A tenant has successfully prosecuted her landlord in Camberwell Green Magistrates for failing to deal with serious damp and mould.
London Borough of Lambeth now has a third criminal conviction for failing to deal with damp and mould – see here.
The tenant, who we will call Ms Jones, lived in a small block of flats in Streatham, South London. The flat was uninsulated with draughty single glazed windows. Damp and mould developed.
Ms Jones found living with the damp and mould horrible. Her flat stank of damp and mould and she had to burn incense sticks to try and mask the smell. Even her mother complained about the smell when she visited. Her clothes and possessions went mouldy and were contaminated by the damp.
Fortunately the damp and mould did not cause Ms Jones serious health problems. But it can cause serious health problems – particularly worsening asthma in children. For details about the problem see here.
Although the Council were told about the problems they did nothing. Ms Jones asked her Councillor for help, because the problems were so bad. But Lambeth Council ignored him too!
Exasperated the tenant went to see Timothy Waitt of Anthony gold Solicitors. He instructed an Environmental Health Consultant who reported that the premises were prejudicial to health.
A formal notice was delivered to the Council on 17th January 2014, demanding that they deal with the problems but nothing was done.
The Council then said that they might do some work, some time, some place. Efforts were made to resolve the problems, but were met with silence from the Council.
Given the long history of the Council ignoring the case, a Criminal prosecution in Camberwell Green Magistrates Court was commenced on 11th February 2014.
The Court Proceedings
At the first court hearing on 8th April 2014 London Borough of Lambeth pleaded guilty to the criminal offence. The case was adjourned to 28 April 2014 for sentencing.
On 28th April 2014 London Borough of Lambeth were convicted and fined £250 for failing to deal with the damp and mould. They were ordered to pay the tenant £750 compensation plus costs.
Most importantly they were ordered to complete works to get rid of the damp and mould and stop it coming back, ever. This includes double glazing and upgraded insulation, leaving her flat much more energy efficient.
For many years Ms Jones cleaned the damp and mould away repeatedly but it always came back. Now her landlord has been ordered to clean the damp and mould and the work they must do will mean that it will not come back.
About tenant prosecutions for damp and mould
Tenants can prosecute their landlords in the criminal courts for serious damp and mould. Although this case was brought against a social landlord, Lambeth Council, the procedure can be used against private landlords too.
If successful, the court will order the landlord to get rid of the damp and mould and stop it coming back, ever.
This area of law is complex and tenants faced with damp and mould problems should seek legal advice from solicitor’s specialist in this area.
The process involves serving a formal notice on the landlord and then waiting 21 days before commencing court action. Landlords served with Council or Tenant notices about damp and mould should act quickly with specialist advice.
About Timothy Waitt
Timothy Waitt (details here spoke at the Landlord Law Conference on these issues and gave advice to tenants and landlords on what to do.
The damp and mould picture was kindly provided by Sandra Savage Fisher of QuaLETy Ltd and is of a different property