Photo credit: Tony Webster via Flickr

Mildew, must and mould, oh my!

By Glasgow University Student Tenants Union Writers

Your how-to guide for managing mould in student rentals.

In a cost-of-living crisis where simply popping the heating on isn’t feasible, it’s more important than ever that we know our rights when it comes to mould in our rentals throughout the colder months. Glasgow University Student Tenants Union are here to share their advice on how to get your landlord to deal with mould when it just won’t budge. 

Reporting mould and what to expect:

If mould appears in your flat, take photos and alert your landlord as soon as possible. You can expect them to delay any action on their part for as long as possible. They will likely offer some unhelpful suggestions such as the use of an air dehumidifier, moving furniture away from the walls, putting your heating on or avoiding drying your clothes in the flat. Landlords generally don’t concern themselves with the unfeasible cost of both permanent heating and regular use of laundrettes. Whatever they’ve asked you to do, you can tell your landlord you’ve already been doing this to speed things along. If they wish to inspect the flat (beware of informal inspections, landlords are rarely just “popping round to see how things are”) make sure you and your flatmates are present and contact GUSTU if you would like us to be there too. They must provide 48 hours notice so use this time to ensure there is nothing in your flat that they can use to blame you for condensation. Hide your plants and laundry, bring your air dehumidifier out (if you have one), move furniture away from walls, and avoid showering or cooking when they arrive or anything that could suggest that you might actually live there. Most importantly, put your heating on in time for their visit – this is a favourite stick with which they love to beat tenants.

Communications and your landlord’s responsibilities:

The vast majority of the time, mould is caused by structural or repair issues such as lack of ventilation, leaks and cracks and is therefore the responsibility of your landlord as outlined in the Repairing Standard. The Repairing Standard, which all private landlords are required to adhere to, can be a useful document to cite in emails to your landlord as a reminder of their legal responsibilities. Whilst the Repairing Standard is vague about what constitutes a “reasonable” period of time before action must be taken by your landlord; you may want to add some pressure by providing your own interpretation, giving them a timeframe like five working days (more or less, depending on urgency). Your landlord is also required to make sure the flat meets the “Tolerable Standard”; this can be another useful document to cite, which adds weight to your communications. If your flat is managed by a letting agent rather than a landlord, you can cite the Letting Agent Code of Practice in your emails. Each document can be found with a quick web search – our advice is to quote anything in them that is relevant to your situation.

Try to use email as your primary method of communication; you may need to retain these exchanges as evidence. Make sure communications with the landlord(s) and/or letting agent(s) are clear and to the point, and ask for clarifications if their responses are vague. Any communications with the relevant property, factor or third parties (such as workers performing repairs) are the landlord’s responsibility so unless you would rather do it yourself, you can avoid unnecessary hassle by making your landlord arrange repairs.

If the above does not work:

If your landlord (or letting agent) refuses to budge, there are a few things you can do to apply pressure on them. You can alert the environmental department of the Council; they can inspect the mould and have the power to order your landlord to fix it. The Shelter Scotland website has a useful template letter for this. If any of your flatmates have a respiratory condition, include this in your email. If your main communications have been with a letting agent, you might want to contact the landlord directly. They may be unaware of the issue and an appeal to them can be a useful way to play them off against the letting agent. Also, if you feel confident doing so, surprising the letting agent with a visit to their offices can work like magic (and GUSTU members can optionally accompany you for support). Withholding rent (or threatening to) is an option, but is a risky strategy – seek advice before considering this route. Finally, threatening to pursue action via the First-tier Tribunal (Housing & Property chamber) can force your landlord to act. This tribunal is capable of issuing a court order to your landlord to perform repairs. The tribunal process is lengthy; tenants should consider mentioning the tribunal but may wish to do so only as a bargaining chip.If you’re unsure what to do about mould or need help with any other tenancy issue (including issues in university halls), please contact GUSTU via Instagram or Facebook. We’re always looking for new volunteers to help us take on landlords; if you’re interested in empowering fellow student tenants, send us a message via the same channels. GUSTU is free and open to all student tenants in Glasgow.


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