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Our landlord says that we cannot dry clothes indoors

Damp and mouldHere is a question to the blog clinic from Rebecca (not her real name) who is a tenant

I am a tenant and I want to query whether a clause in my agreement is unfair.

My partner and I share a flat and we have just had our first ‘routine visit’. When the agent came round he noticed we had clothes on dryers in the spare room and said it was not permitted.

We contested this but he told us that the landlord felt very strongly about drying clothes inside because the flat had suffered from mould problems in the past and had to be completely redecorated after the former tenants left. He ran his finger over part of the window which brought up a tiny amount of black mould and gave us a lecture about the effects of condensation (my partner is a science teacher so it was quite awkward).

We told him we always open the windows and clean regularly, he said this wasn’t enough and suggested that we use the balcony, buy a tumble dryer or visit a launderette.

Since the visit we have received a letter from the agent saying that the landlord has the issue has been reported to the landlord and we must stop drying clothes in the flat immediately or our tenancy will be brought to an end.

I admit that when we signed the tenancy agreement we did not notice this clause, however we feel it is unfair because:

1) The balcony is only 6ft x 4ft and can only be used for drying clothes in warm dry weather.

2) The flat was let with a washing machine only (i.e. not washer dryer)

3) There Is no room for a tumble dryer unless it is placed in the living room – who has a tumble dryer in their living room!

4) The nearest launderette is 2.8 miles away – not practical to transport bags of wet clothes across town.

5) Some clothes cannot be tumble dried.

Is there anything we can do to officially challenge this silly rule?

There are a number of issues here.

First it is quite true that drying clothes indoors can cause condensation and mould.  Particularly if the rooms are not heated or ventilated properly.  So the landlord has a point here.

However tenants have to wash their clothes and dry them somehow.  I agree that it sounds as if the arrangements in your property are not adequate and I would suggest that you request the landlord to exchange your washing machine for a washer  dryer.

So far as the clause in your tenancy agreement is concerned, whether it is enforceable or not will depend on what it says and how ‘reasonable’ it is.

The Office of Fair Trading (which regulates the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations) has said that it is unfair to try to prescribe tenants day to day life in properties.  However as it is a known fact that drying clothes indoors does cause problems, this type of clause is more likely to be considered fair than a clause, say, requiring you to wipe down kitchen surfaces daily or clean the windows inside and out every week.

Then if the clause is valid, what can the landlord do to enforce it?  The answer is very little during the term of the tenancy.  It is most unlikely (for example) that a Court would agree to end the tenancy and make an order for possession on this basis.

However there is nothing to stop the landlord serving a section 21 notice on you and refusing to allow your tenancy to continue after the end of your fixed term and (if you refuse to vacate) evicting you on that basis.

Also the landlord may be able to claim against your deposit for the cost of re-decoration if he is able to show that this was made necessary due to your breach of the clause.  Although it is possible that you may be able to claim some reduction on this due to your landlords failure to provide proper drying facilities for you.

What do readers think about this?

Photo provided by Sandra Savage-Fisher of QuaLETy

About the author

Tessa Shepperson Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is also a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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13 Responses to Our landlord says that we cannot dry clothes indoors

  1. NRM says:

    Often the problem is with the property having being ‘upgraded’ to include double-glazing everywhere. In the old days with sash-windows etc, houses could breath. Nowadays they are utterly sealed so the humidity inside can rise dramatically.
    Unfortunately L/L’s don’t seem to acknowledge this fact.
    Tessa is sadly correct…even a ‘perfect’ tenant, can be evicted at the whim of the L/L using S21 (check the deposit has been protected correctly as this can invalidate a S21).

  2. Broadly speaking Tessa is right. However…

    It would be interesting to know if the flat was let fully furnished (or furnished to what extent). If it was let fully furnished then I would venture to say that it is rather strange of the landlord to provide you with a washing machine and not washer dryer and then try to enforce the clause of no drying in the flat. It’s simply inconsistent to me. Especially if the landlord says drying clothes made things worse in the past. I would be interested to see how this would play out.

    However, I can see both sides of the story. I have seen so many times how much damage condensation turning into mould can do that I am not entirely surprised at the clause the landlord has requested. And I’m not surprised at the ‘lecture’ the agent gave you (I have done my share of those ‘lectures’).

    Though, I would still say that it is rather inconsistent of the landlord to know of the issue and not to provide washer dryer. You would think that it would really be in his best interest to do so.

    From the tenant perspective, I would have been quite surprised at having such a clause in my tenancy, given the circumstances. I mean how I am expected to dry clothes on a balcony in the middle of winter? I would expect to be informed of such clause at the time when I viewed the flat (or no later than on applying for the property). I understand you have not noticed the clause when you were signing the tenancy agreement but even if you did it would be quite late in the day. What would be your options? Not to sign? You would most certainly lost your holding deposit, not to mention your situation may have been such you had no other option but to sing the tenancy anyway.

    In my opinion, this matter is, unfortunately, a mess created by a letting agent. I mean such clauses are not a common occurrence and as such I would tell prospective tenants about it (so to avoid the situation you and the landlord find yourselves in). I know parts of the industry do not treat the tenants as their ‘proper’ clients but letting prospective tenants know of a clause that could cause an issue is a bare minimum of standards everyone expects. And it is not only you that they let down but the landlord too – if you are not happy with the tenancy you will move out or if you carry on drying clothes in the flat the landlord will bring the tenancy to an end. Either way not an ideal thing for a landlord.

