or penetrating dampness that materially affect their health and comfort or cause further physical damage to the property.
B.8 Each property will be different and private landlords must exercise judgement in assessing if the essential fabric elements are adequate to ensure the property is wind and watertight. Private landlords should be looking for visible persistent or recurring damp impact in one or more areas, which could be harmful to occupiers, damage furniture or belongings, or be a sign of damage to the building fabric.
B.9 Private landlords should look for signs of rising damp. Rising damp is the vertical movement of moisture from the ground into the fabric of a building which can affect any part of the building in contact with the ground, the most obvious being walls and floors. Rising damp is caused by defects in the damp proof course, or in older homes the lack of a damp proof course. It is unlikely (but possible) for rising damp to rise higher than around 1.2m above ground level.
B.10 As rising damp will only affect the ground floor of a building, it is only ground floor flats in tenement blocks that can be affected by rising damp. Private landlords should however be mindful that dampness at above ground floor level can occur but the cause will be from something other than rising damp and steps should be taken to identify its source. Where signs of rising damp are evident, private landlords must investigate the cause and take necessary action to ensure the property is free from rising damp.
B.11 Private landlords should also be looking for penetrating damp. Penetrating damp is moisture which enters a house from outside because of a defect in part of its structure. There may be defects in the roof, the exterior walls, rainwater gutters and down-pipes, or missing flashings. The source of persistent penetrating damp can be difficult to identify because there may be no consistent pattern to the signs (i.e. damp patches may appear in more than one room, and be located in different parts of the room). Where signs of penetrating damp are evident, private landlords must investigate the cause and take necessary action to ensure the property is free from penetrating damp.
Rising damp – indicators and causes
B.12 Common indicators of rising damp include:
- Discoloured or crumbling bricks or stonework, close to the ground;
- Moss growth near bottom of the exterior wall above the damp proof course;
- Flaking or bubbling on plaster, paintwork or wallpaper on lower internal wall;
- Skirtings affected by rot;
- A dank moist odour possibly coming from carpets;
- Fungus growth on lower walls, carpets etc.; or
- Rotten, discoloured, crumbling or deteriorating wooden floors.
B.13 Common causes of rising damp include:
- Absence of a damp proof course in older houses, in chimneys and hearth areas and basements;
- Ground level raised next to wall, presence of material/earth against the wall;
- Damaged or deteriorated damp proof course;
- Inappropriate repair to damp proof course; or
- Rising water table.
Penetrating damp – indicators and causes
B.14 Common indicators of penetrating damp include –
- Damp patches or moss growth on exterior walls;
- Damp or discoloured patches on interior walls and ceilings;
- Plant growth from gutters, or in cracks in structure;
- Loose or bubbling wallpaper, flaking paintwork, soft plaster;
- Water penetration in Internal roof-spaces, wood roof structures affected by rot;
- Musty odour inside home, possibly coming from carpets, bed covers or mattress; or
- Fungus growth on walls, carpets etc.
B.15 Common causes of penetrating damp include –
- Damaged, displaced or missing roof tiles or flashings;
- Defective or blocked guttering and down pipes;
- Crumbling, loose or missing pointing;
- Inappropriate repairs using concrete instead of mortar; or
- Cracking which lets water enter the internal fabric.
Dampness and Condensation
B.16 Condensation is a serious problem which is closely associated with, and sometimes confused with, rising and penetrating dampness. Condensation can be caused by inadequate heating, ventilation and thermal insulation, or by defects in the fabric (for example "cold bridges" caused by defective or badly fitted insulation), as well as the way a household manages its heating and ventilation. It is important to bear in mind that condensation can be due to defects in the house that need to be addressed and cannot be assumed to be due to tenant behaviour. Overcrowding can be a further factor. Where a private landlord identifies evidence of condensation in a property they let to a tenant, particular attention should be paid to how it is heated, ventilated and how it is insulated.
B.17 Condensation is caused by warm moist air coming into contact with a colder surface. The colder surface causes a reduction in the amount of moisture the air can hold and as a result the moisture "condenses" out onto the wall. The water that forms as a result of the process is pure water, and this allows the growth of mould.
B.18 If private landlords suspect mould or fungus in a property they let to tenants, they should seek relevant professional expertise to determine levels of mould or fungus and take action where necessary to ensure the tenants are living in a safe environment which is not going to adversely impact their health, see Can damp and mould affect my health - NHS.
B.19 Low levels of condensation can cause health problems for people and be harmful to buildings, even where this does not lead to obvious problems like damp patches and mould. Good ventilation reduces the build-up of moisture, and has other health benefits. The level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in air is a good proxy for air quality. New homes now have CO2 monitors fitted in bedrooms. Landlords are not required to fit them in existing private rented homes, but if there are concerns about possible condensation, they provide a relatively inexpensive way for people to track how their behaviour is affecting their home, and can be a useful diagnostic tool if there are building problems.
Action a private landlord must take if they find rising or penetrating damp in a property they rent to a tenant
B.20 If dampness is suspected or found to be present in a privately let property, private landlords must take action to address the problem. Where possible, immediate action should be taken to help improve the living conditions of the occupants but it is likely relevant professional expertise will be required, this should be sought as soon as possible to enable a plan of action to be put in place to deal with dampness in the home.
B.21 Immediate steps could include increasing the ventilation (including mechanical ventilation) in the home and ensuring it is adequately heated. The Energy Saving Trust offers useful advice about dealing with damp at home.
B.22 Private landlords should seek professional advice to assess the extent of dampness in the property and obtain advice on what needs to be done to remove the damp and prevent it from returning. This may require a survey to be carried out by a structural engineer and any necessary action should be taken without delay.
B.23 Where the root cause of dampness or condensation is found to be due to a lack of satisfactory heating, ventilation or thermal insulation or a combination of factors rather than rising or penetrating damp alone, landlords are required to meet the minimum standards for each of these elements. Detailed guidance on installations for heating are provided in Section 6, Annex D of this guidance and for ventilation and thermal insulation can be found at guidance for local authorities on the Tolerable Standard,
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