    I wonder what others think about it? Am I the only one feeling this way?

  3. chris hammond says:

    Damp and mould growth is a hazard relevant to the HHSRS enforcement regime under Housing ACT 2004. Damp and associated mould arising from condensation is particularly hazardous because of the association with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

    Provision of clothes drying facilites is mentioned in the Govt guidance document associated with enforcement under HA2004 as something the landlord should do to reduce risk arising from this hazard.

    Opening windows to ventilate during the cold season is not a good idea ( except perhaps for a short time in a bathroom which has been steamed up)as it results in excessive heat loss;important with the ever upward cost of fuel and the constant urge for us be as economical as possible to avoid the most serious hazard of all ( excess cold).

    Condensation cause is complex of which occupier life style is only 1 aspect.A residence could be at risk because of inadequate/uneconomic heating system,inadequate ventilation system ( reliance on opening windows is not good)or inadequate thermal insualtion.These are all the landlord’s responsibility.

    If the tenant is living normally ( this would include drying own clothes indoors as opposed to taking in washing form others or say using paraffin heaters )then the landlord could be held to be responsible and subject to legal action from a Local Authority especially if there is no provision for drying clothes in Winter.

    How far they go down the enforcememnt route would depend on what is required to bring the property up to standard in the sense of practicality and/or cost.

  4. Drying clothes indoors is always a minefield when it involves tenants.

    I have tenants who dry clothes in the spare room with the window open and the internal door shut and have no problems with mould.

    Where I have problems is when the tenants hang damp clothes over radiators, which is always going to cause problems.

    It is about confronting the issue and offering the tenants good advice about the causes of mould and how to avoid it whilst allowing them to live a peaceful life.

  5. Jamie says:

    I don’t really know why we bother supplying tenants and landlords with Terms of Business or Tenancy Agreements. I’m clearly expecting far too much to hope that anyone ever bothers with the inconvenience of actually reading them. We may as well just hang on to them and give them straight to the solicitors. I find it astounding that people make some of the biggest decisions in their lives with their eyes closed.

    Rant aside; this is actually quite a serious point.

    Deposit schemes, lobby groups, the OFT, the Ombudsman and industry bodies are all telling us that we must be transparent and spell out every possible situation, liability and obligation. If we fail to do so it’s ‘unfair’ and unenforceable.

    All very admirable stuff, but something is clearly going wrong when, despite being written in plain English, I’ve had to invest in a special heavy-duty stapler to accommodate the vast swathes of ever-expanding documentation.

    For example, if you use the TDS recommended definitions and clauses, the deposit section in your tenancy agreement will run to a couple of pages at least and that’s before you include the compulsory prescribed information (3 pages) and scheme leaflet (6 pages). That’s 11 pages just on the deposit. Their suggested clauses for Terms of Business run to 5 pages.

    Should we really be surprised that no one can be bothered to read these weighty tomes anymore?

  6. @Jamie – well said! It is all a bit silly. You are right, people are far more likely to read a shorter document.

    My tenancy agreements try to make it easier by breaking things up under clearly marked sections with big headings and white space around them. Makes it a longer document of course but hopefully easier to navigate.

    @Chris Hammond – thanks for clarifying that, so the landlord could be at fault in this case then?

    Thank you to everyone else who has taken the time to contribute to this thread.

  7. Rentergirl says:

    A while back, I was at a housing conference, where the head of Environmental Health for a large county told me that condensation is classed by them as damp, and that it’s up to the landlord to sort it out. It isn’t reasonable to not dry clothes indoors.

  8. @Jamie – I could not agree more. I really despair when I see people signing up as I know that most likely we will have to be telling them at the start of the tenancy, in the middle of it, at the end of it and after it ended again and again the same stuff that is either in the tenancy agreement or in one of the leaflets they are being handed when signing new tenancy.

    I know people will not read the many pages of TOB for the deposit scheme. So we have a nice, 4 page print out in VERY BIG LETTERS and with nice graphics explaining the most important things relating to the deposit. And so what? No one bothers to read even though it’s short and not at all tiring.

    Not sure who should be to blame or what should be done. Perhaps there should be some education in school?

    When I rented my first house, my partner and I arrived at the estate agents after 12 hours in a van, moving from one side of the country to the other. When we got to their office to get the keys, they handed us a many pages document which I had no chance to read as we were on tight schedule, I was tired from all the driving, not to mention if I did not like what it said there I would be homeless. Just some personal experience. And no, I did not bother to read it later on either.

  9. @Sam Its possible that a contract signed under those circumstances could have enforceability issues. The landlord / agent should really make a copy available to the tenant in advance so they can check it out.

  10. Elaine Ellis says:

    I sometimes despair, doesn’t anyone use commonsense anymore? If the tenant owned their residence would they still put wet clothes on the radiators and make the property mouldy and damp? I guess not. Or who would they blame then? How can a landlord be held responsible for the irresponsible actions of others?

  11. Rentergirl says:

    Owners will install drying cupboards, clothes lines, whereas tenants can’t. Or there’s the old-school solution – gardens, with airing cupboards.

  12. Personally I use a dehumidifier rather than a tumble dryer.

    The modern insulated home can’t breathe.

    When I started using the dehumidifier I was surprised at how much moisture they take out of the air.

    Wouldn’t be without it now.



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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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